Arizona basketball: Seen and heard

2012-12-16T00:00:00Z Arizona basketball: Seen and heard Arizona Daily Star
December 16, 2012 12:00 am

The exception

Everything about John Palmer taking his 12-year-old son Hunter to Saturday night's game as an early Christmas present is normal. Except one thing - Hunter, a student at Old Vail Elementary, is a Florida fan.

Hunter has lived in Tucson for 1 1/2 years and has already lived in three cities in his life. When he was younger, he became a Florida fan because he thought its Gator mascot resembled a dinosaur.

"He's been hooked since then," his father said.

Father got son into the game extra early Saturday and the two were allowed by McKale Center staff to stand in the hallway that leads from the locker room to the court to get autographs.

Hunter made a sign special for the game, that featured "Florida Gators" on one side on a blue background and the Gator mascot on the other side with an orange background.

Hunter got almost the entire Florida team to sign his poster, including his favorite player, guard Kenny Boynton.

"He loves this team," John Palmer said. "As they were all walking out without their jerseys on, he knew every single one of them."

Cheer decisions

With a football game in the morning and a basketball game at night, the UA's cheerleading squad had some decisions to make on which games to attend.

"The veterans went to the football game and the rookies stayed back for basketball," senior Jordan Benes said.

So, what was Benes, a senior doing at McKale Center?

"This is the game I wanted to be at," Benes said. "And I didn't feel like trying to do both."

The cheer squad gave its cheerleaders an option of doing both games, but they had to pay for their own flights back to Tucson to make it for the basketball game.

Four veterans decided to do both games. So Saturday night's lineup at McKale featured five veterans and four rookies.

Benes led the Wildcats out of the tunnel with a giant white flag before the game.

Tweet of the night

"Packed! What a atmosphere. #beardown."

- Channing Frye's in-game Tweet from inside McKale Center.

Simon says

Former Arizona Wildcats guard Miles Simon served as the analyst for Saturday night's ESPN broadcast.

Simon estimated it was the fifth time he's been back at McKale Center as a broadcaster and first time this season.

While Saturday may have been the biggest Arizona matchup at McKale he's ever called, he's played in bigger ones.

Two home games stick out to Simon.

The 37-year-old first cited the final game he ever played on Arizona's campus. In that game, on Feb. 28, 1998, the Wildcats, ranked second in the country, knocked off No. 8 Stanford 90-58.

"We just blitzed them," Simon said.

That same season, about seven weeks before in early January, Simon and the Wildcats knocked off No. 9 UCLA 87-75. Arizona was ranked No. 8.

"Those are the two that really stand out to me," Simon said.


"Next year, it may be the Rose Bowl." - Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez to fans at halftime when his squad was recognized for its New Mexico Bowl win over Nevada.

The big number


Entering Saturday's showdown, Florida had never beaten a top-10 non-conference team in a true road game.

Double duty

Brian Jeffries was on the microphone for the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday morning when the Wildcats football team pulled out a 49-48 over Nevada.

He then boarded a private flight, paid for by some UA donors, and made it back to Tucson in time for tip-off against Florida.

In case he didn't make it back for tip, women's play-by-play announcer Derrick Palmer would have handled the duties. But he wasn't needed.

Familiar faces

A game as big as Saturday's drew some familiar faces to McKale Center.

Former standout Chase Budinger sat right next to Arizona's bench with his left leg elevated. Budinger, who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves, is in Tucson to rehab his torn left meniscus.

Frye was also in the house. He is sitting out this NBA season with the Phoenix Suns because of an enlarged heart. Frye sat with athletic director Greg Byrne.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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