It's not supposed to end that way.
After starting a red hot 6-for-7 from the floor and opening an early eight point lead, Texas fell apart for the final 16 minutes of the first half. Texas coughed the ball up 10 times, lost shooters in the half court as Arizona nailed six first half threes, and rolled out odd and ineffective lineups. Other than two break away dunks by Jordan Hamilton, the Texas offense was completely shut down after the first television timeout.
The Wildcats took a commanding 36-25 lead to halftime.
It was clear early in the second half that Texas was not going to go quietly. Two three pointers by Jordan Hamilton seemed to energize the Longhorns and helped pave the way for a back and forth final 20 minutes.
After those early jumpers, it was basically the J'Covan Brown show--off the bounce and from the line. Texas went almost exclusively to a high pick and roll offensive set. Brown either got into the lane and drew contact or finished in traffic. Brown's scoring from the floor and perfection from the line allowed the Longhorns to inch closer and closer until they finally took the lead at 67-66 with 2:25 left.
Another Brown jumper put Texas ahead 69-67 and in solid position to win the game with just a minute left.
Arizona would get multiple chances over the next 40 seconds as Texas failed to secure a defensive rebound. That is until Tristan Thompson stood tall on a Derrick Williams drive and Jordan Hamilton secured the missed shot and seemingly the game.
Texas had the ball, a timeout, and was up two points.
It was not to be though. Cory Joseph had trouble getting the ball inbounded from the baseline before getting whistled for a questionable and very quick five second call. If the refs chose to interject themselves into the game here, fine. But I wish they had been consistent 14 seconds later.
The Texas turnover led to a driving layup by Williams and a foul over a sliding Hamilton. After the made free throw, Arizona had regained the lead.
The Horns had a full 9.6 seconds left though. For some reason J'Covan Brown casually dribbled the ball up the court before finally attacking with just a few seconds left. There was contact on Brown, no question, but probably not enough to draw a whistle. And certainly not enough contact given what these refs had allowed during the previous 39+ minutes.
It was the offensive rebound by Gary Johnson and the swallowing of the whistles by the Jim Burr crew that will give Longhorn fans nightmares.
In my opinion, Johnson catches the rebound cleanly and is smacked across the face as his feet return to the floor. A whistle there would have been appropriate. Johnson then attempts a game-winning lay-in and cleary draws contact from Williams. The contact and the clock turning to 0 appear to happen at the exact same time. Again, no whistle, and the Longhorn season ends much too quickly.
The refs didn't go to the monitor on the last play because they couldn't. There was no whistle blown and nothing to review. If any of the three refs had blown their whistle, they could have gone to the monitor to see which came first--triple zeroes or the whistle. But because there was no foul called, there was no review.
Congrats to Arizona for advancing to the Sweet 16.
Texas would be headed to Anaheim if any of a number of things had gone their way--
10 first half turovers completely disrupted the offense.
0-for the first half from deep allowed Arizona to collapse on Tristan Thompson without any fear of giving up an open look from three.
A quicker timeout from Cory Joseph.
If Jordan Hamilton had squared his body better to a driving Derrick Williams.
If any number of the clear fouls on drives by Longhorns had been called, including the final one.
If Johnson tips the ball in instead of deciding to grab it.
And if any of the three refs had correctly blown their whistle on the final play.
There will be plenty of time for a full season review, lamenting the losses and remembering the triumphs. For now, the season is simply over.