Arizona Wildcats basketball


Depending on how your mind works, Ahmad Starks' jump shot at the end of regulation Thursday night was fated to clank off the side of the rim, or bury the Arizona Wildcats.

The optimist, the coach for whom Starks shone in an 81-73 overtime loss to the Arizona Wildcats, would look at it the way Craig Robinson did.

"I thought it has a chance to go in," he said, "because he made his last couple."

And then there's Even Steven, UA coach Sean Miller, who figured he was due to miss.

"I feel bad for Ahmad Starks, because he had the game winner," Miller said. "It was actually a better shot than the three he made.

"I guess the point I would make is, he made a couple tough ones to put his team in position to take that last one."

He was due to miss, then.

"It has a way of evening out," Miller said.

The 5-foot-9 sophomore crossed over Jordin Mayes as the clock ticked down, the game tied at 72. He stepped back, elevated and released.

"Everything looks like it's going in. You want to get a good shot," the Chicagoan said. "It's just a zone you get in. You get in a rhythm, and everything looks good."

Said guard Jared Cunningham: "From my point of view, it looked good."

The ball rolled around the rim, and fell to the floor, forcing an overtime in which the Beavers (11-6, 1-4) failed to score but for one Cunningham free throw.

"Went in and out on me," Starks said. "It was upsetting."

Starks had struggled for most of the game, being benched before being forced to return because of foul trouble from Devon Collier, Roberto Nelson and Cunningham. The first two would finish the game with four fouls, while Cunningham fouled out in overtime.

Starks caught fire quickly.

Starks, who finished 5-of-12 for 14 points, scored the Beavers' final 10 points in regulation.

With 3:32 to play, Oregon State trailed by five after Brendon Lavender's three-pointer.

Starks countered with a three of his own to push the game back to a two-point deficit.

He tied the game with a jumper with 1:55 to play.

"I always talk to my coaches and my players about the big ones," Starks said. "In my career, it's about the big shots. I'm going to make those down the stretch.

"That happened."

After Kyle Fogg made two free throws, Starks crossed over UA forward Solomon Hill and sank a three-pointer to give OSU a 70-69 lead with 1:14 to play.

"He can shoot the ball real well," Cunningham said. "It's hard to guard him. He's very quick on the ball."

Starks made another jumper with 25 seconds left to put the Beavers up 72-70, and Fogg responded with a layup.

Starks blew past several Arizona defenders in the last three minutes of regulation, including Mayes, Hill and freshman Josiah Turner.

After Mayes "started to wear down, as all guards do," Miller said, Turner was asked to guard Starks for most of the overtime period.

"He did a really good job on defense," Miller said. "I thought his defensive mindset was a good one.

"A lot like Ahmad Starks last year, our freshmen are gaining experience. They're getting better. They're getting more accustomed."

Starks said the reality of the miss - forcing the Beavers to play overtime after a four-overtime game Saturday - "hit me a little" at the end of regulation.

By the start of overtime, he said, he was over it.

The Wildcats were ready for overtime, holding OSU to 0-for-7 shooting from the field.

"They had more energy," Starks said. "They just had more energy from the jump.

"Nothing too dramatic. They just wanted it more than us right there."

Had Starks' jumper gone in, though, the UA never would have seen overtime.

"I'm just glad the ball didn't go in," Miller said. "If it did, the story clearly would have been his dominance at the end of the game, making threes, keeping the ball in his hands."