On the day before the biggest game of her season, Bryce Nixon went through her regular routine.
The Arizona Wildcats’ freshman guard knocked down 3-pointer after 3-pointer in practice. It’s consistent with her reputation as one of the first players on the floor and one of the last to leave.
Arizona hosts Idaho State on Thursday night in the first round of the WNIT. Nixon and her teammates don’t see it as anything other than the next game.
Behind the scenes, a small army of UA employees are determined to do the same. It’s been a scramble.
Austin Queck, the UA’s assistant director of marketing, has been busy ever since the WNIT brackets were announced Monday night.
“I was answering emails and sending things out during the middle of baseball game (Tuesday) night,” Queck said. “So I had my laptop and was running the music at the game — doing both at the same time yesterday. Luckily the baseball game was four and a half hours and it was slow, so I was able to do both at the same time.
“Part of having this plan early is that we were able to get stuff pre-built so not everyone is here until midnight. When it comes to this we are all prepared to be here late at night and ready to get the information out and doing everything we can to make our student-athletes’ experience great.”
Queck’s week started by sending an email to season ticket holders, who had a 24-hour window to buy tickets to Thursday’s game. One of them called at 12:30 a.m. to buy tickets, only to learn that the ticket office was closed until the next morning.
The first 24 hours are key to a big draw, Queck said. Thursday marks the first time in eight years that the UA has played in a postseason game. They last hosted one in 2001.
“Outside of traditional advertising and digital media, word of mouth is one of our biggest resources when sharing information,” he said. “Once your fans have the information they need, the word starts to spread and the excitement starts to build.”
Suzy Mason, Arizona’s senior associate athletic director in charge of event management and facilities, can attest to that. Mason is in charge of lining up police, parking, concessions, clock operators, table crew and events management. While she has it down to a science at this point, Mason said the WNIT is unique. There are no pods to consider. If Arizona wins Thursday night, it will play Pacific, which beat Fresno State on Wednesday. It is not known yet if the game will be played in Stockton, California, or Tucson.
“It’s a single game, then you win, you move on and it’s another single game,” she said. “It is fortunate this week we don’t have softball or baseball at home, so we had a little more flexibility. We were able to get started pretty quickly. Similar to softball season when they host … you find out on a Sunday and teams are here on Wednesday. So you just hit ‘send’ and start moving.”
The UA confirmed its public-address announcer, band and cheer squad would be at the game. Season ticket holder Regina Wills will sing the national anthem; Queck says she was first on his list.
Then there are the tickets. UA coach Adia Barnes bought 50 tickets to give out to the ZonaZoo, since Thursday’s game isn’t part of their season-ticket package. Athletic director Dave Heeke and football coach Kevin Sumlin followed suit .
As of late Wednesday afternoon, nearly 1,500 tickets had been sold. The UA has added extra staff for a walk-up crowd that’s expected to be substantial. Barnes tweeted Wednesday that she hopes the UA can draw 5,000 fans.
Mason is on board. Her parents, who are not season ticket holders, bought four tickets — two for themselves, and a pair for their neighbors.
“It’s awesome to have something end on a more positive note than the season has ended for the last bunch of years,” she said. “I hope this is a huge launch for bigger and better things across the board.”