'Home-court dominance' reigns

Wildcats go 17-0 at McKale Center, fans deserve praise
2011-03-06T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:46:36Z 'Home-court dominance' reignsPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 06, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Three minutes and 21 seconds from an outright Pac-10 title, the Arizona Wildcats pep band didn't play the fight song.

Instead, as it had all season, it played a tune penned by Motley Crue.

For the 17th straight game, the song was appropriate: "Home Sweet Home."

When the UA clinched sole possession of the Pac-10 title with a 90-82 regular-season finale win over Oregon, it sealed a perfect season at McKale Center.

UA coach Sean Miller talked to his team about the idea "as much about that as anything" all season long. But until six home games ago, he said, it seemed like more of a mantra than a tangible goal.

"We call it 'home-court dominance,' " Miller said.

And it was.

In 17 games, the UA won by an average of 80-64.

In nine conference games, the Wildcats averaged a 79-71 victory.

The UA won one league game by a single point - Derrick Williams' block in the Washington "White Out" - and another, against Cal, by two.

No other Pac-10 team came closer than the eight points the Ducks lost by on Saturday.

"This is a great atmosphere," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "It compares with Kansas. The fans are great."

They were part of Miller's game plan all season long.

"It's our hard play and our togetherness, coupled with the crowd, that's going to allow us to have a chance to have this home record," Miller said. "It's such a spectacular crowd and a great place to play that it's not to our opponents' advantage."

Miller called McKale Center "one of the reasons I wanted to come here" from Xavier. He remembered the vibe from his days as a player at Pittsburgh.

"Back then, the players were extremely talented, as were the coaches," he said. "And for me, it was about seeing Tucson, the student section and the university support the team."

Few in the Pac-10 have ever held such an edge.

Since the league expanded in 1978, only 19 clubs have gone undefeated at home, including the UA this season. Arizona did it seven times before this year, but most recently 12 years ago.

The UA's 17-0 record ties the 1991 club for the second-most wins without a loss; in 1988, the Wildcats won 19.

When Williams was asked for his memories - were this his last game at McKale Center before entering the NBA draft - he turned to McKale's environment.

"So many things to name," he said. "The crowd, Zona Zoo, is always there.

"And that 'White Out.' The 'White Out' was probably the best memory I've had here."

The forward didn't have as many happy thoughts last year.

At McKale Center last season, the UA lost to BYU by 30. It fell to UNLV by two in double overtime, and needed an extra frame to beat Lipscomb.

The Wildcats went 11-5 at home, winning two-thirds of their conference games.

But two straight Pac-10 losses at home - to Oregon State and Arizona State - sealed the UA's fate and a 16-15 record.

Solomon Hill said Saturday that, "with another year under our belt, we were able to do well at home."

This season, the Wildcats were sent away under happier circumstances, stating that future success at neutral sites - in the Pac-10 and NCAA tournaments - comes from a similar approach.

"I feel like it doesn't really matter what environment you're in," said Kevin Parrom who had 11 points in 23 minutes. "We're just going to feed off this win. Just continue to play hard."

Home, the Wildcats hope, can be a state of mind.

"If you're really good at home," Miller said, "you're guaranteed a great season."

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


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