PHOENIX — Arizona and Colorado have developed a nice little rivalry in two short seasons together in the Pac-12.
The Buffaloes knocked the Wildcats out of NCAA tournament contention with a 53-51 victory in the Pac-12 tournament championship game last season. And while that one went down to the end, it was nothing like the controversial finish to Arizona’s victory Thursday, their first meeting since.
Guard Sabatino Chen banked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key on the final play of regulation to give Colorado an apparent 83-80 victory over the third-ranked Wildcats, and the Buffaloes celebrated on the McKale Center court in the aftermath.
TV replays appeared to indicate that the shot had left Chen’s hand just before the buzzer, but after a lengthy on-court review using video monitors, the officials changed the call, waving off the basket. The ball must be completely out of a shooter’s hand before the light on the backboard illuminates.
Arizona, 13-0 and one of four undefeated teams in Division I, went on to win 92-83 in overtime to complete a comeback from a 17-point deficit.
The play only reinforced Colorado coach Tad Boyle’s stand against the use of replay — never liked it, not about to change now.
“I know technology has brought a lot of things to our lives, a lot of conveniences. But we’ve been playing sports for a long time before we had TV, and I just feel it’s a game that should be decided by the players, the officials and not instant replay. I don’t like it. I just don’t. It’s a game played by humans. Human error is part of the game,” Boyle told ESPN on Friday morning.
It was not a knee-jerk reaction from Boyle, who has had it both ways. Colorado (10-3, 0-1 in the Pac-12) beat Kansas State when officials consulted video replay before waving off Rodney McGruder’s apparent 3-pointer as time expired in the Buffaloes’ 58-56 victory on Feb. 13, 2011.
“We understand it. It is part of our game. It is part of the way our sport is structured,” Boyle said. “Our guys played their hearts out. When they do that and come up short, when you feel you’ve played well enough to win the game and you don’t because of a controversial call, you have a pit in the stomach as a coach and you feel for the guys on your team.”
The Pac-12 issued a statement Friday saying it believed officials Verne Harris, James Breeding and Randy McCall made the proper call.
“Game officials reviewed video replays of the end of regulation in accordance with NCAA playing rules and determined that the ball was still on the shooter’s fingertips when the official game clock on the floor expired. Per conference protocol, the officials conducted a thorough review court-side and viewed multiple angles of the play before confirming the ruling. I have reviewed the video replays and agree with the ruling,” said Pac-12 supervisor of officials Ed Rush, a longtime NBA official in his first season with the Pac-12.
The Wildcats, off to their best start since they won their first 16 games in 1932-33, trailed by 16 points with 12:40 remaining. They outscored Colorado 10-2 in the final 95 seconds of regulation, during which time the Buffaloes missed four of six free-throw attempts.
“I was going to be good with either call,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said about Chen’s shot. “Obviously I wanted to win. Colorado outplayed us for most of the game. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. Because it banked in and knowing they didn’t call it (the bank), I felt like the basketball gods weigh in on something like that.”
The schools have played close games in three of their four meetings since Colorado left the Big 12 to join the Pac-12 in 2011. The Buffaloes won 64-63 in Boulder on Jan. 7, 2012, when the Wildcats missed a last-second shot. Arizona won the rematch in Tucson, overcoming a five-point deficit in the first half in a 71-57 victory.
Colorado won the rubber game in the Pac-12 tournament, 53-51, when Arizona could not get off a good shot on its final possession after a thunderous dunk by Carlon Brown gave the Buffaloes a four-point lead with 49 seconds to play. Colorado earned league’s automatic NCAA berth, and Arizona was left out of the 68-team NCAA field before losing to Bucknell in the first round of the NIT.
Colorado will finish its road trip at Arizona State (12-2, 1-0) on Sunday, and will play host to Arizona in the return match Feb. 14 at the Coors Events Center.
“The important thing is not what happened,” Boyle said. “The important thing is how we react to it and how we move on from it. That’s what we have to be focused upon.”