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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Stepping up to the challenge

    Photo by Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat
    Houston guard Aubrey Coleman steps on UA forward Chase Budinger in the second half of a 96-90 overtime Wildcat win in McKale Center on Saturday. Coleman was charged with a flagrant foul and was ejected from the game.

    Aubrey Coleman stepped on the Wildcats’ last nerve.

    Every great story needs a dramatic turning point. The apex of Arizona’s turnaround came at the lowest point in McKale Center on Saturday afternoon. Literally.

    With 9:51 remaining in regulation, Coleman, a Houston guard, was whistled for a charge against Chase Budinger near halfcourt. While Budinger was on his back, Coleman stepped on Budinger, who sprung up and bolted after Coleman.

    “”He stepped on part of my face and my arm,”” Budinger said after the game, showing Coleman’s footprint on his jersey and a raspberry near his armpit.

    Budinger said there was “”not a doubt”” that Coleman’s actions were intentional. The play had been viewed nearly 3 million times on YouTube on Sunday night.

    “”I took the charge, slid eight feet away from him, and he walked toward me and stepped on my face,”” Budinger said. “”… Anytime you get kicked in the face I’d hope you’d retaliate.”

    As Budinger and Coleman were restrained by referees and players on the court, both teams emptied their respective benches and the officials spent several moments 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.

    “”Anytime you have a play like that,”” said UA interim head coach Russ Pennell, “”you don’t deserve to play.””

    Houston head coach Tom Penders didn’t agree.

    “”He’s our best player and it hurt losing him,”” Penders said of Coleman, who scored 14 points while he was in the game. “”Now, I know Aubrey and I have never seen him lose his temper or composure or anything. I’m just sorry the official interpreted it that way.

    “”The way I saw it, Aubrey got tangled and his momentum carried him forward, and I think it was a mistake,”” Penders added.

    Coleman released a statement on Sunday afternoon, explaining his actions.

    “”I want to apologize to Chase Budinger for what happened Saturday night. I never meant to step on him,”” Coleman said in the news release. “”I have never been in an incident like this before, and I have nothing but respect for him as a great player.

    “”I love the game too much to do something like that intentionally,”” he added. “”I want to say I am sorry from the bottom of my heart. I know that God knows what is in my heart, but I am hopeful that Chase will understand and forgive.””

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

    Arizona was down by 12 points when the flagrant foul happened, but the intensity surged in McKale Center – for the UA fans and players alike.

    “”What it did, all of a sudden when that occurred, it shook us out of whatever we were in,”” Pennell said. “”It was like, ‘OK, it’s on. You want to do that, let’s go.’ To me, we forgot about (losses to) USC and Arizona State, and all the stuff that’s happened.

    “”I really felt our huddles changed after that,”” Pennell added. “”The energy was better, the conversation between the bench and the guys was good. That triggered it.””

    Budinger’s first offensive possession after the incident was a steal at the baseline and a layup, but it seemed every UA player stepped up his intensity, showing an unparalleled team unity.

    “”You can fight with your brothers but if somebody else is fighting you, you better be in the middle of it,”” Pennell said. “”We need more of that. When Chase came back to the huddle, I was like, ‘Way to go. Defend yourself.'””

    Though Budinger is usually quiet and reserved before the media, UA forward Jordan Hill said he’s no pushover on the court.

    “”When Chase got fouled, I knew in Chase’s eyes that there was going to be trouble,”” Hill said of Budinger. “”That’s how he gets. I’ve been around him for a while. When he gets mad, he gets mad.

    “”He took his frustrations out on the game,”” Hill added. “”He did what he had to do.””

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