The defense of Kyle Fogg, left, and help from teammates including Kyryl Natyazhko held Washington State’s Klay Thompson, the Pac-10’s leading scorer, to nine points Saturday night as the Wildcats won 65-63. Dean Knuth / Arizona Daily Star

PULLMAN, Wash. - Kyle Fogg wore a hoodie and three layers of Nike gear when he walked into the cold late Saturday night outside Friel Court.

It was 30-something with an arctic breeze when Arizona's junior shooting guard walked 200 yards from the basketball arena to a waiting bus.

"I've been sick ever since Tuesday," he said in a weak and scratchy voice. "It was pretty rough coming up here in the cold. I really want to get home and have some time to recover."

Fogg felt well enough to get off the bus and chat while his teammates and the Arizona coaching staff gathered their belongings and began the midnight ride to a Spokane hotel, 85 miles away.

He had a 4 a.m. wake-up call and yet here he was, smiling. That's the power of winning a meaningful Pac-10 road game, 65-63 over Washington State. Winning on the road has an amazing recuperative punch.

Twenty minutes earlier, Fogg stood at the free-throw line in rowdy Friel Court. Arizona led by two; 15.8 seconds remained. He could salt the game away by making both. Fogg is a 75 percent career free throw shooter and, peeking out from under his hoodie, he nodded when asked if he enjoyed being in that crucible.

Ten months earlier, in the final ticks of what would be a double-overtime victory over USC, Fogg stood at the free-throw line at McKale Center. He needed to make all three shots to send the game into overtime. The pressure was so thick it almost felt unfair to ask a 20-year-old college kid to carry that much weight.

With 0.2 on the clock, Fogg made all three to force the first overtime.

But Saturday night at Wazzu, Fogg missed both. The Cougars swiftly raced downcourt bent on winning, or tying, the game. The man Fogg was assigned to guard, All-Pac-10 forward Klay Thompson, who is about four inches taller than Fogg, was almost sure to take the last shot.

"I knew they would give him the ball," Fogg recounted. "I had to make sure to contest the shot but not to foul him." Fogg stopped and gave a half-smile and said, "I didn't have any time to sulk."

Thompson missed from 12 feet. Arizona won. Fogg forgot about those missed free throws and so did everyone else except the statistician.

Thompson had his least productive night of the season, 4 for 16 from the field and nine points, about 10 under his average. The last of his 12 misses kept Arizona on a trajectory toward a possible NCAA tournament berth.

All of these things, a defensive stop at the climax of a meaningful game, count on the plus side when you are 16-4.

"Kyle did the job across the board," said UA coach Sean Miller. "I told him after the game that he gave tremendous effort defensively. I thought he would be worried about the missed free throws, but his effort counted more than those missed shots. It's not always about the foul shots. It's about 40 minutes. It's not about single plays."

Arizona remains on the big board at NCAA Tournament Central because of all the little things.

Miller is able to deploy but one whole-package, NBA-bound player, Derrick Williams. After that, it's single plays strung together to make a whole.

In Pullman, Arizona could not have won without Brendon Lavender burying two three-point baskets when the Cougars threatened to blow the game apart. That is making good use of the 11 minutes Lavender played.

It could not have won unless Jamelle Horne made more three-point baskets (three) in 3 minutes 26 seconds than the Cougars did the entire second half. Horne played but 17 minutes. He made sure that the last five counted.

Again, even with limited resources, Miller did not ask too much of any player. He did not put Fogg in a position he couldn't handle. Rather, he put Fogg in a role that best fit his ability. He's not a deadly shooter or a dazzling floor general, but he is a willing defensive player.

Miller's scheme was to put Fogg on Thompson and fill in with off-the-ball help whenever possible. It was risky in that Fogg had flu-like symptoms and because he was giving up size to Thompson.

"We needed to have Kyle on Thompson because one thing that's deceiving is that Klay is very quick," Miller said. "You look at his size and that's an advantage when he shoots, but where he really does his damage is driving. He puts his head down and bad things happen."

Thompson did not score on a dribble-and-drive Saturday night. Fogg and his teammates were in the right place at the right time and, now, so are the Wildcats.

"A game like this can separate teams," said Miller. "It can make seasons go one direction or another."

After 20 games, that direction is up.