Colorado Clinches Automatic NCAA Bid With Pac-12 Tournament Championship

March 11, 2012

Los Angeles – Colorado punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a 53–51 win over Arizona in a game that came down to a last-second shot at the buzzer.

Colorado used a 13–5 run at the start of the second half to take a commanding 44–33 lead. However, the Buffs were unable to maintain their advantage because Arizona seniors Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry simply willed their team back into the game, scrapping for rebounds and second chances.

Behind a 7–0 run, the Wildcats got within 50–45 with 4:01 remaining in the second half.

After four unnerving minutes in which Colorado committed turnovers and the Buffs’ Austin Dufault missed two free throws with 15 seconds to go, Arizona found itself with the ball in Kyle Fogg’s hand.

Fogg raced to the other side of the court, with a chance to tie or win. However, the Wildcats did not have any more timeouts, and got stuck on the perimeter, unable to set up a decent shot at the basket. His three-point attempt missed.

As Colorado coach Tad Boyle put it, “We didn’t finish strong. Obviously we turned it over, missed some free throws.” However, he also pointed out, “But you rely on your defense. You rely on your rebounding. We beat this Arizona team in Boulder on a stop. It’s appropriate that it ended that way.”

Colorado's significant 35–23 rebounding edge, and Arizona’s inability to take capitalize on its free throw opportunities (10–18), also put the Wildcats at a disadvantage.

However, behind seniors Kyle Fogg, Jesse Perry, and junior Solomon Hill, who altogether scored the last 9 points, Arizona did not give up and kept it close with some tough defense of their own.

Given the many close losses that Arizona had throughout the season, Coach Sean Miller commented, “We’re not games away. We’re probably about four plays away, which include today’s game.” Of his team’s post season’s chances, he added, “We look forward to playing. If we’re not in the NCAA Tournament, the NIT.”

Coming into the game, both teams knew that only an automatic bid for the tournament champion would guarantee them entry into the NCAA Tournament.

Both teams initially looked ready and showed little sign of fatigue. Spencer Dinwiddie was particularly sharp early, going 3–3 from three-point land to lead Colorado at the half.  But in the second half, the toll of playing back-to-back-to-back games showed, as both sides missed free throws and shot under 40% from the field.

Tournaments News and Notes

  • The Pac-12 Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award was given to Carlon Brown, whose emphatic dunk with 48.6 left just about sealed the game for the Buffaloes. Throughout the tournament, when the games slowed down and Colorado needed a bucket, Brown was a steadying presence. In one memorable stretch against Cal, Brown utilized his size to post up Player of the Year Jorge Gutierrez, allowing him to go both inside and outside and score in a variety of ways. Brown also tied Gary Payton's tournament record with 9 steals.

  • The Pac-12 All Tournament Team is: Carlon Brown (Colorado); Jared Cunningham (Oregon State); Kyle Fogg (Arizona); Solomon Hill (Arizona); Jesse Perry (Arizona); and Andre Roberson (Colorado)

  • Arizona fell to 4-6 this season when it does not out-rebound an opponent.

  • Fogg scored in double figures for the 12th consecutive game.

By Christian Siagian
Contributing Writer for The Daily Sports Herald

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