The chants start to rain down, and Arizona’s five bask in the glory.
They have jumped and sweated all game, but not because they’ve chased rebounds or dived for loose balls. They’ve spent most of the time on the sideline, where they spend most of their time during Wildcat games.
It is the tail end of a 100-point game in Sean Miller’s 100th career win — poetry in motion offense —and instead of jumping for joy, Arizona’s Final Five are simply trying to run out the clock.
They so rarely get these moments, instead most often relegated to the bench, watching the team’s starters or key subs play out the waning seconds of a game.
This time, Jacob Hazzard dribbles the ball near midcourt, the ball rightfully his after a late game hot streak.
Drew Mellon claps, Eric Conklin takes in the loud adulation. Trey Mason and Elliott Pitts soak it up.
On the sideline, Nick Johnson and Gabe York — who have combined for 36 points in the Wildcats’ 100-50 win over Farleigh Dickinson — celebrate their teammates’ joy more than they did their own lofty contributions.
“Nick and I are probably the biggest cheerleaders on the sidelines,” said York, who drew plenty of hurrahs himself after a career-high 20 points and four three-pointers. “Seeing (Hazzard) go out there, hit two threes, (one with) two seconds left on the shot clock?
“That gets us all excited.”
So rarely does this happen with major college basketball programs, even in big wins. The last few minutes of game time for some head coaches is just an extension of the first 35 minutes, of utmost importance for a team to continue its offensive rhythm and practice as the game’s opening.
“I try to be on top of it,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said, bucking the trend. “Our staff is as well, and tonight was really important not just to get them in the game, but to also not play our players unnecessary minutes. Tomorrow shouldn’t feel like they haven’t come off a hard-fought game.”
Hazzard might need a rare ice bath, though.
The sophomore point guard was no slouch at Los Angeles’ Loyola High, where he averaged better than 12 points per game as a senior. That led to a preferred walk-on spot at Arizona, where he serves as the team’s scout team point guard.
On Monday night, though, he was not Jahii Carson or Spencer Dinwiddie.
He was Jacob Hazzard, grandson of NBA and UCLA great Walt Hazzard, and Wildcat point guard.
A three-pointer with 4 minutes 50 seconds left in the game brought the crowd to its feet, and he just turned around and ran back on defense. Another three-pointer less than two minutes later beats the buzzer on an out-of-bounds, catch-and-shoot play, and the crowd goes crazy. A layup a minute after that gives him eight points, and sends the Arizona bench into a frenzy.
“Amazing,” Hazzard will say after the game, his eyes racing back-and-forth at the team’s post-game news conference table. “Kind of a dream come true to be honest. I didn’t score one point last year as a walk-on. Scoring points in my second game, getting in a rhythm, felt pretty good.”
Hazzard wasn’t shy to pull the trigger in the game — “You can ask my teammates; I always have confidence. I’m always shooting in practice, on the scout team, gunning the shots.” — and he sounded like a media-savvy pro in the postgame presser.
Even if he was surprised to be there.
“I was shocked,” he said with a smile, only outshined by the grin stretched on the face of York to his left. “A walk-on getting media is like the first time in history.”
Fitting, on a night of so much history for the Wildcats. Miller’s 100th win with Arizona, and the program’s first time hitting the century mark in almost two years.
If Miller had his druthers, it’d be like this every night.
“It reflects on how important everybody is in the program,” Miller said. “Those guys practice hard every day. I thought they did a great job tonight. … Being able to get him in the game, really all the guys — Trey, Eric, Drew Mellon — everybody on our team is part of our basketball family. It’s nice when they get that opportunity.”