Former UCLA and NBA standout Bill Walton said he can't remember the last time he broadcasted an Arizona game, though he did several when his son, Luke, played for the Wildcats.
All he knew Thursday is that he was happy to be doing so again.
Walton, who worked the game for ESPN2, said he was glad to be covering Pac-12 games and watching how Arizona has progressed under fourth-year coach Sean Miller.
"How happy I am that Arizona has been able to get it going," Walton said. "How difficult it is to replace a legend? How do you replace John Wooden? How do you replace (broadcaster) Chick Hearn? How do you replace Lute Olson? Arizona has done that."
Speaking before Thursday's game, Walton said he was particularly impressed with UA's shootaround earlier in the day because the Wildcats were working on skills.
"Practice isn't about strategy. That takes a couple of minutes in the locker room to figure out what your roles are," Walton said. "They were working on skills, shooting, passing and dribbling. The more you work on those, the better you're going to be."
When asked how it felt to be at state-of-the-art Matt Knight Arena after working at and playing in McArthur Court, Walton smiled and spoke about games and a Grateful Dead concert he saw at the venerable old place.
"But we also had the 'lost weekend' here," Walton said.
Commemorated in a Sports Illustrated cover from Jan. 25, 1974, UCLA lost both at Oregon State and at Oregon on the same weekend, the first back-to-back losses they had had under Wooden in eight years.
A reproduction of the SI cover that is simply titled "UCLA'S LOST WEEKEND," which shows Walton watching an Oregon player dunk, is part of a long mural along the concourse at Knight Arena.
Oregon students entering their "Pit Crew" section Thursday were handed a copy of the "Pit Crew Post," a primer on how to deal with the Wildcats.
The sheet's notes included this remark about UA's win over Colorado last week, when the Buffaloes' would-be game-winner was disallowed at the end of regulation:
"Arizona should have one loss but got bailed out by the 'outstanding' Pac-12 officials. Let's give them their first loss."
The sheet also noted that Solomon Hill "is a huge fan of Justin Bieber" and instructed students to shout "We're gonna beat the DUCK out of you," noting that "it won't sound like Duck, but you won't be saying anything obscene."
The future is now
The Pac-12 may have been down in recent seasons, but UA coach Sean Miller has evidence that the trend is changing.
Last week, the Wildcats struggled to deal with Colorado freshmen Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson, then Utah's Jordan Loveridge. On Thursday, Oregon freshman guards Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis combined for 19 points and five assists.
"I'll tell you the freshmen who've caught my eye - Xavier Johnson, Josh Scott and now you move to Oregon, and their leading scorer is a freshman," Miller said before Thursday's game. "We believe we have four (top freshmen) on our team. I think the future is bright for our league and one of the reasons is because these newcomers are having significant impacts for their teams."
"Oregon is making a gigantic push and against all odds. It is incredible what's going on here." - Walton
One wall inside Matt Knight Arena reads like an instruction manual of sorts for Ducks fans.
Among other things, it says:
"We are Tall Firs.
We are Daisy Ducks.
We are the Pit Crew and Kamikaze Kids
We are deranged idiots
… We are a tribe that bleeds green and yellow."
The Tall Firs and Kamikaze Kids were nicknames for Oregon teams, while "deranged idiots" is a reference to a quote from former UCLA coach Gene Bartow.
The big number
Straight wins by Oregon at Matthew Knight Arena