The Arizona Wildcats‘ NCAA tournament run ended tonight in a 73-70 loss to the Ohio St. Buckeyes. Specifically, the Wildcats’ run ended at the three-point line. And I’m not referring to LaQuinton Ross‘ game-winning three-point shot. I’m referring to the Wildcats going completely flat from the three-point line after a hot start that helped put them in control of this game early.
The Wildcats started the game 5/7 on three-pointers and used that initial burst of scoring to build an 11-point lead in the first half.
Then, the Wildcats went ice cold. For the rest of the game the Wildcats made only one three-point shot in 11 attempts. While this was happening, the Buckeyes clawed their way back, took the lead, and turned the game into a close one with them in the driver’s seat.
This is a problem that many college basketball teams have: over-reliance on three-pointers. The Wildcats’ story was a familiar one for anyone who watches college basketball closely: live by the three, die by the three. It is common in college basketball for teams to win and lose this way as the three-pointer has become not only that common in the game, but is also relied upon that much.
The main reason the Wildcats’ poor three-point shooting turned the game around for the Buckeyes was because it slowed the game down to a speed that the Buckeyes dominate in, as well as slowing the Wildcats down as a team.
Missing over and over again can drain a team of their energy and confidence. Combine that with an opponent that uses all those misses to their advantage and overtakes the team that’s missing, and it can be impossible for the team that’s missing to collect themselves.
The Wildcats did collect themselves, proof of that was that they didn’t let the game get away from them once the Buckeyes took the lead. The only problem for the Wildcats was that once they lost the lead with 17:40 to play, they never got it back.
The Wildcats did tie the game up in the final moments, and seemed to have regained their momentum.
Then, in a cruel bit of irony, they were defeated on a three-point shot. This shot wasn’t taken by Aaron Craft, but by Ross after Craft gave him a great look by baiting the Wildcats’ defenders into believing he was taking the same shot he made for the Buckeyes last Sunday. It worked to perfection for the Buckeyes who are now one win away from the final four.