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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Home losses sting for Arizona fans

The+Ooh+Ahh+Man+stands+and+expresses+his+anguish+during+the+game+against+Oregon+in+McKale+Center+on+Thursday%2C+Jan.+28.+Fans+saw+their+home+team+lose+in+McKale+Center+on+Thursday+for+the+first+time+in+almost+three+seasons.
Tyler Baker
The Ooh Aah Man stands and expresses his anguish during the game against the University of Oregon in McKale Center on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016. Fans saw their home team lose in McKale Center for the first time in almost three seasons.

The clock was winding down in McKale Center, but everything was quiet for the red and blue. Instead, players draped in green and yellow were jumping around in celebration with a small patch of fans celebrating behind their bench. 

It was 2013 the last time Arizona fans witnessed something like this.

Oregon freshman Tyler Dorsey, who was originally committed to Arizona, flexed in celebration. Dillon Brooks was jumping up and down in triumph.

The Arizona players somberly lined up to shake their opponents’ hands.

For 49 games over almost three years, McKale Center was a haven that saw its tenants amass a nation-leading home win streak.

“I just want, on behalf of the team, to apologize to the fans and especially the players and coaches that have come before us,” forward Ryan Anderson said. “All of the guys that put work into this streak. The players that gave us all the beautiful facilities that we have. These last two games, we haven’t lived up to the standard that is held here at Arizona, especially effort-wise and attention to detail.”

The streak was not only an incredible feat, but also served as a reminder that losing is a part of sports.  

“I was devastated, but I mean, I love my team and I’m always going to support them no matter what,” Jordan Ingram said Saturday. 

Ingram, who graduated from Arizona last year, was dubbed the “King of McKale” for his role as the leader of the UA Pep Band and his work in pumping up the ZonaZoo during home games. 

Ingram said he has seen the Wildcats lose even bigger games in person while traveling with the band, most notably two Elite Eight losses to Wisconsin.

“When we don’t win, it is a sad thing, but losing is a part of the game,” Ingram said. “We had some pretty bad losses last year and still made it to the Elite Eight. So anything is possible.”

Ingram summed up what it feels like to be an Arizona fan: Despite adversity, there is always the belief that things will get better.

“The expectation is you always win here,” Arizona fan Rick Browne said. “It seemed like we were out of sync in so many different ways, that it was kind of a painful game to watch. I don’t think they were off track, but rather, I think it was just an off night in a lot of ways.”

Rick Browne graduated from Arizona in 1978 and his wife Melody attended Michigan State, another monster program in college basketball. 

Rick’s family has been season ticket holders for 40 years. Him and Melody both said missing players was also a key factor in the loss to the Ducks.

“We didn’t have the matchup with the 6-foot-5ers,” Melody said. “There was no [Allonzo] Trier and no [Elliot] Pitts. Those were the guys that would have been able to hang with that size and we didn’t have them.”

Prior to the Oregon loss, seniors and grad students were the only students to see Arizona lose at home. Juniors at the UA had enjoyed two full seasons of undefeated home play.

The rich basketball program that had been built over many years had raised fan expectations. 

With players like Steve Kerr, Andre Iguodala and legendary coach Lute Olson coming through Tucson, the traditions of winning and exceptional play have been staples at Arizona. In short, fans just aren’t used to seeing Arizona lose, especially at home.

“There’s a stronger tradition, sure,” Rick Browne said. “You get people that want to come here because of McKale [Center]. The arena is always full.”

Melody Browne recalled a time last season when an opponent’s parent applauded the toughness of McKale Center. 

“We met a parent last year from Utah and she was one of the player’s moms and she said, ‘I love to come here. No other place in the Pac-12 [Conference] is like this place,’” Melody said.

According to Jorge Barrera, who has been coming to Arizona games for 10 years, the Wildcats have a unique case here in Tucson. 

“Like I tell the players, living in Phoenix you have your Suns and all these professional teams and all we have here in Tucson is the Wildcats,” Barrera said. “This is the only thing we live off of. It’s hard for us to see a loss because we’re not used to losing as much.”

And while losing is to be expected at all levels of sports, it’s tough to expect a program that won 49 games straight to drop one in front of the McKale faithful.

“He’s a Lombardi guy,” Melody Browne said of her husband, laughing. “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

“Ultimately, it’s just a game,” Rick Browne said. “We’re blessed to see a lot more wins here than losses. We went through some pretty sad years of football, and the rally cry was well, at least there’s basketball.”

There will always be Arizona basketball.

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