Breakdown: U of A shocked by Bucknell

Mar 15, 2012, 12:17 PM | Updated: 1:18 pm

The Lowdown: The NIT history for Arizona is a bleak
one to
say the least. Three appearances (first since 1951) and
they are 0-3 in their opportunities. On the other hand,
they also have 29 appearances in the NCAA Tournament
including 25 in a row from 1985-2009.

The first 35 minutes of the game were a struggle for Sean
Miller’s team against Bucknell, the regulars season
champions of the Patriot League. There seemed to be a lid
on the basket as the ‘Cats shot 5-of-16 from three-point
range before Nick Johnson connected on a deep ball with
5:54 to go in the game. The poor shooting was not all
Arizona’s doing; Bucknell was the best defensive team in
the Patriot League this season.

The Bison were solid top to bottom defensively and were
led by Mike Muscala (20 points 9 rebounds) who was tabbed
by Sean Miller before the game as “the best center they
have played this year.”

With 2:59 to go in the game, Jesse Perry drew the fifth
and final foul on Muscala, which was the third straight
foul drawn by Perry via Muscala. In two minutes and
thirty-two seconds Bucknell went from cruise control to a
scramble finish.

An awkward drive to the basket where Kyle Fogg threw up
what looked like a pass to Perry, but was credited as a
missed shot. That ill-advised play with 1:26 in a four-
point game led to a deep clinching three from Bryson
Johnson. That play could have cut the lead to two points
and further surged the momentum towards Arizona, instead
it was a five point swing to put the Bison up 61-54.
This ended up as the last game of the season for the
Wildcats and the last game in general for seniors Fogg,
Perry, Brendon Lavender, and Dondre Wise. The team
scrapped hard for the seniors trying to continue the
season, but it was for not.

The final score – 65-54, Bucknell.

What went wrong for Arizona? Arizona played solid
defense, but they were not able to control the paint.
Muscala was able to score late in the shot clock dictating
the pace and allowing them to set their defense. Overall
shooting was down at 35.4% overall and 30% from three.

When it was over? As mentioned the turnover/missed
shot by Fogg was the hammer swing that led to the nail in
the coffin for the Wildcats. It was a five-point swing
that was just too much to overcome. In the end a few
things go right and a few things go wrong, but in the
result was that they could not beat a team with inferior
talent.

Who stepped up for Arizona? Down the stretch, Perry
did not want his season to end as he drew the third,
fourth, and fifth foul on the Bison’s star center. He
finished with 14 points and 4 rebounds in the loss.

Stat of the Game: Five bench points. It was a
microcosm of the season as a whole as the team was short-
handed. All year they have played with between 6-9 players
and rarely had the depth of the opposition. Today only
Angelo Chol and Brendon Lavender took off their warm-ups
to see action. As a result Solomon Hill played 38 minutes
and Fogg logged 37 himself.

They said it: “Coach tried to blame himself, saying
he didn’t get the right guys in, or didn’t call the right
plays, but it wasn’t that. We all had the chance, and it
just didn’t come down our way.” — Arizona junior
Solomon Hill

What it means: Plain and simple? The season is over
and the state of Arizona has no more collegiate basketball
to enjoy, a rarity this time of year. It was not a bad
year or a good season, but one where the team overcame
numerous challenges and survived adversity that would have
folded most teams.

What’s Next: It is time to say farewell to the
teams’ seniors and get ready for next year. Solomon Hill
and Josiah Turner have to decide whether or not they will
return. Hill is not seen as a highly-rated draft prospect,
but that is an option for him. Turner’s decision is more
of a mutual one between him and Coach Miller. He was at
the game today on the bench as part of the team, but most
expect him to not be a part of the 2012-2013 Wildcats
team.

Then it is time to welcome the No. 1 rated freshman class
to Tucson to pair with a very talented group waiting in
the wings. Next season can only build on this year and is
bound to be a return to normalcy for Arizona.

Penguin Air

Arizona Basketball

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)...
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Breakdown: U of A shocked by Bucknell