The only disappointing thing about Saturday for Arizona Wildcats fans is that nothing will ever be able to quite compare to the pandemonium in the McKale Center after a comeback win with an ending that not even Shakespeare could have fathomed.
Of course, the day started with just as miraculous of a victory by the Arizona football team in the New Mexico Bowl. The football team was down by 13 points with under a minute to go, and yet somehow returned to Tucson with a trophy and a story that will be passed on in the city for generations to come.
The football players arrived just in time to be a part of a deafening noisy crowd at McKale. From the tip off, the fans were on their feet, screaming and stomping, desperate to help their Cats in any way they could.
The majority of the game itself was not terribly pleasing to the cardinal red and navy blue faithful. Florida’s Patric Young and Erik Murphy abused Arizona’s freshman post players and guards Mike Rosario and Scottie Wilbekin became Public Enemies #1 and #2, as they literally could not miss from outside.
Every time the crowd rose to their feet in hopes of an elusive defensive stop, Florida was there to answer and reaffirm their hold on the lead. Back in forth it went for seemingly the entire second half until… It Happened.
Unlike so many things in life, there is no reasonable or scientific explanation for what occurs in sports. Sure you can obsess advanced stats for hours but at the end of the day, winners and losers aren’t decided by mathematicians. They’re decided by one person’s desire to be victorious versus another’s.
And in the final minutes of a top 10 battle that will be remembered for eternity in the Sonoran Desert, the guys wearing “Arizona” on their jerseys refused to give in, the same way their football classmates did in Albuquerque just hours before.
Down six points with under a minute to go, Nick Johnson forced a steal, leading to two made free throws by Kevin Parrom, to push the lead down to four.
Then Arizona came up with its second onside kick recovery of the day, this time in the form of a steal on an inbounds pass. Solomon Hill picked up the ball and slammed it home, cutting the once insurmountable lead down to two.
What happened exactly after that is still a blur. Florida turned the ball over for the second consecutive time on an inbounds pass, as Bunnies was there to pick it off. There was then a mad scramble for the ball but it ended up in the hands of Grant Jerrett, who was able to draw a shooting foul.
Jerrett made the second of his two free throw attempts, pushing the lead down to one. Kenny Boynton subsequently missed the first of his lone attempt, and Nick Johnson was there to get the rebound. He instinctively passed it to Mark Lyons.
So there we were. Arizona’s true point guard with the ball in his hands as the clock ran down under 10 seconds. A made basket would give the Cats a much needed top 10 win to earn national respect.
Lyons drove to the right of the lane before releasing the ball off his fingertips. At first, it appeared his shot was a little too strong but it gently tapped off the backboard, through the netting.
The McKale Center erupted and seven seconds later, it was official. Arizona had won a game nearly everyone had declared over a minute earlier.
It was a win for the ages and a win that reminded Arizona fans everywhere what the school’s motto, “Bear Down,” truly means.