Wildcat fans storm the court
13 years and five days.
That's how long it had been since Arizona basketball fans had done what they did last night at McKale Center.
When senior point guard Jason Terry sank a jumper to give No. 13 Arizona (14-3 overall, 6-2 Pacific 10 Conference) a 78-76 lead over No. 3 Stanford (17-3, 7-1) with 3.4 seconds remaining, the fans were poised.
Then Stanford's last-ditch attempt to get a shot off failed, and a swarm of red-clad UA fans stormed the court to celebrate the Wildcats' upset victory.
"That was a beautiful sight," UA junior forward Eugene Edgerson said. "As long as I have been here at Arizona, I did not think that I was ever going to see that happen."
Edgerson said the age of the average Arizona fan convinced him he would never see fans rush the floor.
"A lot of old folks sit near the floor, not any young people," he said. "It was just wild and crazy."
Arizona fans had not stormed the court since Craig McMillan's last second buzzer-beater helped UA beat Oregon State 63-62 in overtime back on Jan. 23, 1986.
The Wildcats had just come off being the victims of a court-swarm, having watched the Oregon State crowd spill onto the floor last Saturday night in Corvallis, Ore., when the Beavers upset UA 60-59.
When the Beaver fans rushed the court, some pushed and shoved the Wildcat players as they left the court, and some of the team's practice jerseys were stolen in the mad charge.
"Our fans are much more friendlier," Terry said. "Every time I waved my arms for them to get louder they got louder."
UA head coach Lute Olson said the fans were key in helping the younger Wildcats overcome the physical Cardinal.
"We need our fans to get behind us," he said.
Olson said the fact Arizona was an underdog contributed to the fans' rabid behavior.
"Home crowds should help the home team," he said. "Low-class crowds yell and curse at the visiting team. We don't want them to be nasty."
Despite a few moments of questionable behavior, including a minor incident with a laser pointer late in the game which forced Olson to go on the P.A. system to ask the fan to stop aiming it at the Stanford players, the UA fans were on their best behavior.
14,507 old and young fans alike helped make McKale Center the loudest it has been this year, possibly ever, and helped extend Arizona's home court winning streak to 25 games.
"It was very nice to have the fans behind us like that for the entire game," senior center A.J. Bramlett said. "They were very emotional and so were we out there. We really played our hearts out."
UA freshman forward Richard Jefferson said it was just nice to be home again.
"Playing on the road with all of the fans going nuts like they were, we got a little bit envious of that," he said. "So this was very nice to be able to have the fans behind us. Thank you, fans. Thank you so much."