Tough task for Rams
Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley, whose team eked out a three-point win over D-II Metro State earlier on Monday in the opening game of the NIT Season Tip-off West regional, certainly knows what his team is up against with the No. 5-ranked Wildcats tonight.
“We have to go out there and give our very best,” Hurley said after the Rams’ 66 -63 win Monday. “Anything less than the very best, and we won’t have the opportunity to be competitive. It’s a great opportunity for us.”
That was not the case early Monday night.
Rhode Island dug itself a 10-point halftime deficit before flipping the switch behind E.C. Matthews and Xavier Munford, who each contributed 16 points.
“It was a gritty, gutty performance,” said Hurley, who is the brother of former Duke star Bobby Hurley and son of renowned New Jersey high school coach Bob Hurley. “When we found out who we were going up against, we knew how this game was going to be. They would be a really good D-I team. We stepped up.”
Arizona fans rallied on Twitter on Monday to save the band’s long-time tip-off chant, after the Wildcat band began using “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes instead.
While there was a subdued introduction to Monday’s contest, as it was a neutral-site game because of preseason tournament rules, many objected to the season-long use of the new tip-off song.
A hashtag started on Twitter regarding the subject — #TipOffChant – and as a result, Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne took to the online platform, as well, stating: “Thanks for all the comments today regarding #TipOffChant. I will address in Wildcat Wednesday this week.”
Arizona fan Bob Bunting (@RV30B) discussed the origins of the chant on Twitter, indicating that the chant “was Bobbi Olson’s idea at a Wildcat Club Spirit Committee meeting in Lute’s first year. I was there,” and that Bobbi Olson brought it from Lute Olson’s former school, Iowa.
A sea of blue
Perhaps because of the late start time – Monday’s game tipped off after 9 p.m. – there were plenty of empty seats at McKale Center, certainly the most in the short season.
Arizona’s previous two home games were exceptionally well-attended, as the Wildcats led the conference in attendance through two games with an average of 14,316. Utah was far behind in second place with 9,226.
Farleigh Dickinson’s diminutive point guard Sidney Sanders Jr. put on a show early on against the Wildcats, quieting the crowd and earning its respect with an offensive flurry in the first half. Sanders, who scored in double figures just three times last season after transferring to the Knights from Polk State Junior College, had 10 points in the first 14 minutes, while the rest of the team had just five.
Arizona used its advantage early Monday, particularly on the glass. The Wildcats piled up 27 first-half rebounds as the Knights shot just 32.3 percent from the field.
Sights and sounds
Several members of the Zona Zoo dressed in unique get-ups, including a guy in a watermelon suit and another young fan in a bear outfit. … The McKale Center crowd exploded midway through the first half after a beautiful — if improbable — scoop layup by freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson while he drew a foul. The crowd would again be brought to its feet just minutes later on yet another scoop-layup-and-1 by Hollis-Jefferson.