Aubrey Coleman couldn’t do anything to help his team as UH fell to Arizona 96-90 in overtime in front of 13,802 at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.
The junior guard couldn’t take the last shot, grab a rebound or come up with the defensive stop. He couldn’t even cheer on his teammates from the bench.
As Arizona junior guard Nic Wise hit a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 88, and send it into overtime, Coleman was sitting by himself in the locker room.
The junior guard was ejected from the game with 9:51 left in the second half after he got tangled up with and stepped on Arizona junior forward Chase Budinger, who was lying on the floor after drawing a charge.
As officials reviewed the play on video, the crowd started chanting, ‘Throw him [Coleman] out!’ After reviewing the replay for five minutes, the referees issued double technicals on Coleman (for stepping on Budinger) and Budinger, (for shoving a UH player after scrambling to his feet) and ejected Coleman from the game.
‘He’s our best player. It hurt losing him,’ UH head coach Tom Penders said. ‘I know Aubrey. I’ve never even seen him lose his temper, composure, anything. So I just think it’s a shame the official interpreted the thing the way he did, because I know Aubrey. It wasn’t intentional. That’s all I kept saying to the officials.’
The Cougars (12-5, 3-1 Conference USA) held a 10-point lead with 52 seconds left in regulation, but missed three of four free throws down the stretch, enabling the Wildcats (12-8, 2-5 Pacific 10) to complete their comeback. Wise hit a layup with 27 seconds left and Wildcat junior forward Jordan Hill made a jumper with 22 seconds left to put the score at 88-85.
UH junior guard Kelvin Lewis was fouled by Wise with 19 seconds left and had a chance to extend Houston’s lead to five, but missed both free throws to set up Wise’s game-tying 3-pointer.
‘I missed two [free throws] at the end and I shouldn’t have done that. I take full responsibility,’ Lewis, who had a career and game-high 35 points and was 12-for-15 at the charity stripe, said.
Arizona outscored UH 8-2 in overtime to seal the win. The Cougars did not hit a single shot from the field in the 5-minute span, receiving its only points from Lewis’ two free throws with nine seconds left in the game.
UH entered halftime with a 38-35 lead after scoring 10 points off of 11 Wildcats turnovers. The Cougars also out-rebounded Arizona 21-18, despite the Wildcats’ size advantage, and scored 14 second-chance points to Arizona’s 7.
The Cougars opened the second half with a 5-point run off a 3-pointer and jumper from Lewis. Junior forward Qa’rraan Calhoun’s layup with 10:17 left in the second put the score at 63-48, the biggest for either team in the game.
Arizona freshman guard Kyle Fogg hit a shot from outside the arc to bring the Wildcats within 12 points with 10:06 left. After Coleman’s ejection, Budinger stole the ball and hit a jumper with 9:28 left to play to cut the Cougars’ double-digit lead to nine. UH held onto the lead until Wise tied the game with 10 seconds left.
Budinger scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half and Wise exploded for 20 points in the second half to finish the game with 23, but Penders said Coleman’s ejection wasn’t the turning point of the game.
‘We answered it. We came back and built the lead back up. It’s real simple. We missed two free throws that would have iced the game and they came down and made the basket,’ Penders said.
Still, having Coleman on the floor would have helped. Despite not playing for the last 15 minutes of the game, Coleman, along with senior center Marcus Cousin, had the second-highest point total for the Cougars with 14. Coleman also tied Cousin, Calhoun and Lewis for a team-leading seven rebounds against the Wildcats.
‘Every time we’re in road game it’s a situation where it’s a hostile environment. It just happened today. We didn’t hit our free throws [and] we didn’t make certain shots at the end,’ Lewis said. We’ve got to get back to Houston and look at that and get better.’