While thanking Arizona Wildcats fans for showing up at McKale Center on a rainy, snowy night Wednesday, coach Sean Miller also took a playful jab at the hardiness of Tucsonans.
"I think I heard the word 'blizzard,'" Miller said. "Being from Pittsburgh, I walked outside, looked up and expected to see what I consider a blizzard. And I didn't really sense a blizzard. As a matter of fact, it would be a nice day.
"But when snow's coming down, the rain and the cold, I know it would be easy for 25 percent of our crowd to say, 'We'll just watch it on television.' For us to have the type of crowd we had says it all about the great tradition we have, the great fans we have and why it's so special to coach at Arizona. My heart and thanks goes out to everybody who was here."
That was how Miller opened his postgame news conference after the Wildcats' 70-52 win over Washington - with a lighthearted remark, a few smiles and the ability to provoke laughter.
It was a clear contrast to the way Miller has spoken in recent postgame sessions, just like the demonstrably different way his Wildcats changed their body language during Wednesday's game.
Although the Wildcats reverted to their tense, stagnant offense in the early minutes against Washington, a little transition defense, Mark Lyons' offense and strong play from UA's big men shook them out of their funk and, before long, there were smiles everywhere on the court.
During a league season when the Wildcats have won really only one other game without significant issues to deal with - a 74-50 drubbing of USC on Jan . 26 - Arizona players were actually enjoying themselves this time.
"It was fun to play. It was a fun game," said forward Solomon Hill, who led the Wildcats in scoring against Washington with 19 points. "One thing we said before the game was, 'Have fun.' I think we got away from that.
"I think one time we had four blocks in one possession. Things like that - where guys are just playing all out and trying too help the team - makes the game a lot easier."
Arizona actually had two possessions with two blocks, blocked eight shots overall and had four steals.
The Wildcats also outrebounded Washington 43-37, despite the fact that the Huskies entered the game with the biggest rebounding margin in Pac-12 games.
It was fun. Tough fun.
"We outrebounded them by six and it shows you how physical we are," Miller said, noting of his big men: "Angelo Chol is getting better, Kaleb (Tarczewski) is getting better, Grant (Jerrett) and Brandon (Ashley) are both able to give us great minutes.
"That size up front and the depth is something we have to take advantage of."
Miller said the Cats haven't really approached games any differently, but he indicated the close nature of Pac-12 games - and UA's undefeated status entering league play - made it difficult.
Even in two of Arizona's three Pac-12 wins decided by more than 10 points - at Arizona State and at Washington State - there were issues. The Sun Devils played UA closely for over 30 minutes in the Wildcats' 71-54 win on Jan. 19, and it was a tense, physical affair in which seven players had two or more fouls at halftime.
Then, at WSU, guard Nick Johnson was throwing up before the game, Brandon Ashley ran into foul trouble-and Kevin Parrom was ejected for hitting DaVonté Lacy.
In neither game could the Wildcats feel much room to breathe.
"I think our guys have approached every game pretty consistently," Miller said. "It's just that if you're the hunted, there's a lot of pressure on you constantly. That pressure can really wear on a player, on a team. There's a fine line between working and also enjoying what you're doing. We try to balance it as much as possible, and I think we're in a good place right now for the stretch run."
The Wildcats have one more home game, Saturday's rematch with WSU, before three more potentially tense affairs to close out the regular season: road games at USC and UCLA next week, then a home finale against ASU on March 9.
"It was good to get a great win like this in front of our home crowd, and that's something we don't want to change," Hill said Wednesday. "You don't want to lose in front of home crowd. I won't say it's OK to lose on the road, but protecting home is always a key to winning a Pac-12 championship."
On StarNet: See more photos from Wednesday's game against Washington at azstarnet.com/gallery
• Who: Washington State at No. 12 Arizona
• When: 1 p.m. Saturday
• TV: FSAZ Plus
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)