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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Protecting home court

Sean Miller, the mens basketball coach at the UofA, gives a pep rally in front of onlooking students at the McKale Center on Wednesday, Jan. 26 2011. Miller showcased a secret play for the fans.
Sean Miller, the men’s basketball coach at the UofA, gives a pep rally in front of onlooking students at the McKale Center on Wednesday, Jan. 26 2011. Miller showcased a secret play for the fans.

All season long, Sean Miller has preached to his team that good teams protect their home court, and Arizona (16-4,5-2 Pacific 10 Conference) has done that thus far this season, posting an 11-0 record at McKale Center.

On the heels of the Wildcats’ second place showdown with UCLA tonight, Miller met with slightly more than 100 ZonaZoo members at McKale Center on Wednesday night to make sure they also know the importance of protecting their home court.

Miller addressed the students, telling them the huge role they will play in tonight’s game. He even took questions from the crowd. Miller let the fans in on a secret, picking five fans out of the crowd to demonstrate what will be the first play of the game against the Bruins.

“”You’re the heartbeat of the arena,”” Miller told the students. “”The more energized the ZonaZoo is, the more the rest of the arena follows.””

Miller, knowing how important the Wildcats’ home games are, wanted to make sure that he has the student section on board.

“”I respect and really appreciate how hard they work for us. The months of January and February on a college campus in college basketball take on a whole new meaning,”” Miller said of why he decided to address the student section.

“”I just want to thank them (ZonaZoo) and at the same time make sure we’re on the same page for a great weekend.””

Despite Arizona being undefeated at home the this season, the crowds haven’t exactly showed up every game, at some points setting record low attendance marks earlier in the season. But the first game of the spring semester, a win against ASU, was a sell-out.

Miller, impressed by the enthusiasm of the student sections at the schools in Washington last weekend, hopes that the ZonaZoo can create the same type of environment for the rest of Arizona’s home games this season.

“”I’m going to be the first to tell you that the students’ sections at Washington State and Washington were amazing,”” he said. “”At Washington, you can’t even think. They’re right behind you. They impact the game in a different way. I think the ZonaZoo does that for us. We just want to remind them that their impact is really felt.””

Miller told the crowd in attendance the impact of promoting the Arizona basketball program on a nationally televised game would help the coaches recruit.

Miller wants to reestablish the home court dominance the Arizona basketball program once had, and he’s drilled that into his players’ heads all

season.

“”If we can protect our home court and continue to win and not allow anybody to come in here and sneak out a win,”” said point guard Momo Jones, “”it’s going to be difficult later down the road for teams to come in here and beat us.””

Whether fans show up or not will be seen at tip-off, but the importance of the game will not change with UCLA (13-6, 5-2 Pac-10) coming into McKale and the winner taking full possession of second place in the Pac-10.

“”It’s definitely going to be a great atmosphere whether or not the students show-up,”” said senior forward Jamelle Horne. “”The game is going to be at a high level.””

Players also know they must do their part as well.

“”If we play and win big games more and more, people are going to come watch us play,”” Jones added. “”Everybody is going to come watch us play, and everybody is going to get hyped to watch us play.””

In the end, one thing truly matters.

“”Our focus is playing well against UCLA and having an opportunity to win a conference home game,”” Miller said.

New uniforms

The Wildcats will unveil their new uniforms on Thursday when they play against UCLA on national television.

Miller said that the team will wear the new uniforms from here on out. There are red, white and blue uniforms.

“”I’ll tell you this: I don’t think there is a nicer uniform in college basketball than ours,”” Miller said.

Playing on ESPN2

When Miller was asked if his players cared about the game being on ESPN, he suggested the more players care about it, the weaker they are as a player.

“”The more they care, the worse player they are,”” he said. “”If they really care, they stink. They just can’t play. If you can play, you’re going to play hard and play well, and you’re going to assume people are watching every game, which is generally the case.

“”But if they have heightened awareness, wear different color shoes or their hair is colored differently, then you have a problem,”” he added.

 

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