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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Rebels raid McKale (w/ Video)

Alan Walsh/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh/Arizona Daily Wildcat

Until this point in the season, it was hard to say whether Arizona men’s basketball was a team about to get a reality check or simply a young squad finding their identity.

Against No. 24 UNLV last night, they nearly passed the litmus test, losing 74-72 in a double-overtime thriller at McKale Center.

“”I thought we played hard,”” said freshman Derrick Williams, who scored 28 points on 10-for-15 shooting. “”Somebody had to lose, we were just on the wrong side of the coin I guess. It was a tough loss.””

At the beginning of the second overtime, senior point guard Nic Wise dropped to the floor in agony, grabbing his left leg. But after sitting out a play, he re-entered and found his team up by one point after a Williams 3-point play on a layup that made the score 66-65.

“”Sometimes I ask myself, ‘What would it be like here if he didn’t show up?'”” Miller said of Williams’ recruitment. “”I’m glad he’s a part of what we do.””

But the Wildcat lead didn’t stick and the scoreboard showed 72-68 in UNLV’s favor. With a minute remaining in the second overtime, Arizona found itself in a free throw contest with the Rebels.

Wise had a chance for a buzzer-beater but his shot at the top of the circle was blocked and the game went in favor of UNLV.

At the end of regulation and the end of the first overtime, Arizona had to do what it had done for the most of the evening ­— stifle the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. Each time, they made the necessary stops in a defensive game that ended with 16 ties and 21 lead changes.

In the end though, it wasn’t enough.

“”I think both teams had five to seven, eight chances to win the game at different times,”” Miller said. “”Finally they took advantage of their chance.””


Video by Patrick Hayes, UATV

In regulation, Wise hit two free throws to tie the game at 54 and with 16 seconds on the shot clock, UNLV failed to score. Arizona head coach Sean Miller elected not to take a timeout and with 12 seconds left in regulation, Wise missed on a 3-point jumper, sending the game into overtime.

The veteran struggled with his shooting (3-for-13) all evening but still managed 19 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.

A tight game from start to finish, UNLV took the lead on the Tre’Von Willis 3-pointer, making the game 47-46 with 5:20 left. Willis frustrated Arizona throughout and ended the night with 25 points for the Rebels.

The Wildcats ended up with a 34-29 lead going into the locker room, thanks in part to their defense that held UNLV in check.

“”It’s the key to our team,”” said freshman guard Momo Jones. “”We’ve got to be mean and nasty (on defense).””

In the tight first half, which included eight lead changes, two air-balls by UNLV led to a Brendon Lavender 3-pointer to put Arizona up 12-10. Center Kyryl Natyazhko must have gotten the green light from Miller as he drilled another triple — the first of his career — without hesitation to follow Lavender’s long bomb, making the score 15-14 Wildcats.

Despite the tough loss, which Miller compared to three prior games this season, he said the team will still keep their focus on one thing: improvement.

“”You have to win as a team and lose as a team,”” Miller said. “”We have to continue to work, stick together and improve.””

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