BOULDER, Colo. - There's a theory out there that says basketballs spin and arc differently in thinner air, but the Arizona Wildcats weren't really in the mood for a science lecture Saturday.
They just knew that, somehow, they weren't making shots in a 64-63 loss to Colorado at the Coors Events Center.
The Wildcats hit just 3 of 20 three-pointer shots, with a would-be game winning three-pointer from Kevin Parrom failing to even touch the rim, in their first-ever Pac-12 game at the 5,345-foot-elevation Coors Event Center.
Arizona dropped to 13-7 overall and 4-3 in Pac-12 play, with the Washington schools coming into McKale Center next weekend.
"I don't know if the thin air made them go long or short," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "But, to me, open shots are the ones that we have to make."
Center Jesse Perry also was not sure what to think.
"I don't know if it was altitude; it just wasn't falling," Perry said. "That's really what is was."
Guards Nick Johnson (0-3) and Jordin Mayes (0-4) missed all their threes, Parrom and Brendon Lavender missed both threes they took, and Kyle Fogg went 2 for 7 from beyond the arc.
Overall, Fogg was 3 for 12 from the field. Although he was 8 of 9 from the free-throw line, the lone miss was a painful one - the front end of a one-and-one opportunity with 1:01 that could have won the game.
"I'm not in a slump," Fogg said. "I just missed a few shots I normally make."
That's what may have hurt Miller the most. The Wildcats just missed shots.
They did almost everything else he could have asked. Arizona had just 11 turnovers, totaling just 20 for their two-game Rocky Mountain swing, and out-rebounded the Buffaloes 44-35.
Arizona also took four more free throws than the home team, making 22 of 30 from the line.
"We had enough good play to win," Miller said. "I thought our effort level was great. Any time you have a plus-nine (rebounding advantage) on the glass, you get to the foul line as many times as we did, and you take care of the ball the way we did, you're putting yourself in a great way to win."
But instead, Miller found himself answering questions about bad shots.
"One of the things I really don't like to say is we just couldn't make a shot, because it almost sounds like a cop-out as a coach, but that is the case," Miller said. "Not every three we took was a quality three; Colorado does a good job on defense. But I would say we had six or eight shots that I would consider the best shot in the gym for us - wide open.
"Three for 20 is tough on our team."
After Colorado's Carlon Brown missed an 18-footer with 30 seconds to go, giving the Wildcats a chance to win the game, the Buffs tightened up their defense one more time.
Parrom rebounded Brown's miss, and the Wildcats headed upcourt; they passed repeatedly, but never quite found what they were looking for.
"We had to get the stop," Brown said. "We got out there on the perimeter, making sure that Arizona didn't get easy baskets as far as switches and cuts. We talk about that every day in practice, sometimes the offense doesn't click and the defense has to step up. Today we did that."
Whether or not altitude affected Fogg's free throw, Parrom's three or any of the Johnson's and Mayes' shots, it did do this: prompt Miller to calling more timeouts than he usually does, and as a result leaving UA without one when it could have set up a final play.
When asked if Arizona might have found a better shot with a timeout, Miller smiled.
"It always seems like you're going to diagram this great last-second play, but many times if you look over history, it's a second shot, it's a player driving, an opportunity to get fouled" that wins the game, Miller said. "We ran one of our favorite plays, a play that had worked throughout the game. We had a couple opportunities, and it didn't work."
Besides, Miller said, exhausting the timeouts was worth it. He said the Wildcats might not have gotten a final crack at winning the game had they not taken all their timeouts.
Miller said his players were getting winded, and Perry, who led the Wildcats with 20 points and 10 rebounds in his ninth double-double, was suffering from cramps.
"I took a lot of timeouts in the second half because I felt our team needed an opportunity to win," Miller said. "The last (possession) of the game, we had a 13-footer that we passed up and the three. … In hindsight, I would do the exact same thing again."
Perry, who led the Wildcats to a 39-35 halftime lead with 12 points in the first half, remained optimistic toward the end.
Colorado led 61-56 with 3:52 to go, but UA tied it back up a minute later after a three-pointer by Fogg and a layup by Solomon Hill, who was fouled on the play. Hill missed the ensuing free throw but UA took a 63-61 lead with 1:38 to go when Parrom made a layup.
Then it went downhill quickly for the Wildcats. Brown hit a three with 1:16 to go, putting the Buffs up 64-63 and the final minute saw optimism turn to disappointment for the Wildcats.
So at the end, Perry came to same conclusion as his coach.
The shots just didn't go in.
"I felt like we were going to win the game," Perry said. "We missed a couple of free throws, but overall we made a lot of them, and we out-rebounded them. But we were 3 for 20 (from three-point range), and that's really a big part of our plan. That's what a lot of guys do on our team, that's their role, and tonight it wasn't falling."
• Who: Washington State at Arizona
• When: 8:30 p.m. Thursday
• TV: FSAZ