As I pulled into my parking spot at Wells Fargo Arena, it surprised me at how many students were already there. It turns out that it was a new record for number of students at an ASU basketball game. That was a good portent to the amazing game I was about to cover.
So here are a few of my notes and observations about the rest of the Arizona trip, tonight's game against ASU was a great capper to the week-long excursion to the desert.
1) The lights…out for the home team again. UW needs to do this in a bad way. With the lights out, the ASU students all waved glow-sticks in the dark to a great effect. While ASU highlights were shown on the big screen, it culminated by a slam dunk by #1 which brought with it a large flame and out of the tunnel came rushing the cheerleaders. It really got the crowd going. Very good line up intros.
2) Wells Fargo Arena – nice place! Loud, and has a nice round bowl configuration. The band and student section fill the bowl behind the basket that the Huskies had to attack during the second half, by the Husky bench. It was laid out the same as Arizona was, and it was effective. It is tough to shoot into that background of distraction for a visiting team. The individual statistics by player boards at the end of the arena behind each basket were very nice and much easier to read than the ones at McKale. The font is easier, but they have the same problem, and that is that they don't show shooting percentages as they do at Hec-Ed. I guess we're spoiled in Seattle.
3) Old Town in Scottsdale was a blast today. With the start of spring training, there were lots of baseball fans to converse with around town. My wife and I had lunch outside in the sunshine at the Italian Grotto, where they had nice gluten free pasta selection and good Chianti by the glass. We had lunch with another couple that we met there, after finding out they lived in Belltown (Seattle) we asked them to join our table. Fun lunch in the sunshine. And if you wondered which baseball team's fans travel the best to Arizona for spring ball? Hands down, it was the San Francisco Giant fans. They had their own bar (The R&R) and it was packed.
4) Tomorrow I'm going to play Wigwam Heritage golf course, located in Litchfield Park. Cannot wait, as I've been staying on the 9th hole for the past week. Tomorrow I finally get to take my 14 handicap and see how it plays against a course that is sloped at 130.
5) Lorenzo did a nice job of coaching his kids tonight. It would've been so easy for them to just roll over and die after getting waxed by Arizona and having C.J. Wilcox at about 60% tonight, but they didn't. The defensive effort was visible, the communication on the court was very good.
6) When Sean Kemp Junior took a feed from Gaddy, crow hopped, and hit a thundering jam over Ruslan Pateev, the Husky bench went wild. Even more so, the row of sports reporters covering the game (myself included) all let out a very loud, "WHOAH!". You don't see (or hear) that very often in the media areas, so hats off to baby Rain-man. It was something to see and hear.
7) Eddie House, ASU all-time leading scorer was in attendance. He received a decent hand from the crowd, but as a whole, the Sun Devil crowd isn't close to the Arizona crowd. It's not their fault, they haven't been good in basketball year in and year out since the George W. Bush administration like ‘Zona, but this place has the feel like it might get there. The facilities, the co-eds, and the new basketball arena are all terrific, and more fans came tonight than I've seen at past ASU-UW hoops games. The ASU fans are not nearly as knowledgeable as their ‘Zona Zoo counterparts. The Arizona crowd really only comes unglued if a referee blows a call. The ASU crowd was more of the chippy booing variety, complete with the "bull-$%^&" chant and overused the "take his whistle. Clap-clap, clapclapclap" cheer over way too many calls.
8) All in the family – CJ Wilcox's mom and Dad were at both Arizona games, as was his little brother. In fact, baby Wilcox proved to be quite a dancer, as he jumped up and busted a move whenever the band kicked into action. The Wilcox family sat right by Desmond Simmons' father, and all were extremely happy after the game tonight.
9) Band geek input – ASU had an electric bass as well as eight tubas. Now THAT…is serious bottom end. It rocked the house well, but I gotta say the drums did NOT carry in this arena. The drummer may have been decent but you'd never know because his drums were buried. New drum heads, perhaps hydraulic oil-filled double ply Evans heads would've made a difference, and the snare had NO pop at all. I'm a DW snob, so I think it could've been fixed with about a $4,000 investment into a Drummers Workshop (DW) kit. What do I play? Oh yeah…D-dubs, of course.
10) Tale of two huddles. Watching Herb Sendek in his huddle, it looked like a cluster-&*^k. Players bickering, coaches yelling at players, it was an interesting contrast to Lorenzo Romar's huddle. LoRo is a constant positive force in his huddle.
11) ASU cheerleaders were active, and very involved. And there were enough of them to where if there was something going out on the floor during a time out, there were enough left over to fill the aisles as well. On the timeouts they would have a girl in every aisle about halfway up, dancing, cheering, and rocking the stairs and fans around them. It was a neat thing visually with their gold pom-poms as well as a great way to keep the fans into the game during a time out when they could've gone quiet. Particularly when ASU fell behind by 12 and the game seemed to be slipping away.
12) Bad form….with 24.1 seconds remaining in the game, an ASU student launched a projectile toward the Husky bench. It was bush league. I pointed at the jerk so security could escort him out. A Husky trainer on the bench also pointed at the "fan" as well, and he cowardly left the arena while throwing up his middle fingers. He flipped off the Husky bench as they pointed at him. I realize the entire ASU student section cannot be branded by the actions of one douche, but this was classless in its finest form. Husky fans, please DON'T do that. The local media was embarrassed by the coward's actions as well.
13) Dead eye? Ouch….Scott Suggs got poked in the eye prior to his first shot of the game. He got poked on the Huskies second possession and he could barely see. That didn't stop him from launching his first shot of the game, a three-pointer that hit nothing but net. "I couldn't really see the rim, but I saw it go through," said Suggs with a grin. He wound up hitting four of his first five shots.
14) Coaching clinic. When Washington was limping to the finish line tonight, tired and beat up, their head coach was something else to watch tonight in the huddle. He drew up plays, he yelled encouragement to his team, he high fived his guys, and most of all, he out coached the other guy on the other bench. Sendek had no answer for Romar down the stretch, and he said as much after the game.
15) Abdul Gaddy had the game of his life. I was thrilled to have covered this gem. Gaddy had 13 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and ZERO turnovers. And down the stretch he had ice water in his veins. It was his best performance as a Husky. It was neat to see the kid smile after the game, with two ice bags taped to his knees and a backpack full of gear on while talking to Desmond's dad and playfully teasing CJ Wilcox's little brother. It was cool to see.