Controversial call keeps ‘Cats unbeaten

TUCSON, Ariz. — Colorado coach Tad Boyle had no comment. But then he came up with one.

“Are you kidding me?” Boyle said of his team’s apparent game-winning 3-pointer at the end of regulation that was waved off in Arizona’s eventual 92-83 overtime win Thursday night. “It’s just disappointing, because our team played well enough to win.”

For third-ranked Arizona, it was another miracle in McKale in a season of improbable finishes and crazy bounces. And it’s not even halfway over. In fact, the Pac-12 season has just begun.

“Sorry for scaring everybody,” said senior guard Mark Lyons, who had a season-high 24 points, including the game-tying free throws with nine seconds left in regulation.

Then it got wild.

The Buffaloes dribbled down for the final shot, and guard Sabatino Chen banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer that appeared to give the Buffs a win for the ages; they hadn’t beaten a top-five team on the road since 1973.

It took game officials about four minutes, but upon further review, the shot was declared too late, as it was ruled that the ball was still on Chen’s fingertips when the buzzer went off.

“I knew it wasn’t good,” Arizona guard Nick Johnson said. “I was just holding to my gut feeling.”

Reaction on Twitter was mostly of the opposite opinion. Lyons said he wasn’t sure what to think. Boyle later blasted the call, telling ESPN’s Andy Katz that watching the replay was like “a shot to the gut,” and called for an end to video reviews.

“It could have gone either way,” Wildcats coach Sean Miller said. “It was a tough call.

“If you look at every sport that has that one play in the last second … there were a number of calls that could have gone either way. If we would have lost, we would have lost to a team that played great.”

But the Wildcats just keep finding ways to win. It’s almost become routine.

On Thursday night, Arizona overcame a horrible start and a talented Colorado team to win its 13th consecutive game, in the process remaining one of just four unbeaten teams in Division I.

The Wildcats are off to their best start since 1931-32, when they went 16-0 to begin the season.

“When you hear stuff like that, it’s truly amazing,” Johnson said. “But we just didn’t come here to be 13-0 to give it up. We want to keep it going.”

Still, Arizona players were a bit “speechless,” as UA senior Kevin Parrom put it. To Lyons, it was a blur, as he couldn’t remember what happened in the final 90 seconds of regulation. Other players and coaches used words and phrases such as “shock,” “luck,” “good fortune” and “playing with fire.”

Miller was more analytical, saying that had the Wildcats lost, “we would have gotten what we would have deserved.”

Instead, they continued to roll in the opener of what promises to be an interesting Pac-12 season.

“We’ve got a great group, and I think we can get better,” said Johnson, who had 12 points and was one of six UA players to score in double figures. “We have a lot of places where we are not as near as good as we could be. We’re 13-0 and we’ve escaped with some tough wins.”

It took a huge rally at the end of regulation and a strong performance in overtime. Miller acknowledged that when Arizona was down by 10 with 1:53 left, things didn’t look good. But the Cats had been there before.

The win came just a little more than two weeks after a similar one over No. 5 Florida that was decided by a last-second shot by Lyons, and a week after a win over San Diego State decided on a last-second block by Johnson.

“We’re 13-0, and you could make the case we could be 10-3 (or) 11-2,” Miller said. “But every team that has a special season or (is) where we are at, you have to have the ball bounce your way a couple of times.”

On Thursday, it happened a few times, and the result was Arizona turning what appeared to be a double-digit defeat into a near-double-digit victory.

“It was tough,” Lyons said, comparing Thursday’s victory to the others, then said it was the toughest. And perhaps the most unlikely. Colorado shot 47 percent from the floor and 62 percent in the second half — and still lost. The Buffaloes were 10 for 15 from 3-point range in regulation — guard Askia Booker had four en route to a team-high 18 points — and still lost.

“I credit Arizona, and I’m not taking anything away from them,” Boyle said. “They did what they had to do to win it down the stretch in overtime.”

The Cats finished at 43.1 percent for the game but had to climb out of a 3-for-16 start to get there. Arizona had its only lead in regulation 2 1/2 minutes into the game and never threatened to regain the lead, outside of an 11-2 run in the final four minutes of the first half, until the late rally.

“They are a very good defensive team,” Miller said of Colorado (10-3). “We’re not going to be the only team that struggles with them. Part of our struggle was because we weren’t patient. We made some decisions that just aren’t going to be good for us. We will hammer that home, and that’ll be the lesson for us.”