The pressure of perfection continue to build, but the talent Sean Miller has compiled continues to roll forward.
Really, it's felt like a crawl over the course of the last five halves of basketball, and it was certainly that in the Arizona Wildcats' 60-57, nail-biting victory over the Stanford Cardinal on Wednesday.
Over the course of the final 12:34, the Wildcats held Stanford to six points, which included a span of 8:47 where the Cardinal failed to make a field goal.
Arizona's offense did no better, and Johnny Dawkins' team only built on the research of how exactly a team can topple the 21-0, No. 1 team. The Wildcats shot 36 percent from the floor and went 18-for-29 from the foul line. They lost on the rebounding front by two and for the second game in a row didn't get much out of anyone on the offensive end other than Nick Johnson.
Johnson scored 16 points and waited for the perfect time to take over.
He took just nine shots and with the game deadlocked at 53 points -- that score didn't budge for four minutes -- hit a 14-foot floater with 2:35 to play. Stanford's Dwight Powell drove on the left baseline a minute later and hit a tough reverse-layup to tie it again, and Johnson answered back by drilling a three-pointer atop the key after Kaleb Tarczewski pulled down an offensive rebound.
The three-point lead in the final minute wasn't enough even though UA's defense held. With the Cardinal fouling, Johnson clanked the front end of a one-and-one and freshman Aaron Gordon followed it up on the next Arizona possession with more of the same.
Arizona fouled up three to prevent a made three, and after two Stanford free throw makes that brought the score to 58-57, Johnson closed out the game with two made foul shots in the final five second.
Gordon continued his mighty struggles on the offensive end. After going 3-for-13 against Utah, he shot 2-for-10 from the floor against Stanford. He was bothered by length, and seemed to press in front of his hometown Bay Area crowd -- Maples Pavilion indeed sounded like a 50-50 split in Stanford and Arizona contingents.
Gordon finished with five points and nine rebounds, and Tarczewski was also taken out of the game by a talented Stanford frontline of Stefan Nastic, Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis, who all scored in double-figures.
T.J. McConnell had mild success scoring in the first half once the Cardinal jumped out to a 9-2 lead and he finished with 11 points and four assists. Brandon Ashley went 3-for-9 from the floor but scored 10, and Rondae "Pinball Machine"Hollis-Jefferson scored eight points off the bench. Hollis-Jefferson did lead the charge in missed free throws, going 4-for-9 at the stripe.
The Cardinal took Arizona's inside-out game away, and it also did a decent-enough job from the three-point line. X-factor Gabe York scored five points but didn't bring the shooting threat he has often added off the bench.
So it came down to the defense. Stanford shot 37.5 percent and went 3-for-12 from deep, but it was again Johnson who made the difference. He clung to Chasson Randle, the 19.1-point per game scorer, and forced him into a 3-for-15 shooting night. Huestis likewise went 5-for-16, and once it came down to the final minutes as Arizona's defense locked in, it was just about finding the one player who wanted the ball.
Johnson was the guy, and he solidified his push as a First Team All-American.
Arizona's weaknesses are showing, but then again, they've never had it easy. Be it Drexel, Duke, Michigan or Stanford, the Wildcats have not exactly blown the roof off many opponents this year.
So has a chink in the armor actually been found? The free throw problem was a known factor, and so was the perimeter shooting issues. Teams simply have more tape to gameplan as the season continues on.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said it earlier this week, and so far, it's the most true thing about how well the Wildcats are built.
"They defend so well, that's not going anywhere," Romar said during the weekly teleconference call. "There can be long stretches where they can't score but you can't score either."
The Cardinal are sitting in their locker room, understanding that statement completely.