For a freshman making his first career start at point guard Wednesday night, Arizona's Nick Johnson showed some surprising guile.
Oh sure, Johnson's five-point, five-turnover night against Florida was hardly memorable, but check out what the 6-foot-2 guard did after he fouled out with just over one minute left in Arizona's 78-72 overtime loss.
With Florida's student section serenading him with college basketball's ubiquitous "left-right" chant as he walked off the court, Johnson paused in front of his bench for about 20 seconds without moving. Only once Florida guard Erving Walker was about to release his free throw did Johnson take his seat in hopes the Gators crowd would still scream "sit down" in unison.
Johnson's ploy to distract Walker might have worked had he timed it just slightly better. Because he sat down as Walker attempted the free throw, the crowd didn't yell in unison until the foul shot was already in the air, enabling the Florida guard to sink it and increase his team's lead to five.
The near-miss was symbolic of Arizona's night as a whole. Despite the absence of freshman point guard Josiah Turner and a severe size disadvantage in the paint, the Wildcats led Florida by seven with seven minutes remaining in the second half before running out of gas and failing to pull off the upset.
How Arizona's performance should be evaluated depends on whether one takes an optimistic or pessimistic stance.
On the one hand, the Wildcats are rapidly improving as they adjust to life post-Derrick Williams and there won't be a lot of big men the caliber of Patric Young in the beleaguered Pac-12. On the other hand, it's mid-December and Arizona's best wins have come against New Mexico State and St. John's.
It will help if Arizona can get Turner back on the floor so Johnson can move back to his natural shooting guard spot. Johnson's point guard debut wasn't auspicious, but he did a credible job under the circumstances and he almost out-smarted the Florida crowd too.