LOS ANGELES –- The Arizona Wildcats lost the Pac-12 Tournament championship – and, most likely, a shot at the NCAA tournament – in a manner that was all too befitting for the two top defenses in the conference.
Colorado won 53-51, holding on to what was a 12-point second half lead even after its shooting was lost. The Buffs missed nine straight field goals but guard Carlon Brown raced through the Arizona defense for an emphatic slam dunk that gave the Buffaloes a 53-47 lead and Colorado hung on from there despite giving the Wildcats a chance to win or tie the game in the final seconds.
The Buffs locked down, as they did in a 64-63 win over Arizona on Jan. 21 in Boulder, and refused to let the Wildcats have a decent look at the basket.
Kyle Fogg hit one of two free throws with 34.5 seconds left and, after Colorado lost the ball out of bounds, Solomon Hill scored inside to cut the lead to 53-51. But after Austin Dufault missed two free throws to give UA a final chance to tie or win the game with 14.4 seconds, the Wildcats couldn’t get a decent shot and Fogg threw up an 18-footer that missed.
The loss dropped Arizona to 23-11 and likely into the NIT, though the Wildcats may have a faint hope of receiving one of the final NCAA tournament at-large invitations today.
The Wildcats could begin play in the NIT on Tuesday or Wednesday at McKale Center. Pairings will be announced Sunday evening.
Colorado improved to 23-11, forcing its way into the NCAA tournament after it was left controversially out of the event last season.
NCAA tournament selections will be announced on CBS starting at 3 p.m. Tucson time.
The loss also dropped the Wildcats to 1-3 in Pac-10/12 Tournament finals since the event moved to Staples Center in 2002.
The Wildcats beat USC in the championship game that season, then went to the final but lost to Washington in both 2005 and last season.
Fogg led UA in scoring with 14 points while Solomon Hill added 13. Jesse Perry had 11 points and eight rebounds.
Spencer Dinwiddie had 14 for Colorado while Andre Roberson had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Colorado missed nine straight field goals while Arizona pulled within 50-45 entering the final three minutes.
Solomon Hill had a chance to cut it to two with an open three-pointer with 2:05 left but he missed and Colorado called a timeout with 1:41 left.
The Buffs built the lead up to 12 points, 50-38 with nine minutes to go, and the UA fans at the Staples Center were mostly on their feet, hoping for a late run.
However, with just under eight minutes to go, Angelo Chol scored inside to cut Colorado's lead to 50-40 and the Wildcats forced the Buffs into a shot-clock violation on their next possession.
Colorado built its lead to 11 points just over five minutes into the second half, then after the Wildcats cut it to eight, Arizona left Colorado's Spencer Dinwiddie open in the corner and the freshman guard sank his fourth three-pointer of the game.
After a defensive struggle in the first half, Colorado took a 30-28 lead at halftime.
The Buffs held Arizona to just 35.7 percent shooting from the field and outrebounded the Wildcats 21-15 before halftime. However, UA stayed in the game by hitting 5 of 12 three-pointers and turning the ball over only three times.
Dinwiddie led a typically balanced Colorado attack with nine points while Fogg had 10 points to lead Arizona.
Arizona had a 25-23 lead with 3:40 to go in the first half, having gone on a 8-0 earlier in the half to take a 22-19 lead. The game stayed within a basket for the rest of the half.
Earlier in the game, a three-pointer from Brendon Lavender pulled Arizona within 10-9 heading into the second media timeout of the second half (11:46 left).
The Wildcats successfully defended 6-11 Colorado center Shane Harris-Tunks inside on the Buffs' next possession.
Colorado led UA 10-5 at first media timeout (14:42). Dinwiddie hit two early three pointers to help build the Buffaloes’ lead.