St. Nic delivers another buzzer-beating present to Wildcatsby Anthony Gimino on Dec. 24, 2009, under Sports
Arizona point guard Nic Wise wishes you Happy Holidays.
‘Twas the night before Christmas Eve when Wise arose such a clatter that the Arizona Wildcats’ recent struggles hardly seem to matter.
OK, I’ll (mostly) stop with the Christmas theme right here … other than to say that Wise has been delivering better than dear ol’ Santa himself.
Wise had it the whole way Wednesday night, going on a coast-to-coast dash, through and around defenders, for a layup with 0.9 seconds left in a 76-74 win against North Carolina State.
“Coach is telling us to not let Wise bail us out, but he is,” said junior forward Jamelle Horne. “We’re not going to have any arguments with that.”
Wise has been spreading holiday cheer with back-to-back buzzer-beaters. He did it Monday night against Lipscomb with a 3-point shot released with 0.1 seconds left in overtime. Wednesday night, he had nine-tenths of a tick left to spare.
“I believe in Nic a lot, and I think he knows that,” said UA coach Sean Miller.
“If there is one I thing I probably have done a good job of, it’s making him know I completely trust and believe in him. He’s really good at the end of games because of his experience and ability. He has a big heart. You can really sense that when he’s out there.
“Watching what he did in back-to-back games … there have been some really good players who have great college careers who have never made one play like that, let alone win two games in a row like he’s done.”
Count N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe, a former NBA player, among that group.
“I’m just impressed with his ability to control the game and run the show. In that sense, he does remind me a little bit of me back in my day,” Lowe said.
“But he might have a little more asphalt, a little more street in him. He makes some plays I couldn’t do, like that shot in the end.”
What does it all mean for the Cats? Well, they’re now 6-5, which isn’t great, but it sure beats the alternative of losing to Lipscomb and/or losing to North Carolina State after leading by eight in the final minute.
And the Wolfpack didn’t even have its leading scorer, post player Tracy Smith, who was serving a one-game suspension.
It’s not that the last two games have been great wins. It’s that they haven’t been bad losses.
Wise’s two plays don’t change the fundamentals of the team — that it needs a more complete effort on defense and could stand to box out better on the defensive glass — but the two plays mean the world in terms of confidence.
And that could mean a lot down the road.
In the short term, it means that all UA hoopheads can spend the holiday break without grousing and grinching about the state of Arizona basketball over the family dinner.
As for that confidence, the Wildcats get to emotionally move on to the next game — at home against BYU on Monday — and then take on the Pac-10, where anything might happen. In the world of Pac-10 basketball — where most teams are like Arizona this season: young and flawed — get ready for more endings just like this.
Probably double-digit endings just like this.
“Even though some might say it was a lucky shot,” Wise said of his game-winner against Lipscomb, “that win gave our team that much more confidence coming into this game.
“At shoot-around this morning, we could feel the buzz in the arena. Even though nobody was there — it was just us — you could tell guys were anxious to get this win right before Christmas.”
And so they did.
With another late game miracle, courtesy of St. Nic.