Justin Spears dishes up the sights and sounds from Senior Day at McKale Center, where Arizona State took down the Arizona Wildcats 72-64 on Saturday.
On last year’s Senior Day, Arizona cut down the nets for the Pac-12 regular season championship then sent off a group of players considered among the UA’s best in recent history.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Dusan Ristic, both of whom played four seasons at Arizona, were received with standing ovations. Coach Sean Miller also recognized underclassmen Deandre Ayton, Rawle Alkins and Allonzo Trier, all of whom had already announced their plans to turn pro.
Saturday’s Senior Day was markedly different. Not only did Arizona lose to rival Arizona State, but the Wildcats fell to ninth in the Pac-12 Conference standings.
The circumstances surrounding the postgame ceremony were different, but the emotions were the same. UA honored graduate transfers Ryan Luther and Justin Coleman with framed jerseys, and the team’s senior student managers got some much-needed love.
Luther and Coleman are two of four graduate transfers to play under Miller at Arizona. The other two: former point guard Mark Lyons and forward Mark Tollefsen.
What’s more likely to happen in Arizona’s final home game against ASU? 🏀— The Wildcaster (@TheWildcaster) March 9, 2019
Before every game, The Wildcaster’s Twitter page — it’s @TheWildcaster, for those who want to give it a follow — conducts a poll. Saturday, it asked what was most likely to happen: a Ryan Luther double-double, Justin Coleman scoring more than 12 points, ASU coach Bobby Hurley getting a technical foul … or an Arizona State win.
Fifty-eight percent of the votes went to Hurley receiving a technical foul, while 23 percent of respondents picked ASU to win. Coleman got 13 percent of the votes, and Luther received only 6 percent.
Only one of the four options actually happened, and I think we all know what it was.
Top 2019 recruits in the house
Five-star signees Nico Mannion and Josh Green were in attendance for Saturday’s rivalry game. They deserved to watch a game for once.
Mannion recently won his second consecutive Arizona state championship at Phoenix Pinnacle High School, and was recently invited to the Iverson Roundball Classic and Jordan Brand Classic.
Green was named to the Naismith All-American Second Team, while Mannion made the third team.
Both Mannion and Green will play in the McDonald’s All-American Game. They’ll be the first UA-bound duo to play in the event since Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon in 2013.
Red-out was lit!
It’s lit at McKale Center! pic.twitter.com/BIV2fNM5hv— Justin Spears (@JustinESports) March 9, 2019
Saturday’s game was a red-out — with a high-tech twist. Each fan in attendance received either a red or a blue glow stick.
McKale Center glowed with red and blue lights from courtside all the way to the nosebleeds during the UA’s pregame introductions. The arena actually pulsed with color.
McKale wasn’t all-red, of course. ASU’s Hurley arranged for 50 members of the school’s student section, the 942 Crew, to attend the game. They sat together at the top of the Zona Zoo. Pockets of Sun Devils popped up throughout the arena, mostly in the upper deck.
The big number
Number of years since ASU swept Arizona in the regular season. Russ Pennell was the UA’s interim head coach that year, after Lute Olson announced his retirement. The Wildcats were led by Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger and Nic Wise. NBA superstar James Harden led the Sun Devils over UA in both regular season games and again in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament.
For the record
Hurley’s record at McKale Center as a head coach and player. Hurley had lost to UA at McKale in three consecutive years before Saturday. As a point guard at Duke, he lost to the then-ninth-ranked Wildcats 77-75 in a double-overtime thriller on Feb. 24, 1991 — a game which many longtime UA fans consider one of the greatest regular-season contests in McKale Center history.
The seventh-ranked Blue Devils had, in addition to Hurley, a cast of Christian Laettner, Grant Hill and Brian Davis. Arizona was one of two non-ACC teams to beat Duke that season. The Blue Devils went on to win the national championship.
Indoor football welcomed to McKale
The McKale Center crowd welcomed officials from the expansion Tucson Sugar Skulls at halftime. Tucson’s Indoor Football League team was represented by owners Kevin and Cathy Guy, minority owner Ali Farhang and head coach Marcus Coleman. Tucson plays its home opener at Tucson Arena against the Bismarck Bucks at 3 p.m. Sunday. The Sugar Skulls won the franchise’s first game last week against the San Diego Strike Force.
Tweet of the game
Sadly being overseas it’s tough to view games. But got this one of @APlayersProgram! Never seen us attempt so many charges lmao! 😂— Mark Tollefsen (@Air_Tolly23) March 9, 2019
Tollefsen made sure to tune into the UA-ASU game all the way from Israel, where he is under contract with Maccabi Ashdod of the Israeli Premier League.
There’s a nine-hour time difference between Arizona and Israel and with an afternoon tipoff, Tollefsen was able to watch. He was a fan of Arizona’s defensive effort.
He said it
“There is no place more magical than McKale Center. There are no fans in the world that are more loyal. It has been an amazing honor to coach at McKale Center. Thank you for everything.”
— Miller, to the home crowd after Saturday’s game.