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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Strolling through the ‘Zoo

Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The No. 18 Arizona Wildcats hosted the Oregon Ducks in a Pacific 10 Conference basketball game Saturday, March 5, 2011, in McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. The Wildcats finished a perfect 17-0 at home and locked up the regular season Pac-10 Championship with a 90-82 win.

The Arizona men’s basketball team secured the Pacific 10 Conference title, honored its lone senior and started celebrating the win. But there was one last thing to do before cutting down the nets.

Led by point guard Momo Jones, the Wildcats sprinted to the north end of McKale Center to exchange high fives with members of the ZonaZoo student section.

As every Arizona player walked up the steps to the very top and walked back down on the opposite side, it was an obvious thank you to the fans for helping the Wildcats to an undefeated 17-0 record in McKale Center.

“”We just followed Momo, that was off his energy,”” said sophomore Solomon Hill. “”He was like, ‘We’re going to thank ZonaZoo,’ and we just followed him there.””

Head coach Sean Miller acknowledged the importance of thanking fans before joking about his team’s journey into foreign territory.

“”I think it shows how much they appreciate the ZonaZoo,”” Sean Miller said. “”I’m glad nobody fell down, and we got through it unscathed.””

Throughout the season, Miller has preached to his team the importance of playing well in McKale Center.

“”We talked about that from day one,”” Miller said. “”We call it home court dominance.””

Miller has been enamored with McKale Center since visiting as a player at Pittsburgh, and after dropping several games at home in his first year, the second-year head coach made a point to improve that this year.

“”It’s such a spectacular crowd and great place to play that it’s not to the opponent’s advantage,”” Miller said. “”If you ask our players, they’ll tell you we’ve talked as much about that (home court) than anything.””

The Wildcats finished undefeated at home for the first time since the 1998-99 season.

When sophomore Derrick Williams was asked what he would remember most about his experience at Arizona, if Saturday was his last game at McKale, he mentioned the crowd.

“”I will remember the fans, the ZonaZoo,”” Williams said. “”And the white-out. The white-out is the best memory I’ve had here.””

Arizona will play the rest of its games away from home, but on Saturday the Wildcats able to re-establish McKale as one of the best arenas in college basketball.

“”I can’t describe the emotions of coaching (Saturday’s) game,”” Miller said. “”In McKale, on a Saturday afternoon, last regular season game.

“”For us to win the Pac-10 championship, cut down the nets, honor our seniors and having the type of crowd we had. I can’t imagine it being any better anywhere.””

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