Die-Hards Rewarded

Budinger - You wont like me when Im angry.

Budinger - "You won't like me when I'm angry."

Die hard Arizona fans were given the biggest reward of the season and perhaps the past three years as they witnessed the ‘Cats overcome a 9 point deficit with 54 seconds remaining to force overtime en route to a 96-90 overtime win on Saturday. After dropping three-straight the Wildcats showed more heart and determination than they’ve displayed perhaps all season long. Plagued by turnover woes all season long, the Wildcats have suffered 8 losses a direct result from them Saturday against Houston was no difference as the Wildcats had nearly three-times as many (24-9) as the Cougars, but were able to force four Houston turnovers in the final nine minutes which left the door open for the come-back win.

The Wildcats have seen several bad calls go against them the past few games and have been incapable of overcoming them. This time, however, that was not the case. Aubrey Coleman literally bowled over Chase Budinger with 9:51 remaining and then proceeded to maliciously step on his head. The McKale crowd grew restless and angry chanting “Throw him out! Throw him out!” while the officials reviewed the play before granting the crowd’s wish – and deservingly so. That decision was perhaps the turning point of the game for the ‘Cats as Coleman had dissected the ‘Cats perimeter defense and Houston wasn’t the same without him on the floor. The door was left open by late missed free throws and turnovers on the Cougars behalf, and for the first time all season it was the Wildcats taking advantage of late-game mistakes rather than being victimized by them.

Even the not-so die-hard fans have to be excited by what Arizona did Saturday night. But the excitement is tempered by the fact that the Wildcats have already given glimpses of how great they can be and how much fun this team can be to watch at times. Disappointed fans and die-hard fans alike are now eyeing that post-season appearance with reserved excitement. The door to the Wildcats post-season has not been closed yet, and the Wildcats just edged it up a little further. Like they did against Houston, Arizona must not seize that opportunity and take control of their season.

As I said previously, the task is not an easy one. Failure will bring down the slander of the most ruthless critics. The casual fan will be mad at themselves for trusting a hope, and the rivals will mock and gloat like a team unaccustomed to being on top leaving only the die-hard fans that stuck around for the greatest 54 seconds in recent memory. But for now, these Wildcats are still dangerous with their NCAA Tournament chances hanging by a thread, which is all it takes to create at least a little buzz and excitement for casual fans and die-hards alike.

Last Shots

  • Nic Wise drained a clutch 3-pointer to knot the game at 88 apiece. This was the first time the ‘Cats have executed a last-second shot this season, and the most dramatic shot for the ‘Cats since the Salim Stoudamire days.
  • Kyle Fogg must be shooting extra shots before practice like Zane Johnson has. Fogg drained four 3-pointers en route to tying his career high 14 points. He was ready to shoot when he caught the ball with open looks rather than trying to find Hill, Budinger, or anybody else. Fogg needs to continue to be an offensive threat for the ‘Cats.
  • The Wildcats’ decision making during the final 9:51 was amazing. Prior to the incident at mid-court, Arizona was averaging a turnover every minute and eight seconds. Following the foul that figure was reduced to one turnover every two minutes-27 seconds. If Arizona played with that type of efficiency for 40 minutes they would wind up with 10.7 turnovers per game.
  • Coach Pennell utilized his bench a lot more against Houston, and it showed in more than one way. I believe that the increased turnovers were due to guys getting more minutes that haven’t normally played this year and needed to adjust to the pace and intensity of the game. Secondly, and more importantly, it showed because it was Nic Wise, Chase Budinger didn’t look as gassed at the end of regulation as they had in previous games.
  • Jamelle Horne should no longer be a goat in many people’s eyes. Horne’s defensive efforts in the final minute were elemental in Arizona’s comeback. Because of his pressure Houston turned the ball over and was forced into a situation they never should’ve been in. Good job Jamelle Horne.
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1 Response to “Die-Hards Rewarded”


  1. 1 bleez January 27, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    I hope we can take this momentum into this weeks games and make a statement to not count the Wildcats out yet.


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