CORVALLIS, Ore. - Sean Miller could just chalk it all up to a karmic turnaround, payback for those Nic Wise buzzer-beaters last month.
Or the UA basketball coach could look more analytically at the three-pointer from Lathen Wallace with 0.9 of a second left that gave Oregon State a 67-64 win Thursday, assessing why his defense parted ways for the wide-open game-winner, and why, exactly, the Wildcats were in position to lose in the first place.
Before Arizona lost for the second time in the final second in three games, having been ousted by a 0.1 of a second shot by Washington State's DeAngelo Casto last Friday at McKale Center, they actually led the Beavers by 11 points.
Arizona had shaken off the early effects of OSU's unconventional 1-3-1 zone defense, which allowed the Beavers to take early leads of up to 13 points, and was back to a balanced, effective offense that scored inside and out.
Then the Wildcats failed to score for the final 4 minutes 10 seconds.
"We had that 11-point lead and let it slip away," UA guard Nic Wise said. "We've got to finish teams out."
The loss dropped Arizona under .500 at 8-9 overall and 2-3 in the Pac-10 entering a game at Oregon on Saturday afternoon. OSU improved to 8-8 and 2-2.
Roeland Schaftenaar led OSU with 22 points, while Wallace and Seth Tarver each had 14 for the Beavers. Derrick Williams led the UA with 20 points.
Arizona failed on both ends of the floor at the end. Offensively, Miller pointed to four or five possessions that all produced decent looks to score but no scoring, while OSU pulled from a 59-51 deficit into a 64-64 tie by the time Schaftenaar made a layup with 2:12 left.
"If any one of those go in, we win the game," Miller said. "The concern is, and it's no easy solution, but it's our team's inability to sustain great effort and make tough winning plays on defense."
But here was the defense Miller saw Thursday: One that was cut up early and often by the Beavers' Princeton-style offense, then limped through the second half with a 2-3 zone that helped solve some of the problems.
Ultimately, though, the UA's defense failed at the end, so much so that even Oregon State coach Craig Robinson was surprised to find Wallace open in the left corner after he drove the baseline.
"We thought we'd get it to Calvin" Haynes, Robinson said. "I wasn't expecting that."
Neither was Miller.
"I think you live with a contested shot but a wide-open shot from the corner is one where you say, 'Geez, why didn't we get that?' " Miller said. "It was like we called a blitz and not everyone got in it, and we gave up a touchdown."
It is possible that the Wildcats' offensive frustration carried over to the defensive side of the court, the way Miller explained it.
The Wildcats had two of their final three shots swatted away by Schaftenaar, while Jamelle Horne threw another off the backboard, before OSU ran its final possession.
"Part of what we have to deal with is you miss a couple of shots and the crowd's going crazy," Miller said. "You had a chance to win the game and you didn't. But you gotta put that behind, you listen and focus and move to the next play. We didn't do that very well on that last shot."
With 53.8 seconds left, Schaftenaar blocked a shot by Williams but neither player could gain sole possession of the ball and a jump ball was declared. The UA retained the ball because of the possession arrow, and Horne threw a 10-footer off the backboard.
Horne missed but collected the rebound to reset the clock, and Wise dribbled off 10 seconds on the next possession before the UA ran a play that eventually had Kyle Fogg driving to the basket. Schaftenaar blocked Fogg and the Wildcats then lost the ball when they could not get a shot up before the shot clock expired.
Fogg said he drove inside for the quick shot, hoping to either score or get fouled, since the clock was nearly expired.
"I could have kicked it out," Fogg said. "I think Nic was open on the side. That was definitely my fault. I thought I had the shot. … I felt like I got some contact and kind of expected a call but that's how it goes."
None of that had to happen, of course, if Arizona had not struggled to early deficits of up to 13 points.
OSU raced to a 14-3 lead, tearing the Wildcats' offense apart with its 1-3-1 defense featuring guard Tarver at the top. Arizona had four turnovers in the first five minutes and could not get the ball to Williams for the first eight minutes.
The UA received an early break, too, when Robinson was whistled for a technical foul with the Beavers leading 2-0 with 17:41 left in the first half. However, Wise made only 1 of 2 resulting free throws.
"I don't want to say I expected it but if you look at our team through our entire schedule, we've been a slow starting team," Miller said. "Being on the road against a 1-3-1, as aggressive as it is, you anticipated that happening, and it did. We dug ourselves a hole."
On StarNet: Get to know the Wildcats with the Star's Cat Cards player roll call at azstarnet.com/catcards/2010/bball
• What: Arizona at Oregon
• When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
• TV: FSAZ
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM