The mood of McKale Center was right on target for the Desert Diamond Fiesta Bowl Basketball Classic, the fifth-ranked Florida Gators versus the eighth-ranked Arizona Wildcats.
Maybe it was the comeback of the football team in Albuquerque earlier Saturday, rallying to beat Nevada in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, 49-48, after being down 17 points to start the fourth quarter. Arizona Wildcat fans, at least, seemed to think that the sports gods were truly on their side.
"For us to continue to fight, that quality is sometimes more important than the skill part of the game," UA head coach Sean Miller said after the 65-64 victory. "That fight all the way until the end, like I said that's the reason we won."
Football coach Rich Rodriguez said the same exact thing.
McKale Center felt revived. The crowd hadn't felt like that in years. But what about Derrick Williams and the Washington game? Yeah, it was that good of an atmosphere - but better.
Also in the building were former players Channing Frye, Chase Budinger and Michael Dickerson.
Fans stayed on their feet through the first three minutes, and even when the team's sloppy play could have taken the crowd out of the game, everyone held tight to the game of catch up.
Right before the half, with under two minutes left, sophomore guard Nick Johnson hit back-to-back 3-point shots, Solomon Hill dunked, and the 11-point deficit was cut to three, 32-29, at the break.
McKale was in an absolute uproar and didn't die down after the buzzer because RichRod and members of the football team - fresh off the plane - came to show off the bowl game trophy.
"Next year it may be a Rose Bowl," Rodriguez said. We may all be laughing at that comment now, but there's a lot of people who would of laughed at someone predicting an 8-5 season in his first year, too.
But despite all the momentum going into the second half, the Wildcats were constantly battling to stay in the game.
If Arizona hit a shot, Florida came back with one or two.
The Gators seemed to have all the poise throughout the game until the last two minutes. After turning the ball over just five times in the first half, they added nine in the second.
Arizona took advantage and converted accordingly.
All in a matter of a minute, Kevin Parrom hit two free throws, Grant Jerrett hit one more, and Mark Lyons floated in the game winner.
Gone was Florida's five-point lead, eerily similar to Nevada's late lead just hours earlier.
"This was a great Saturday if you love Arizona," Miller said.
Click Here to view this Link.Evyn Murray
GOAZCATS.com Video Reporter