Fogg not to blame for Arizona's postseason shortcomings
LOS ANGELES — Kyle Fogg sat with his back to his locker, his head buried in his jersey and a white towel draped over his left arm.
Ten minutes had passed since Fogg’s desperation heave at the buzzer traveled 20 feet and drifted to the left when it needed to soar 23 feet and stay on target.
He was in his full uniform. His shoes were still tied. He was entrenched in thoughts about missed opportunities and the trip to the NCAA Tournament that likely wouldn’t be after the Wildcats’ 53-51 loss to Colorado in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament championship game.
Injured forward Kevin Parrom sat to Fogg’s left, but didn’t say a word to the Brea, Calif., native. Freshman Angelo Chol sat to Fogg’s right, sitting back in his locker with a dazed look on his face.
No one in the room was saying a word except for senior guard Brendon Lavender, who quietly conducted an interview with the media no more than 15 feet away from Fogg.
“If anyone could have that shot,” Lavender said, “I’d want my man Fogg to have it.”
Fogg has been in that situation before — the ball in his hands as the clock winds down and Arizona on the losing side of the scoreboard. Like anyone who has played the game of basketball competitively, he’s missed that shot more often than not.
But without his team-high 14 points — his 12th consecutive game scoring in double figures and 25th this season — Arizona isn’t in a close game at the end. Without his lockdown defense on Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham and UCLA’s Lazeric Jones, the Wildcats likely wouldn’t have even been playing on Saturday.
Fogg, combined with senior forward Jesse Perry and junior forward Solomon Hill, made up the heart and soul of Arizona’s team. Hill disappeared when his team needed him the most then didn’t make an appearance in the locker room while it was open to the media.
Perry did everything he could while playing with the limitations that come as a massively undersized center. He answered questions without missing a beat despite the fact that the Wildcats’ season had been all but ended just minutes earlier.
Fogg tried putting the team on his back while no one else would lift a finger.
But in the end, playing three games in three days was too much. Unfortunately for Fogg, fatigue reared its ugly head at the worst possible time.
Fifteen minutes had passed since the Colorado bench and cheerleaders had stormed to the center of the Staples Center court in celebration. Fogg still hadn’t moved, but Parrom had spoken — shooing away a photographer that captured Fogg’s emotions a few too many times.
By then, Arizona’s postgame press conference had begun. Head coach Sean Miller, senior forward Jesse Perry and freshman guard Nick Johnson were sitting in front of dozens of reporters and TV cameras with a crushing loss still all too fresh in their minds.
“To have the ball in Kyle’s hands is something that’s been good for our team,” Miller said.
The ball being in Fogg’s hands at the end of the game didn’t happen by mistake. The idea was that he would come off a screen and either have an open 3-pointer that could potentially win the game, or he would be able to drive end either convert at the rim or be fouled with a chance to send the game to overtime from the charity stripe.
Neither of those things happened. Fogg picked up his dribble and was double-teamed by two Colorado defenders. Lavender may have had an open shot from the corner, but Fogg couldn’t maneuver around the Buffaloes to deliver a pass.
Game over. NCAA Tournament chances evaporated.
Thirty minutes had passed since Fogg walked off the court with a blank stare on his face as if he couldn’t believe what had happened.
He still hadn’t moved. One reporter asked if he had time for a few questions. Fogg shook his head no without lifting it from his jersey, which was soaked with sweat and tears.
For four years, Fogg has given everything he has to Arizona. It doesn’t seem right that the end of the biggest game of his senior season could be so unkind.
But that’s the nature of the beast. Basketball is a game of failure. If a player misses half of the shots he takes, he’s one of the best shooters in the country.
Still, that doesn’t make shortcomings any easier to swallow.
Thirty-six minutes had passed since a member of the Colorado student section was the first person to take a snip of the nets in Staples Center. Arizona’s sports information director bellowed out to the media that there were just four minutes until the locker room would be closed.
A cameraman asked Fogg if he had time for just one question. He didn’t respond this time.
Freshman guard Nick Johnson had changed into a sweatshirt and was talking to the media three lockers away from Fogg. It was difficult for him to find the right words to describe what had just happened on the court.
It wasn’t difficult for him to find the right words to describe Fogg.
“He takes on everything head-first,” Johnson said. “He blames it on himself.”
Fogg has done everything a leader is supposed to do. He doesn’t get recognized as being a vocal guy on the court like Hill does or as speaking through his play like Perry.
But Fogg does both of those every time he steps on the hardwood.
He scored 49 points over three games. He grabbed 13 rebounds despite standing just 6-foot-3. When everyone else was shying away from the spotlight, Fogg was as aggressive with the ball against Colorado as he’s been all season.
But the one shot that didn’t fall is what’s going to be remembered — not the defensive prowess, great decision-making or willingness to step into the spotlight when no one else would.
“We don’t care that he missed that at all,” Lavender said. “He’s been doing great this whole season.”
Without Fogg, Arizona doesn’t finish with a first-round bye in the conference tournament. The Wildcats aren’t looking back at four plays over the course of the season, thinking that they’re in the NCAA Tournament if just one goes the other way.
Forty minutes had passed since Arizona’s season came to a jolting halt.
Kyle Fogg still hadn’t moved an inch.
— Alex Williams is the sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter via @WildcatHoops