Nick Johnson, Arizona's best defender for most of the season, had a major role in keeping Ian Clark, left, from heating up.


Nic Wise ran off the floor, Arizona Wildcats fans stood and cheered, and three officials walked to sideline to stare at a video screen slightly larger than a postage stamp.

OK, maybe it was six inches across. But as the three striped decision-makers debated Wise's last-second shot - whether the ball left his hand before the buzzer sounded and whether he made a two- or three-pointer - UA fans saw the season flash before their eyes.

They were victims in a horror movie. They saw the monster approaching and prayed to be spared.

Three minutes of waiting for officials to decide the final score of the game was as bizarre a moment McKale Center has seen in years, give or take a Houston stomp.

At stake in the 83-82 overtime UA win, perhaps, were decades-old highs and lows for both teams.

Lose, and any perception the Wildcats would reach their 26th NCAA tournament - even falsely, built on reputation and not results - would probably vanish before Christmas.

"We're not a very good team," coach Sean Miller said.

Had Lipscomb won, it would have marked likely the biggest win in the school's NCAA tenure.

Had officials ruled Wise released the shot late, the Bisons would have claimed a victory that rivaled last year's win against Indiana - like Arizona, a one-time power struggling through a rebuilding effort.

"Our assistant coach, he said, 'I'm almost positive it was after the buzzer,'" said Lipscomb center Adnan Hodzic, who finished with 34 points. "And then Coach was like, 'His foot was over the line. Worst-case scenario, we're going to (double) overtime.' …

"The refs called it. It's fine. It hurts really, really bad, because that game was ours."

Had Kyle Fogg not elevated to shoot a one-legged jumper, only to see the clock with 2.2 seconds left and to hear Wise scream at him, neither school would have stood on the floor, waiting.

Instead, the phrase "Foggy!" got the ball into Wise's hands, and back out of them, from the top of the key toward the basket.

Wise had run off the floor and toward the locker room when he made the shot, but he was tackled. Amid the scrum, the players realized they needed to return to the huddle, just in case.

"It was hard, man," said Wise. "We just tried to make sure we got our guys to know to get their minds right. We didn't want to put all our chips on the three."

Everyone else waited.

Two minutes in, all three officials were still staring at the screen at midcourt. The replay, per McKale Center policy, aired only once on the big screen.

"Everybody's like, 'Oh Lipscomb; who's Lipscomb?'" said guard MoMo Jones, who finished with 12 points. "They're a very good team."

The world was about to find out - if the shot was waved off, that is.

"Their name's Lipscomb; our name's Arizona," Miller said. "Sometimes perception says that should be flipped, but it wasn't."

About three minutes in, the referees huddled back toward the center of the floor. Lipscomb had begun talking on its bench, too, assuming the game would continue.

Arizona, and its fans, stared, waiting to erupt.

One official signaled that the basket counted. McKale Center, once a din of chants and cheers just to fill the dead air, erupted in jubilation.

For fans, who can relive the game on FSAZ today at 1 p.m., it was better than what the officials could have said.

"A win is a win," Jones said. It doesn't matter how you win it, who it is.

It was a win against Lipscomb in December, but it sure beat the alternative.

"I just wanted them to get the call right," Miller said. "If that meant it wasn't good, then it shouldn't have been good.

"And if it was good, great."