ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 26: Kevin Parrom #3 and Kyle Fogg #21 of the Arizona Wildcats sit in the locker room after losing to the Connecticut Huskies during the west regional final of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Honda Center on March 26, 2011 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
All season long, Arizona's been known for grinding out close victories in the closing minutes, and sometimes even seconds.
Up until Saturday night's Elite Eight matchup with UCONN, the Wildcats were 6-2 in games decided by two points or less, most recently highlighted by a 70-69 win over Texas and a 77-75 squeaker past Memphis.
They had all of the momentum heading into tonight, fresh off of a win over Duke as they played as well as any team left in the NCAA Tournament.
Arizona was once again poised to sneak past its opponent in the final seconds, but when push came to shove, the Wildcats couldn't find the late-game execution that helped catapult them into the Elite Eight.
And because of that, the Wildcats' improbable run at the Final Four ended one game short as they fell to Kemba Walker and company, 65-63, in the Honda Center.
Arizona certainly had its chances down the stretch, especially on the final possession. UCONN freshman point guard Shabazz Napier misfired on a triple with 28 seconds left and the Wildcats gained possession, down two, with 23 seconds left.
Sean Miller called a timeout and drew up a set that started by bringing Kyle Fogg off of a screen for a three-pointer, but when he couldn't shed the defender the ball ended up in Derrick Williams' hands at the top of the key.
Williams, who finished with 20 points and five rebounds, settled for a contested, off-balance three that clanked off the back of the rim. Fogg ended up with the offensive rebound, however, and found Jamelle Horne wide open on the right wing.
The sole Arizona senior -- who was 1-for-6 at that point -- hoisted up an open triple that missed off the front of the rim and the Wildcats' remarkable season ended on a sour note. But it wasn't just the final possession where Arizona missed opportunities.
After trailing 32-25 at the half and playing catch up for most of the second half, the Wildcats finally took the lead with 7:17 left. Jesse Perry and Williams combined for 20 points in the first 12:43 of the second half as Arizona and its tenacious defense and energy surged ahead 53-52.
The Wildcats couldn't break away, however, and UCONN slowly but surely took control as the Huskies rattled off a 10-2 run over the next five minutes of play to jump out to a 62-55 lead. Arizona went 0-for-3 from the field while committing two turnovers during that stretch.
Horne and Fogg each hit three-pointers in the last two minutes to bring Arizona within striking distance, but the poor late-game execution along with the play of Walker (20 points, seven assists) and freshman Jeremy Lamb (19 points) kept the Wildcats from a surprise Final Four appearance.
After a lifeless first that saw zero production from the role players while Williams sat with three early fouls, Arizona finally showed some spark in the second half. The Wildcats continued their dominance on the boards, outrebounding UCONN 39-28, but they shot 39.3 percent from the field and 19.0 percent from three while committing nine turnovers -- most of which came in the second half.
Williams played well, but didn't exactly bring his Superman cape to the game as he shot 5-for-13 from the field and settled for some bad shots. Arizona's role players -- outside of Perry and Solomon Hill's 10 rebounds -- didn't play nearly as well as they did against Duke, and that's the reason for the loss.
UCONN didn't exactly impress, but it became clear that for Arizona to win big games not only did Williams need to produce, the role players also needed to step up. But Momo Jones and company didn't quite elevate their play enough, and the bench finished 3-for-14 on the night.
Overall, Arizona exceeded expectations and took the program to elite status. Miller did a tremendous job coaching this young bunch and Wildcats basketball is back on the map.
But with Williams in the NBA next season, there's no doubt this group will look back and think that it could have won a championship. There's always that "what if." But despite that feeling of unfinished business, Arizona deserves a ton of credit for not only its tournament run, but its entire season as a whole.