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Tuesday April 3, 2001

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Subdued McKale crowd goes quietly with UA loss

By Ryan Finley

Arizona Daily Wildcat

There wasn't any tear gas. There weren't even many police officers.

When last night's NCAA National Championship game ended, those inside McKale Center stood up, applauded the winning team and went home. Peacefully.

The opening of UA's arena - an idea fueled by the UA Dean of Students office - drew a small, young and generally subdued crowd of between 2,000 and 3,000 people. This was a disappointment for those fans who showed for a loud and intense experience watching the game on McKale's four large viewing screens.

"I thought there would be a lot more people," said Jim Elliott, an Arizona alumnus and season-ticket holder since 1965. "It seemed like everybody was having a party, so it's not like (UA fans) weren't paying attention."

Peter Guess Jr., a media arts senior, said the crowd - which he said consisted mostly of high school students and UA students too young to drink at local bars - was disappointingly small.

"It was kind of empty," he said. "I'm sure most of the hard-core fans were on Fourth Avenue or at home."

UA cheerleaders and a smaller version of the "Pride of Arizona" pep band entertained the crowd, which was loud only throughout the first half, going quiet in the game's final 20 minutes.

For the most part, Arizona fans were disappointed at the game's outcome and the crowd's lack of intensity in the final moments.

During one point in the second half, CBS television showed a shot of Duke fans at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the team's home arena in Durham, N.C. The arena was full of rowdy fans, a stark contrast to the muted crowd in McKale.

"Did you see the pictures of Cameron?" Elliott asked. "It was full of people. That says it all (about Duke fans). But year in and year out, (McKale) is full."

Despite the game's outcome, psychology graduate student Tim Ellmore said coming out to McKale was a last-choice effort that proved to be worthwhile.

Ellmore moved to Tucson from Washington, D.C., last July.

"This is the first time I've followed a real basketball school," he said. "We actually checked out some of the bars on University (Avenue) and they were really, really crowded. But, then again, this was new and exciting. I tried not to take it for granted."

Animal sciences senior Ben Fletcher said he and a friend - anticipating a win - watched the game on McKale's four viewing screens.

"Although the crowd was a lot younger than I thought it would be, it was a change of pace," he said. "I thought it would be a hell of a place to go if they won it."

Elliott, who said this year's Wildcat team was the best he's seen in his 25 years of attendance, took the loss in stride.

"There's always tomorrow," he said. "That's all I can say."