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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona wins by a ‘kabillion’

Was it worth it?

Was it worth the 1,000-mile road trip to play competitively for eight minutes?

Was it worth it to watch UA walk-on Max Wiepking drain a 3-pointer — the first-ever token victory cigar Sean Miller has lit in McKale Center?

“”We had five guards on the floor playing against a damn good team,”” Idaho State University coach Joe O’Brien said after his team lost 90-42 to the Wildcats. “”It went from 17-15 to a kabillion-15. And the rest was history.””

When you’re a coach in the Big Sky Conference — reeling from a 48-point blowout — you’re allowed to show some emotion afterwards and say words like “”kabillion.”” And that’s exactly why I left my cozy seat at Arizona’s post-game press conference for a spot outside Idaho State’s locker room.

No cameras, no lights, no nothing. Just myself, a reporter from Idaho and an A-Team security guard. We waited in the busy hallway while the other reporter wondered if coach would even talk to us.

I’m sure the always humble Derrick Williams was asked about his incredible reach-out, one-hand alley-oop slam in the second half. I’m sure Miller kept the even-keel demeanor just as the seasoned professional always does with the media.

But what’s it like on the other side of the wall? How’s it feel getting beaten down that hard and that long? What did they expect?

“”We would’ve had to played our best game just to stay in the game with a team like this,”” said ISU guard Chase Grabau.

ISU’s coach told the team “”you had a poor night, you got your butts kicked,”” Grabau said.

It was so bad, don’t expect ISU to return.

“”I told (Sean Miller) before the game, I think you’ve got Arizona basketball back to where the fans expect it to be, and we’re not coming back again,”” O’Brien said.

Never again?

“”I’m not going to UCLA anymore, I’ve been there and done that. I’ve been to UConn once, there are certain places I’m just not going anymore.

“”Once is enough.””

This is the sobering life as a mid-major, which gets paid to get their butts kicked and serve as tourists for a weekend. Not bad for Idaho State, considering they traded a 36 degree, rainy Sunday in Pocatello, Idaho, for Tucson’s 72-degree clear skies.

Ask ISU guard Andre Hatchett about Tucson. He’s been here before.

“”As a little kid, I’d sit at the real top in McKale; I’d always envision myself playing here,”” said the Santa Rita High graduate, who snapped dozens of photos with dozens of family members after the game.

This wasn’t exactly how he envisioned it. At one point, a young boy in his family asked him to stay home in Tucson.

“”I will this summer,”” Hatchett told the kid before taking a photo with him.

Just like the rest of his team, he marveled at Arizona’s tradition, getting to see guys like Richard Jefferson, Luke Walton and Miles Simon introduce the team on the jumbotron to a crowd of 12,000-plus.

It was even one of Arizona’s weakest crowds — with a ZonaZoo hungover from the football loss to USC — but Idaho State can’t draw any crowds for any venue, and according to the Idaho reporter, they didn’t even fill a 1,000-seat gym during a conference game last season.

“”We’re in the Big Sky, we’re not going to play against an Arizona,”” Hatchett said bluntly. “”We just gotta move on.””

Grabau added: “”It’s a good learning experience just to show what type of talent is out there at the top tier of college basketball.””

I made it back to Miller’s press conference for the end of it. 

 

“”Having been on the other side of the fence (as a visiting team in McKale), it’s not a fun place to play,”” Miller said. 

 

But it was probably worth it. 

 

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