LOS ANGELES - As part of Sean Miller's "Pack Line" man-to-man defensive scheme, the Arizona Wildcats are taught that helping is a good thing.
When certain players drive to the lane, defenders away from the ball take a jab step or two toward the ballhandler.
That's precisely what the Wildcats did twice late in regulation of Saturday's Pac-10 tournament championship game.
Except, they had been told not to.
Twice in the final 14 seconds of regulation, the Washington Huskies made three-pointers from the corners when UA defenders jab-stepped toward a driving Isaiah Thomas, leaving their men open to shoot.
With 14 seconds left, Solomon Hill sagged off freshman Terrence Ross to help on Thomas. Ross, who finished with 14, made a three-pointer from the right corner to pull within one.
But no play was more egregious, coach Sean Miller said, than when Kevin Parrom helped with Thomas, leaving C.J. Wilcox open to tie the game with a three-pointer with 5.7 seconds remaining.
"It's as bad of a basketball play as you can make as a team," Miller said. "And it is a team.
"(Even if) it's my responsibility to get that message to the guys. When you're up three under 10 (seconds), to leave the corner to run in, I don't have an answer or an explanation."
Parrom tried to explain.
"I'm supposed to jab at (Thomas), jab at him, keep him guessing, and get back to your man," he said. "I helped him a little too much.
"Wilcox knocked down the three-point shot, and that's what he does best."
Thomas' job, down three, was to drive the lane, and he decided, based on Parrom's actions, whether to pass or take a layup.
"It's like running an option," coach Lorenzo Romar said.
Maybe it was human nature to focus on Thomas. Before making the buzzer-beating jumper at the end of overtime to win 77-75, Thomas dominated the final minute of regulation when the Huskies made three three-pointers.
With 32.7 seconds left, down four, Thomas made a three-pointer to keep the game close.
Then came the final drive and dish to Wilcox.
"You're talking about a guy that had 26 points at the time," Romar said. "This guy is scoring a lot.
"Sometimes your instincts force you to pick up the guy that's the biggest threat."
The Wildcats agreed.
"Isaiah was able to get the first three up, and then, (with us) helping out, they were able to get two more threes up," UA forward Solomon Hill said.
Hill said the two corner three-pointers - Ross' from the right side, then Wilcox's from the left - were "kinda the same play."
"But it was more me and Kev thinking - overthinking - trying to help out," Hill said.
Guard MoMo Jones said the Wildcats leaving their defenders, even for a split-second, to help guard Thomas "was just a heat of the moment thing" at the time.
"As players, you react to the ball," Jones said. "We reacted to the ball."
Hill said the Wildcats didn't realize that Thomas "was driving to pass."
Indeed, Thomas, who played 45 minutes, told his teammates during the game: "I'm tired, man. I'm not worried about scoring.
"So when I get you the ball, just score. Don't pass it back to me."
Parrom said he let his team down.
"I was supposed to help in, and didn't get back to my man," he said. "That was a big play of the game, and one of the big reasons why we lost."
His teammates, however, faulted themselves as much as any one player.
"Helping out," Hill said, "really tore us down."