Johnson the igniter in second half

Nick Johnson lamented after Friday's game that he "didn't shoot the ball well," but coach Sean Miller saw more: "He's had bigger games scoring, but he did so many valuable things."


Colorado had finally knotted the game at 36, rallying from a six-point halftime deficit in a span of about three minutes, when Angelo Chol caught the ball on the left wing in front of the Arizona Wildcats bench.

The UA center was a half-step in front of the three-point line.

He rose to shoot.

Tad Boyle smiled inside.

"I was like, 'Oh my God,'" the Buffaloes coach said. "That's a shot we wanted, quite frankly. But he made it."

If you're looking for the benefits of confidence - at the intersection of a winning streak and a home-court advantage - then Chol's 18-footer is the perfect place to start.

A lot went right in the Arizona Wildcats' 71-57 victory Thursday against Colorado - and a lot of that, from a decided free-throw advantage to better UA shooting numbers than the Jan. 21 game in Boulder, Colo., can be traced to confidence.

"Those things happen," Boyle said, "when you're playing a good team at home that's got their mojo going."

After the contest at McKale Center, both teams were quick to say neither had changed dramatically in three weeks since the 64-63 CU victory.

"We're not a completely different team," UA coach Sean Miller said.

They're the same team, playing better.

And certainly with more confidence.

"I don't have any serum, or any way of injecting it into the players," Miller said.

But it's there.

"They hit the shots that they missed at our gym," CU guard Carlon Brown said.

Both teams pointed to the Wildcats' executing, shooting and a remarkable free-throw shooting advantage.

The UA tried 35 free throws, Colorado only 14.

"That's a byproduct of our offense improving and a byproduct of our individual players getting more comfortable out there," Miller said.

Being at home helps, too, though the UA shot 54 free-throw attempts last weekend in the Bay Area, almost double the 28 shot by Cal and Stanford.

The past six games, the UA has shot 168 free throws.

Opponents have shot 109.

"They were the aggressors," Boyle said. "Usually the aggressors are the one that have the advantage."

More importantly, Miller said, the Wildcats made them - 26 of 35.

"Getting to the foul line is Part A," he said. "Making them is Part B."

The Buffaloes (16-8, 8-4) could have held the tiebreaker against the Wildcats (17-8, 8-4), with whom they are now knotted in the Pac-12, but shot 37.3 percent afield.

The UA made 43.8 percent.

Compare that to Boulder, where the Buffaloes made 40.7percent, and the UA shot only 34.5 percent.

"I think they are playing with a lot of confidence," Boyle said. "We knew they'd probably shoot the ball better in their home arena than they did in our place, and they did.

"But they're playing at a high level right now, playing with a lot of confidence."

Miller admitted to having "a lot of anxiety" before home games, trying to come close to last year's undefeated mark. He felt good at home Thursday, finally.

The Buffaloes, meanwhile, did not.

CU still hasn't lost in seven Pac-12 tries at home, but is 1-4 on the road. The lone win came at lowly USC.

"Couldn't execute," Brown said. "Couldn't get rebounds. Couldn't get stops like we do at home."

Pressed for a theme, he shook his head.

"Something we trying to figure out," he said. "Until we do, we're going to keep losing."

Senior forward Austin Dufault said the road is playing tricks on the Buffaloes.

"One thing, with our team, that we need to learn is, the court's the same size," he said. "You've got to block out all that other stuff, and go play."

Dufault said Chol's play Thursday - he had eight points in 12 minutes - made an impact but was not necessarily the difference from three weeks ago. At the Coors

Events Center, Chol tried one shot in five minutes.

"I think they've always been a pretty confident group," Dufault said. "I think the thing with them now is, they're executing pretty well."

The same team, only better.

"When it's going good for 'em," Boyle said, "it's going good for 'em."