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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Three-point defense fails Arizona in final minutes

Colin Darland
Colin Darland/Arizona Daily Wildcat

LOS ANGELES – Basketball is all about instinct. And for as much as Arizona head coach Sean Miller prides himself over his Wildcats’ 3-point defense, that was the main factor in UA’s loss to Washington in the Pacific 10 Conference Title game.

As Arizona (27-7) fell to the Washington Huskies 77-75 in overtime at Staples Center, it was that instinct allowing a four-point lead with under 30 seconds to play dissipate, leaving the Wildcats at the mercy of Washington point guard Isaiah Thomas.

He had no mercy, and with a step-back jumper in overtime, lifted the Huskies over the edge on Saturday against an opponent that has the utmost respect for Washington.

“”He made an uncontested, fade-away jump shot,”” said point guard Momo Jones, who had seven points and two assists. “”It went in; great play.””

Thomas, the Huskies’ heart-and-soul, didn’t have much of an explanation either after scoring 28 and adding seven assists.

“”I knew I had a smaller guy on me so I could get a shot off,”” Thomas said of UA point guard Momo Jones. “”I just took a step back, and God made the ball go into the hoop.””

It wasn’t a product of any more complicated of a design, either. With Arizona forward Kevin Parrom drilling a 3-pointer to tie the game at 75 with 22 seconds left in overtime, Thomas waved off UW head coach Lorenzo Romar’s plea for a timeout.

“”One of these days, when I’m not coaching anymore,”” Romar said, “”I’ll sit back there in the rocking chair and reminisce about this game, reminisce about how Isaiah Thomas just flagged off his coach.””

But it was the opportunities provided by his teammates to put Thomas in the position to take the final attempt. Many times this season, the Wildcats piled up a double-digit lead only to see it fade down the stretch. Usually, they got away with it — Saturday that wasn’t the case.

“”We blew it,”” Jones said. “”It came back to bite us on the rear.””

First, it was a 66-62 Arizona lead with 27 seconds left in regulation that Washington cut. Thomas drove the ball before kicking it to open freshman Terrence Ross. He nailed it, and after a quick inbounds, foul and two free throws by Jones gave UA a three-point advantage, Thomas did exactly the same thing, only this time finding another freshman, C.J. Wilcox, on the opposite corner for another 3-pointer.

Both came because small forwards Parrom and Solomon Hill, who each scored 12, dropped into the lane as Thomas penetrated. Parrom said he should have flashed into the paint briefly then jump back onto his man.

“”We’re supposed to keep him guessing,”” Parrom said. “”It’s a lack of concentration, a lack of maturity.””

Hill and Jones both said that it was just one example of why Arizona needs to refocus on closing games, especially when the Wildcats have the lead.

This time around, that’s where the instinct didn’t come in.

“”It’s just a learning process,”” Hill said. “”There was no reason to help. The 3s killed us.

“”It was guys like myself over-thinking.””

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