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February 14, 2013
The two teams can downplay the contest all it wants, but the fans in Boulder, Colo., are looking for a Valentine's Day Massacre.
That's the name that was given to Thursday's 8 p.m. MST meeting between ninth-ranked Arizona and Colorado not long after the controversial result Jan. 3 in Tucson. Buffaloes reserve Sabatino Chen connected on what appeared to be a game-winning, banked 3-pointer in regulation, but officials did not count the basket and the Wildcats (20-3, 8-3 Pac-12 Conference) went on to prevail in overtime, 92-83.
Almost forgotten is the 10-2 run in the final 1:35 of regulation that it took for the 'Cats to force an extra session.
"Nobody wants to lose in that way," UA guard Nick Johnson said.
While Arizona is not facing Arizona State in a week of rivalries across the country, an argument can be made that the series with Colorado (16-7, 6-5 Pac-12) is turning into one of the league's better showdowns - even without this season's first meeting. Close games have been the norm since the Buffs joined the conference last season.
Last season's contest at Coors Events Center and the Pac-12 tournament championship game - both CU victories - were not decided until the game's final possession. The two games were decided by a combined three points.
As for the controversial finish to start league play this season, Buffs head coach Tad Boyle said the moment and its direct hand in the subsequent 1-4 start to conference action is an "overplayed" storyline.
"Obviously, if you look at our record after that game, everybody's going to point to the fact that we had a hangover," Boyle said. "Whether it was (a hangover) or wasn't - I don't think it was - really, it doesn't matter."
Whatever you want to call it, Colorado is now out of its funk. The Buffs have won five of their last six and, ironically, Boyle said the turnaround can be credited to the way his team has closed out opponents.
"Spencer Dinwiddie is coming off an incredible game," UA head coach Sean Miller said.
"He's just a terrific guard, very capable of having a big offensive night."
Before the loss, UA had a small cushion in the Pac-12 race, but now two teams with wins over the Wildcats, Oregon and UCLA, are tied atop the standings in a three-team race. The separation between first and eighth place in the league is a mere two-game difference.
Senior forward Solomon Hill said the pressure of being the top dog in the conference race is not something that the players notice.
"I think everybody should expect to be at the top when you put forth the effort," Hill said. "[Teams] are going to be ready to play against you guys."