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'It's like McKale Center Jr.': UA fans once again turn Las Vegas into Wildcat country

Posted at 5:21 PM, Mar 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-09 03:15:28-05

The host Arizona Wildcats defeated the visiting Colorado Buffaloes 83-67 on Thursday to advance to the semifinals of the 2018 Pac-12 Tournament.

Well, it wasn't technically a home game for the Wildcats. But it sure felt like it.

"It’s like McKale Center Jr. It’s like a home game," UA sophomore guard Rawle Alkins said after thousands of Wildcat fans made their annual trek to Vegas to cheer Zona to victory at T-Mobile Arena.

After his team's loss, Colorado coach Tad Boyle acknowledged the home-court feel UA enjoys in this tournament, but said that's just the way things go.

"Look, their fans travel well," he said. "Nothing we can do about it. Can't move campuses."

Junior guard Allonzo Trier, who scored a game-high 22 points in Arizona's win Thursday, knows fans can't win the game for the Wildcats -- but seeing all the red in the stands and hearing "U of A" chants echo throughout T-Mobile Arena doesn't hurt.

"Our fans always travel great. They always give us a great crowd, give us that home court advantage-feel," he said. "Obviously they don’t make us play well, though; we have to do the job. But it’s always great to have them in our corner."

Senior center Dusan Ristic revealed a "Dusan loves Tucson" shirt as he came off the McKale Center court for the final time Saturday. It's a safe bet to say Dusan loves Vegas, too.

"It’s my favorite part of the year," said Ristic, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds in the Wildcats' win. "When we come to Vegas, we have the feeling almost that we’re playing in McKale. Usually like 80 percent of the arena is our fans. It’s amazing to have something like that now in March when we’re competing for a Pac-12 championship."

The Wildcats have won two of the last three Pac-12 Tournaments thanks in part to the enormous contingent of UA fans who make the trip to watch them play. It's a safe bet they'll continue to enjoy the same home-court feel in their attempt to make it three out of four.

"It’s amazing. I don’t think they understand how much we enjoy and appreciate seeing them out there," senior guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright said. "All that red, the 'U of A' chants -- it gives us a boost. We feed off their energy sometimes."

The Wildcats' next game will be Friday night against the winner of Thursday's Stanford-UCLA matchup. Whoever faces UA in that game will, once again, feel like the visitors.

"Every game is like a home game for us," Alkins said. "We appreciate it. We’re honored to have the best fans in college basketball."