Zona Zoo gets a tuneup
Sean Miller held a meeting Tuesday to rally the student troops.
The UA basketball coach huddled with the Zona Zoo at McKale Center on Tuesday night, refreshing the student section on his preferred cheers and encouraging them to make a good impression Saturday on ESPN. (Oh, and there was free pizza.)
The Zona Zoo gave its members an incentive of the non-cheese-and-pepperoni variety: good seats. The first 100 students to arrive at Miller Time - yep, that was the official name - received wristbands entitling them to a seat in the lower bowl Thursday night.
The encouragement seemed to work. Forty minutes before tipoff Thursday, the lower level of the Zona Zoo was full - and the upper section was close to it.
The cheers were loud, too. We noticed a particular uptick in the volume of cheers while the other team shot free throws. We heard every "Boing!" "Breeeeaaaaathe!" and "Brick!" all night.
The Zona Zoo also rattled newspapers in mock boredom while WSU players were announced.
They turned their backs - as well as those of the giant cardboard heads they held in the air - to the Cougars.
Bone to pick
We've never seen Wazzu coach Ken Bone so mad.
About 13 minutes into the game, he was standing in front of his bench when a Cougars player was whistled for a foul while fighting for a ball in the corner, maybe two feet from Bone.
The coach immediately flipped out when the foul was called, and was whistled for a technical foul within a matter of seconds. He had to be held back by his assistant coaches as he followed officials across the floor.
He continued to gripe throughout the first half - even barking at officials on his way to tend to injured guard Faisal Aden minutes later.
The big number
Three-pointers made by UA guard Kyle Fogg in the first half, matching a season high for the entire game.
Good signs from 'GameDay'
When ESPN's "College GameDay" lures fans into McKale Center on Saturday morning, we'll keep an eye on one group of workers.
Two interpreters will translate the game for the hearing impaired.
Jamie Carpenter, a sign-language interpreter for 23 years, works at the UA's Disability Resource Center.
Gail Masek, a 1980 UA graduate, is a Wildcats fan whose son attends the school. She is a men's basketball and football season-ticket holder.
The two interpreters were arranged by ESPN's Luke Faxon-St. Georges, who is hearing impaired.
For every basketball and football edition of "GameDay," ESPN provides translators with headsets and stage space, and they signal the words to the crowd. They rely on community volunteers to help with the translation.
What's going on?
About 15 minutes before tipoff, fans walking past athletic director Greg Byrne's office got a glimpse of his meeting with Rich Rodriguez.
The athletic director and new UA football coach chatted with the blinds half-open. In another sign of Rodriguez's popularity since his November hire, fans slowed as they passed the window. Some even stopped and huddled around the window, wanting to see what was going on.
Later, the coach sat with Byrne in his seats across from the UA bench.
Kinnear drops in
Sitting opposite Rodriguez, on Byrne's left, was one of the UA's most famous graduates - Greg Kinnear.
Wearing a red polo shirt, the star of "Little Miss Sunshine" and, of course, "The Soup," took in the game. He was introduced to the fan base on the video screen at the first timeout of the second half and received a nice ovation.
Kinnear graduated from the UA with a broadcast-journalism degree in 1985.
"If you're going to give a 'T' to me, give him one!"
WSU coach Ken Bone, to an official, after Sean Miller complained about the lack of a foul call. Bone was called for a technical foul earlier in the game.