Return of the Zoo

Greeted back for their first game since the resumption of studies, Arizona students in the ZonaZoo just about trampled the welcome mat.

Arizona State, too.

The school’s rabid student section – multiple Gumby costumes, purple Furby giant heads, Wilbur Wildcat and all – sold out in record time, while Sun Devil fans refused the drive in surprising fashion for a rivalry game.

It took Arizona all of 28 minutes to sell out the ZonaZoo, a program record. The first “U of A” chant broke out just after the national anthem’s last “brave.”

Wildcats fans caused an impact, too: Facing the madness, Arizona State opened the game just 4 of 20 from the field.

Growing up too soon

Sean Miller wants Aaron Gordon to grow up in a hurry, but not this fast.

Astute Arizona basketball observer Miles Simon tweeted out a screen cap of the Fox Sports 1 telecast of the event, which listed the freshman forward’s age a bit higher than usual, as Gordon is (presumably) not 114 years old.

“Man Aaron Gordon got old fast. I know freshman grow up fast but man!!!” Simon wrote.

Busch’s Gardens

The Wildcat faithful celebrated the return of former student and 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch. Busch attended Arizona out of Las Vegas’ Durango High in hopes of becoming a pharmacist, but his racing career took off and he left the school.

Things worked out just fine.

Johnson a thousandaire

After a three-pointer Thursday, Nick Johnson strolled back up the court. He pumped his fist and flashed a three sign. Minutes later, he was all grins.

It was only one of many flashy white smiles for the Wildcats on Thursday night, as McKale Center celebrated Johnson’s just-accomplished 1,000th career point on the video board. Johnson, who became the 48th player in Arizona history to reach the plateau, started the game on fire, scoring eight points in his first 11 minutes.

It wasn’t McKale’s first family moment.

The Wildcats were toothy and satisfied throughout the evening, particularly on one beautiful series as T.J. McConnell found a slashing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who in turn spotted a cutting Kaleb Tarczewski for a thunderous dunk, all three turning back up the court and seeking each other for recognition.

Block party

Arizona State may lead the Pac-12 in blocked shots – and by a huge margin – but the Wildcats rejected the notion of post superiority quickly.

Arizona had three blocks in the game’s opening minutes, one from an unlikely source. Though the Sun Devils lead the Pac-12 with 114 blocks (second-place Stanford has 82) and with a 6.71 block-per-game average, it was Arizona who jumped out of the building as Tarczewski and Johnson rejected shots in successive fashion, then McConnell joined the party minutes later.

Big number

23.1 Arizona State came out tighter than a rubber band around a watermelon. The Sun Devils dug themselves a deep hole early, shooting just 23.1 percent in the first half, while hitting only six field goals.

Jon Gold