TUCSON — Arizona forward Bruce Wheatley, a freshman who averages about five minutes of playing time a game, beat the final buzzer Thursday night with a 25-footer from the corner that somehow banked off the glass and dropped in.
It wasn't a heart-stopping, game-winning shot. It merely ran up the score as Arizona beat UCLA, 85-60, in a key Pacific 10 game before a sellout crowd of 13,316 at McKale Center.
Arizona moved into a tie for the Pac-10 lead with Washington, both with 8-3 records, but that will change tonight when Oregon State plays at Washington. UCLA dropped into a three-way tie for third place with a record of 6-5 that it will take into a game Saturday at Arizona State.
So why talk about a shot that jumped the final margin from 23 points to 25?
Because it shows what UCLA was up against.
Bruin Coach Walt Hazzard could have been moaning about the way his team was beguiled and bewildered by Arizona's changing zone defenses. Or he could have been groaning about the way the Bruins missed the basket (44.3% shooting from the field). Or he could have been sputtering about his team's 18 turnovers. Or he could have been mumbling over the way Arizona freshman forward Sean Elliott had beaten his team inside, scoring a game-high 20 points.
Instead, Hazzard was talking about Wheatley's final shot and saying with a smile: "That boy shot the ball from the corner off the backboard! Now that's an indication of how well they were shooting. I would complain about Coach (Lute) Olson running up the score, but I don't think he had anything to do with that banker.
"I just want to know how he got that ball to hit the glass!"
Olson, too, saw Wheatley's incredible shot as evidence that the Wildcats could do no wrong on this night. "That's an indication of how our night was going," the Arizona coach said. "No matter what we did, it seemed to turn out for us.
"For UCLA, it was one of those nightmares that you hope someone will awaken you from. . . .
"UCLA was not hitting a lot of the shots that they normally would hit, and that helped us."
But Arizona has to be given credit for the way the Bruins were missing.
As Arizona point guard Steve Kerr explained: "We threw so many things at them that I don't think they know what was going on most of the time.
"We showed zone, a box-and-one, another zone we'd never used before, and we threw in just a little bit of man-to-man.
"You can't really stop Reggie (Miller), but we were just trying to keep him off stride. . . . I think they were getting frustrated because they couldn't get the ball to Reggie on the baseline."
Miller, the Bruins' junior forward who ranks fourth in the country with an average of 26 points a game, was held to a team-leading 16 Thursday night. But he played only 26 minutes before fouling out with 7 minutes 19 seconds left in the game.
"I could have scored anytime I wanted from the baseline," Miller said. "I just wasn't in there enough to score."
Miller picked up his third foul with 2:19 to play in the first half, but the Bruins were out of it by then, anyway.
Arizona guard Craig McMillan had just made one of several open shots from long range to put the Wildcats up, 38-18.
Not once did UCLA have the lead. The last the Bruins saw of a tie was at 10-10 on a long shot by Miller.
But in the next few minutes, as Elliott started doing his damage inside and the Wildcats reeled off eight straight points, Miller started missing. Miller did bank in a layup to make it 18-12, but then the Wildcats reeled off another eight straight.
Miller's contributions during that stretch included a couple of missed shots and a couple of his five turnovers.
One pass that he aimed toward guard Pooh Richardson sailed over a courtside table.
After Miller went out in the first half, Richardson was credited with two points when Arizona center John Edgar was called for goaltending. Richardson was also fouled by Edgar on that play, but he missed the free throw.
Arizona scored the next three points when Kerr came up with one of his five steals, scoring as he was fouled by Bruin forward Jerald Jones. When Kerr made his free throw, the Wildcats were up by 21 points.
Richardson flipped up a quick layup as the final seconds ticked away, putting UCLA within 19 points at halftime.
Major changes were needed if the Bruins wanted to turn it around, but it was more of the same in the second half.
Hazzard said: "We were beaten by a team that played very well tonight. I thought that our young team looked tentative, both offensively and defensively. . . . I thought that the crowd here contributed to that. . . .
"I thought that they outclassed us tonight. They had a very good team effort. We didn't execute our offense; we didn't execute our game plan.
"But it's just one game in the conference, and they still have to come in to Pauley Pavilion."