With 13 seconds remaining in the game Thursday night against Washington, Dylan Smith went the line with the chance to ice the win away. Arizona led, almost improbably, 75-72. Even just one free throw make would seal the victory.
Washington, who had shot 14 for 27 from 3-point land, had the chance to tie the game.
They finished the game 14 for 28. Game over. Wildcats escape.
When Sean Miller used his second-to-last timeout with 14 minutes left in the game, Arizona down, hope of a road win slipping away, it would have been easy to turn off the game with the knowledge that a loss was on the way. Maybe that would have been the case earlier in the season, but not on Thursday night in Seattle.
In a game where Arizona was down by as much as nine in the second half, in a game where Washington seemingly couldn’t miss a 3, in a game where Arizona was faced with two potential NBA first round picks, Arizona found a way to win.
Even with the late free-throw misses, early turnovers, and horrible games from Dylan Smith and Josh Green, the Cats won their first road game of the season.
I don’t pretend to know what comes next with this team. Could this win be the spur that propels them the rest of the season? Maybe. Could they lose Saturday against Washington State and squander all momentum gained from Thursday’s win? Sure.
What I do know, however, is that Arizona won its first road game of the season and picked up its third Quadrant 1 victory. College basketball is about finding ways to win, no matter the circumstances—something Arizona hasn’t done this year. Its four Quad 1 losses have come by a combined 11 points, all four games winnable.
This team still oozes of untapped potential. It feels like we’re waiting for that breakthrough of consistent play. Arizona fans saw the flashes of a top-five team against Illinois and Colorado, but also has seen the ugly losses at ASU and Oregon State.
We certainly saw a bit of both good and bad against the Huskies on Thursday, but unlike the ASU or Oregon State games, Arizona found a way to win in tough circumstances.
We’ll have to wait until Saturday’s game against Washington State to see if the road win created a spark. Until then, Arizona fans should enjoy this victory and hold off on the #FireMiller hashtags for at least a day.