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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “On last play, Cougars scratch Wildcats”

    Just as the Wildcats found confidence in their offensive system, it was their defense that let them down in a 78-76 heartbreaker to the Washington State University Cougars in McKale Center Friday night.

    “”We’re the team that has the cornerback that can’t run and the receiver keeps running by him,”” head coach Sean Miller said of his team’s individual defense. “”We got beat off the dribble tonight maybe 30 times.””

    With 9 seconds left in the game, Arizona forward Solomon Hill tipped in point guard Nic Wise’s missed layup to tie the game at 76 apiece. But as 0.1 seconds remained on the clock, WSU forward DeAngelo Casto saw his hook shot in the middle of the lane fall through the net to give his team the victory.

    And in a game in which the Wildcats (7-8, 1-2 Pacific 10 Conference) scored 76 points, shot the ball at a 46 percent clip and only committed 10 turnovers, they couldn’t make the essential stops down the stretch to pull out their second Pac-10 victory.

    That wasn’t helped by the loss of freshman Derrick Williams, who fouled out as Casto drew an offensive foul on the Arizona forward with 6:48 remaining.

    “”I just backed down and he fell over,”” Williams said. “”I don’t think I really hit him that hard for him to fall over like that – he’s a big boy. It was a close call.””

    Williams scored the first seven Arizona points after the halftime break including a powerful, left-handed dunk that put his team’s lead at 42-37 and drew a standing ovation from the crowd. He scored 13 points and had six boards in just 17 minutes of playing time.

    The Cougars (12-3, 2-1) came back and rattled the young Wildcats.

    Arizona found itself down by as many as seven points in the second half, but Wise cut the lead to 75-71 on two foul shots with just over a minute remaining. On the very next play, WSU guard Reggie Moore, who scored a game-high 20 points, threw the ball away for a WSU turnover.

    The following Arizona possession, Wise dished to freshman Kevin Parrom for a 3-pointer, bringing the game within a point. Parrom finished with perhaps his best performance thus far, scoring seven points in 17 minutes of play off the bench.

    Arizona fouled Moore to stop the clock with 27 seconds remaining and the WSU freshman hit 1-for-2 from the foul line to give his team a 2-point lead.

    That’s when Hill’s tip-in gave the McKale crowd—one that seemed more displeased with the officiating than its team’s play—a false sense of security.

    That’s when Arizona again failed to make a stop as Casto hit the game winning shot.

    “”The last 8 minutes you’ve got to be able to buckle down,”” said Wise, who finished with 15 points and four assists. “”That’s been our Achilles’ heel all year.””

    The Wildcats again got out to a slow start to the game and again fought back from a double-digit deficit.

    The Cougars led 18-8 halfway through the first half as Arizona’s offense saw little of the same ball movement as seen in their victory at UCLA the week prior. Washington State hurt Arizona early and often by blowing by UA defenders at will.

    That led to points, and Miller said it also led to WSU offensive rebounds after Arizona’s help defense caught the Arizona players out of position to box out defenders.

    “”I thought DeAngelo Casto was the beneficiary a number of times,”” Miller said of the WSU forward, who ended the night with 16 points and nine rebounds.

    But Arizona’s energy picked up.

    The Wildcats brought the game even at 25 points apiece after WSU failed to protect the glass twice, resulting in put-backs by freshman Kyryl Natyazhko and Williams. Arizona took the lead on a Williams dunk with 4:23 left in the game.

    The game went back and fourth as Klay Thompson hit double figures when he hit a pull-up jumper to give the Cougars a 35-32 advantage. With one possession left, Arizona guard Kyle Fogg’s 3-pointer tied the game as the the halftime buzzer sounded.

    In the end, the comeback would be for naught.

    Rather than worrying about the loss, the Wildcats would rather worry about getting better.

    “”If our defense was better, tougher, if it has improved, we leave this game with a hard-fought victory,”” Miller said. “”That’s the answer.”” 

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