It was a crowd to make Clorox Bleach proud.
Arizona basketball fans turned McKale Center into a ghost convention Saturday for the program’s fourth annual “white out” game.
And this time, the Wildcats didn’t darken the fans’ spirits as they likely locked up the No. 1 ranking in college basketball with a 63-58 win over visiting UNLV.
With players in all whites — though a few players snuck in blue, red or gray sneakers — the fans rose to the occasion.
“It was great,” Arizona freshman forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said. “To play in that atmosphere with these guys, there’s nothing like it. To practice as hard as we do, to get ready for games like this — we’re not worried about how the atmosphere is going to be, we’re worried about how hard we have to play and practice. But yeah, it was a little brighter today.”
The last time the Wildcats played a home “white out” game, things didn’t work out so well.
Arizona lost to UCLA 84-73 last Jan. 24 at McKale Center after shooting just 38.4 percent from the field, including 1 for 13 to start the game.
“The white-out theme that we have, I think we’re going to retire it, put it in a package and let someone else do it,” UA coach Sean Miller told reporters on the Pac-12 teleconference call last season.
“It hasn’t worked out very well for us the last two years.”
The loss to UCLA came a year after Washington’s Tony Wroten blocked a Josiah Turner layup to darken things in a 69-67 Arizona loss.
The first time Arizona asked its fans to sport all white, things went all right.
Derrick Williams blocked a jump shot by Washington’s Darnell Gant to hold onto a 87-86 win for the then-12th ranked Wildcats in the 2010-11 season.
The game marked the beginning of UNLV’s first road trip of the season, as the Rebels’ home arena — the Thomas & Mack Center — was playing host to a bunch of bulls.
And horses, and cowboys.
The annual National Finals Rodeo, the championship event for the sport, descended upon Las Vegas this week.
Victor in the midst
Arizona recruit Craig Victor took in the Wildcats’ win over UNLV on Saturday, just a few weeks after officially signing with the team. Victor, rated the No. 5 power forward in the country by ESPN.com, transferred to Las Vegas’ Findlay Prep for his senior season.
Sights and sounds
“Put it on ‘em Zeus, put it on ‘em,” a fan screamed at Wildcats forward Kaleb Tarczewski as Arizona went through its pre-game warmups. Perhaps the motivation worked: Tarczewski had 12 points and eight rebounds, including a rebound and layup, a dunk in transition and an inside hook on Arizona’s first three possessions of the game after scoring just two points in 25 minutes in a 79-58 win over Texas Tech on Tuesday at McKale Center. … Former Arizona guard Miles Simon, calling the game for ESPN2, got a loud ovation from the crowd midway through the first half. Wildcats legend Mike Bibby also got a big cheer from the crowd just minutes later. … Simon had an interesting visitor at his courtside home in former Arizona golfer Ricky Barnes, the Pac-10 freshman of the year in 2000 and U.S. Amateur champion in 2002.
Tweet of the day
Arizona’s offense is like a grenade. When they pull the pin, ‘Boom’. UNLV calls time as the Cats extend their lead to 29-23 with 6:50 to go.” – Zach Clark, ESPN 1490 (@ZachEClark)
After an atrocious first half defensively, Arizona stepped up in a big way in the second half. The Wildcats allowed UNLV to shoot 64 percent in the first half but held the Rebels to 28 percent in the second half.