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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    THE COMEBACK CATS (w/video)

    Arizona 96, Houston 90 (OT)


    Photo by Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

    Arizona trailed 85-75 with 52.6 seconds remaining, and thousands of fans exited McKale Center thinking the game – and possibly the season – would be lost.

    When the buzzer sounded to end regulation, Jamelle Horne held the ball anxiously eager to shed the curse that haunted Arizona’s late-game production this season.

    For once, it was the Wildcats who executed down the stretch and overcame a mental roller coaster, sending what looked to be a double-digit loss into overtime. A suddenly supercharged McKale Center witnessed the once-labeled Cardiac Cats emerge into the Comeback Cats.

    Erasing a 10-point deficit provided all the momentum to secure the win in overtime.

    “”Wow,”” UA interim head coach Russ Pennell said after he sat down for his post-game press conference. “”I told the guys in the locker room I felt like the late great Jack Buck. I don’t believe what I just saw.””

    The turning point was more than evident.

    With 9:51 remaining in regulation, Houston guard Aubrey Coleman was whistled for a charge against Chase Budinger near half court. While Budinger was on his back, Coleman stepped on the forward’s face, and Budinger sprung up and bolted after Coleman.

    As both players were restrained by referees and players on the court, both teams emptied their respective benches, and the referees spent several minutes reviewing the play on a monitor at the scorer’s table while fans chanted, “”Throw him out,”” referring to the Houston guard.

    After a discussion with both teams’ coaches – while all the players looked on from the court – Coleman was called for a flagrant foul and was ejected from the game.

    Budinger was also called for a technical foul on the play, but he fared out better as he made both of his free throws and Kelvin Lewis made just one of two on the other end.

    “”Its kind of like, all of the sudden, when that occurred, it shook us out of whatever were in,”” Pennell said. “”To me, we forgot about USC, Arizona State and all the stuff that’s happened. I really felt our huddles changed after that. The energy was better, the conversation between the bench and the guys.””

    Added Budinger: “”Biggest thing I could say is that we never quit. When everyone thought we lost the game, we just kept on fighting.””

    For the first 39 minutes, the reeling Wildcats faced the harsh reality of a four-game losing streak, which would’ve been their longest slide since 1983.

    Instead, having already suffered four last-possession losses this season, the Wildcats finished on the winning side of a nail-biter.

    With 20 seconds remaining, UA forward Jordan Hill, who scored a career-high 30 points, cut the deficit to 3 points with a hook shot.

    Then down 88-85 with 10 seconds remaining, UA point guard Nic Wise nailed the game-tying 3-pointer to send the game into overtime.

    Houston shot 0-for-10 in overtime, giving Arizona a season-defining win.

    “”We just never gave up,”” Hill said. “”This is a team that likes to fight. Like I said before, we were down by 9 or 10 points with a minute left in the game, we just kept fighting.””

    Stay with the Arizona Daily Wildcat for extensive coverage from Saturday’s comeback victory over Houston, including:

    Game Recap: Full details of Arizona’s improbable last-minute comeback, with reaction from players

    Breakdown: How Chase Budinger sparked the Wildcats with the monumental flagrant foul call

    Multimedia: A video package from McKale Center with photos and commentary on DailyWildcat.com

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