Did officials botch Buffaloes’ upset bid at Arizona?

Kyle Ringo
The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Sabatino Chen, the only senior on the Colorado basketball team, appeared to bank in a buzzer-beating game winning 3-pointer against No. 3 Arizona but it was waived off by officials after a lengthy study of replays and the Wildcats went on to win 92-83 in overtime.

Arizona remained one of only four unbeaten teams in the nation and avenged a loss to the Buffaloes in the Pac-12 Conference tournament championship game last season by overcoming a 17-point deficit to win.

But this Arizona comeback, unlike similar wins earlier this season over Florida and San Diego State, comes with an asterisk because replays from the side angle seemed to show the ball out of Chen's hand with .1 second left on the clock. Apparently officials thought the tip of one of Chen's fingers was still touching the ball.

''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," Colorado coach Tad Boyle told reporters.

While Colorado certainly has reason to complain about the officials' decision that sent the game to overtime, it must take a long look at the way it failed to finish what was an impressive performance for the first 35 minutes.

Colorado wilted under Arizona's pressure defense down the stretch and gave up a 10-point lead in the final 2 minutes. The Buffaloes also missed five free throws in that span. Missing free throws has been a season-long problem that Boyle hasn't been able to remedy to this point and it finally cost his team. Had the Buffs made more than 17 of their 29 free throws they would have celebrated their first road win in a conference opener since 1969 and their first road win over a top-five team since 1973.

Colorado's sophomore backcourt tandem of Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie each made crucial turnovers down the stretch trying to bring the ball up the floor against pressure and it hurt the Buffs badly when Andre Roberson, the nation's third leading rebounder fouled out late in regulation. Roberson has an uncanny knack for snatching key rebounds in tight games but he wasn't available when CU needed that most.

While Colorado was searching for a steady hand in crunch time, Arizona once again turned to Xavier transfer Mark Lyons to lead it to victory. Lyons scored a season-best 24 points and led the charge by making key plays defensively and hitting all 10 of his free throw attempts to give the Wildcats their third cardiac comeback victory of the year. Two of those free throws tied the game at 80 with less than 10 seconds remaining and preceded Chen's shot.

"I was going to be good with either call," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "Obviously, I wanted to win. Colorado outplayed us most of the game. Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn't. Because it banked in and knowing they didn't call it, I felt like the basketball gods weigh in on something like that."

Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleRingo

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