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January 3, 2013
No. 3 Wildcats remain unbeaten amid controversy
The calendar says 2013 but third-ranked Arizona had some 2012 magic - and one controversial call - work in its favor Thursday night.
The Wildcats erased an early 17-point deficit and forced overtime to defeat Colorado, 92-83, in the Pac-12 Conference opener for both teams at McKale Center.
Tied at 80 after a pair of Mark Lyons free throws with nine seconds to play, Buffaloes guard Sabatino Chen banked in what appeared to be the game-winning 3-pointer as time expired. Officials determined that the ball was still in Chen's hands, however, when the clock hit zeroes.
"It came down to fingertips - maybe," Chen said.
Added Colorado head coach Tad Boyle: "If it's the wrong call, I'm really, really sick to my stomach because we had guys in this locker room that deserved to win that game."
The Wildcats (13-0) then outscored the Buffs 12-3 in the extra session to provide an anticlimatic ending to an otherwise frantic finish. From the 2:30 mark in regulation to the end, the 'Cats closed the contest on a 27-10 run to give the program its best start since the 1931-32 team won 16 consecutive games.
Arizona erased a 16-point deficit after Chen's 3-pointer with 12:40 to play in regulation.
"We have a great group of guys but we can get a lot better," UA guard Nick Johnson said. "We've escaped with some tough wins but we're going to go back to practice and get better."
Lyons scored five of his game-high 24 points in overtime to lead the Wildcats, who shot just 43 percent.
The Buffaloes (10-3) put five scorers in double figures paced by Askia Booker's 15 points. Chen, in his first reserve role of the season, added 15.
UA survived a 10-of-21 shooting performance by Colorado from beyond the arc, reminiscent of a close win over Florida on Dec. 15.
To start, Arizona looked every bit the part of a team that had not played since Christmas Day.
The Wildcats went nearly eight minutes without a basket and hit just three of their first 16 shots to start. Colorado's defense was part of the problem, but UA also hoisted a number of ill-advised jump shots.
"We would have gotten what we deserved if we had lost," Arizona head coach Sean Miller said.
In his first career start, Xavier Johnson made all four of his shots - two from the 3-point line - and led all scorers with 12 points at the break.
Colorado had a chance to keep its lead in double digits, but a costly turnover by Booker in the closing seconds was compounded by a foul and trip to the free-throw line for the 'Cats.
But UA finished the final 1:31 on a 6-0 burst and cut what was a 30-13 deficit into a 34-27 margin heading into the locker room.
"We're playing with fire with the way that we're playing offense," Miller said. "We have talented players and we're trying to score against good defenses in January on the first three passes of a possession. It doesn't work that way."
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor
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