The term "must-win" took on a new meaning Sunday for the Arizona Wildcats.
Playing before a season-high crowd of 14,374 at McKale Center, in a city shaken by Saturday's shootings, the Wildcats made sure they had enough to beat Stanford 67-57.
It wasn't always pretty, with Arizona needing a rebounding edge of 41-26 plus season-highs of 16 points and 12 rebounds from Jamelle Horne, but the game ended just the way the Wildcats wanted it to.
"It's something where we get together, try to keep our composure and try to help the city out as much as possible," forward Solomon Hill said. "It was just us getting them something to clap for. It would have been terrible if we lost today."
It was only a game, of course, and nobody was suggesting it was more than that.
But, UA coach Sean Miller said, maybe the game was a bit of a needed distraction after it was moved from Saturday to Sunday because of the shootings and the strain they put on law enforcement.
"Hopefully in some small way today's game had a healing effect on our community where all of us can take our minds off of something for a brief moment and be together for a different purposes," Miller said. "It's not easy on anybody. The rescheduling of the game was certainly the right thing to do. We came here to play hard today and in a sense play for Tucson. Thank you to the crowd for being here in full force and hopefully we reciprocated in some fashion by getting a hard-earned win today."
The fans, standing early in the game when the Wildcats hobbled out to a 12-6 deficit, stayed boisterous throughout even as Arizona struggled to put away the lightly regarded Cardinal.
The Wildcats went up by seven in the first half, only to see Stanford pull within one with four minutes before halftime while mixing in a combination of man-to-man and zone defenses. Arizona then took an 11-point halftime lead and went up by 15 in the second half, only to have that lead cut to five points with four minutes to go.
But at the end, there was Horne, hitting two three-pointers in just over a minute toward the end of the game, each one pushing back what briefly became two-basket games. His first three gave UA a 62-54 lead with 3:40 to go and the second made it 65-56 with 2:26 to go.
Stanford scored only a point the rest of the way, and Horne finished with 12 rebounds, four on the offensive end, including a flying jam on a put-back to end the first half - the kind of production that didn't exist when he lost his starting job to Jesse Perry on Dec. 22.
"Many games (Horne has) just a couple of rebounds, and we all say, 'Hey, how can we get him to rebound more?' " Miller said. "I think you see the player he is when he can get 12. One of the things I've noticed about Jamelle is he's so much more aggressive in his play."
Horne said he was driven not so much by a desire to start again, but by helping improve the Wildcats to 14-3 overall and 3-1 in the Pac-10.
Horne described himself as "a guy who was 16-15 (last year's UA record) and is 14-3 now and has a team that wants to win a championship," and said the Wildcats had to remain focused after Saturday's shootings.
Indeed, it was a fine line for the Wildcats, who scheduled a second workout Saturday afternoon after the postponement was announced in order to stay focused, but also knew the real priorities were elsewhere.
It helped the Wildcats that by the time Sunday's game finally rolled around, a season-high crowd showed up and began cheering as loudly as it had all season.
"Our players love our fans and they love playing at home. They do - more than you realize," Miller said. "Honoring the people who support them was very easy for all of us to acknowledge. We wanted to beat Stanford and, sure, there was a backdrop that we wanted to play and allow everyone to leave today's game feeling good about what they just saw for a brief moment.
"We were really in line with everyone in Tucson and making sure our priorities and our thoughts are with the people who really need our thoughts right now."
The emotion moved plenty of others, naturally. Derrick Williams came through with 14 points (thanks in part to a banked-in three pointer) and nine rebounds, though he was twice briefly sidelined, once with a bruise to his eye and once because blood dripped on his uniform.
Then there was guard Kyle Fogg, who scored seven points with a steal and a block while often guarding the well-regarded Jeremy Green. The Cardinal wing went 5 for 14 from the field while missing eight of his first 10 shots.
"The fans really needed something positive from what happened" Saturday, Fogg said. "For me, it was a little more inspiration to go out there and play as hard as I can to help get the fans the win. I think it's big that so many people showed up. Some people might not expect so many people to show up (under the circumstances) but we have really loyal fans. It's great to see them all come out and it feels great to go out there and give them a win."
• What: Arizona State at Arizona
• When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
• TV: FSAZ
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)