Editor's note: This story first appeared Sunday as an exclusive for our print readers.
PULLMAN, Wash. — Today is the 25th anniversary of the McMiracle at McKale, a program-altering, length-of-the-court play in the final three seconds to beat long-ago Pac-10 kingpin Oregon State on Jan. 23, 1986.
Arizona went on to win the first of its 11 Pac-10 championships that season, a breakthrough made possible when Steve Kerr 's 90-foot pass bounced off the hands of Anthony Cook directly to Craig McMillan, wide open at the basket.
McMillan scored, Arizona won 63-62 in overtime and for the first time UA fans stormed the court in the Lute Olson years.
Arizona won the league title by one game, 14-4 to Washington's 13-5 that season, and no one seemed to discourage free use of the "McMiracle" angle because, frankly, it sounded so good.
You don't need a miracle to win at Washington State, but it helps. It's not a miracle that Jamelle Horne swished three three-point baskets in about 3 1/2 minutes, each one vital in a come-from behind, save-the-season-from-going-in-the-tank 65-63 victory over Washington State.
I mean, Horne did not score in two of Arizona's first three Pac-10 road games, and had just five points, total, on the road. And then in the blink of an eye he scored nine, all when a miss probably would've lost the game.
And you don't need a miracle for one of the two or three best players in the Pac-10, Klay Thompson, to miss a mostly open 10-footer at the buzzer as he did Saturday night. But it might be a mini-miracle that Thompson had his worst shooting game of the year, 4-for-16, when 5-for-16 would've meant overtime or worse for Arizona.
Don't call it a miracle. Call it a Horne-beater.
"We are road warriors. We think about winning in situations like this all the time," said Horne. "Those shots came my way. My teammates told me to be ready, and sure enough, I was."
A lot of nutty things have happened to Arizona's basketball team on this remote piece of turf, so much so that you could write a book: "The Perils of the Palouse."
Once, when Arizona was ranked No. 1 nationally, it was so cold that the power went off and school officials had to move the UA-Wazzu game to an antiquated fieldhouse two hours before tipoff.
Another time some wacko in the Zzu Cru, Wazzu's equivalent of the Zona Zoo, threw a salt shaker across the court, aiming for Lute Olson's skull. It crashed against a bench a few feet from his wife, Bobbi's, head. Arizona super-booster George Kalil immediately offered a $1,000 reward if the shaker-thrower was caught. And he was.
In 1995, down by 12 points with two minutes to go, the Wildcats rallied to send the game in overtime, winning 114-111, when referee Charles Range called a technical foul on the crowd for throwing a paper airplane onto the court.
It wasn't much different Saturday night. The Zzu Cru was full 70 minutes before tipoff. They briefly sat down and behaved themselves. I thought maybe the students wanted just to get out of the cold. But when the Wildcats came onto the court to shoot a few warmup jumpers, the Cru booed with feeling, chanting a few unkind things, establishing the ground rules. The students didn't sit down, or shut up, for the next three hours.
It wasn't going to be a poetry reading. Sean Miller even got a technical foul when the arena was so abuzz that you couldn't hear the referee's whistle.
Friel Court never gets much ink when it comes to ranking the Pac-10's most fearsome road venues, but I've often found it to be as unfriendly and raucous as anything at Pauley Pavilion, Gill Coliseum and whatever arena USC uses.
I would guess the Wildcats of recent years would agree: This is no place to sit back and watch the flames crackle in the fireplace.
"A year ago, we would've lost this game by 20," said Derrick Williams, who tied a UA single-game Pac-10 record with 19 rebounds. "We lost twice up here last year. Now we're 16-4. We feel good about that."
After the Wildcats won Saturday night, Arizona avoided losing three straight games here for the first time since 1981.
By the time the Wildcats bused 80 icy miles from Friel Court to Spokane's Davenport Hotel Saturday night, it was midnight. Their scheduled wake-up call was 4 a.m.
You can make two things out of that arrangement: One, how could the Wildcats have possibly slept? Their ears had to be ringing from all the noise and chaos of another frenetic game. Two, after winning their most significant road game of the year, of Miller's short UA tenure, who needs sleep?
It is a game you replay in your head for a few hours.