Feb. 24, 2012
By Adam Gonzales
The University of Arizona men's basketball team is closing out the season and looking to end on a high note. The Wildcats will have their last home game on Saturday, February 25 against the UCLA Bruins and will debut new Nike uniforms.
"I like (the new uniforms)," junior Solomon Hill said. "They're supposed to be lighter than our other ones. They really change the game a lot."
Saturday will be the last home game for five Arizona seniors: Kyle Fogg, Brendon Lavender, Alex Jacobson, Dondre Wise and Jesse Perry. Fogg has played an important role for the Wildcats since arriving on campus, and has had many memorable moments.
"Some of my greatest memories have been here (in McKale)," Fogg said. "Games like when I made the three free throws against USC and last year's white out, and playing against UCLA and ASU."
Fogg is referring to the moment when he made three free throws in a row to tie the game with almost no time on the clock in 2010 to send the game to overtime. Arizona would eventually win that game.
Fogg has had one of the more successful careers at Arizona, starting 112 games for the Wildcats (seventh all-time), so McKale Center has been like a second home to him but playing each home game here is still an experience of a lifetime.
"It's crazy," Fogg said. "I feel like every year it gets better and better. It's one of the best home courts in the country and I think that the other team feels that. I expected a lot when I came here but this surpassed all my expectations."
Fogg will play his last game at McKale on Saturday and, although it was a feeling that he knew he would have eventually, he didn't think that it would come this fast.
"I try not to think about it too much," Fogg said. "It's a crazy thought because it went by so fast."
Fogg is coming off a 16 point and 12 rebound effort in a win against the USC Trojans, and he is looking to have a similar performance in his last game against UCLA on Saturday.
Junior Solomon Hill has also had a successful career thus far for Arizona. Hill is currently the team's No. 2 scorer, the leading rebounder and the lead assist man. Hill also loves playing games at McKale. His main focus has been to protect the home court every game.
"It's a great atmosphere," Hill said. "It's unfortunate that we lost three games here this year, games that we could have won. But the atmosphere is great and I hope we can improve next year and be undefeated at home."
Since Hill has been a Wildcat, Arizona is 35-10 when playing at home. He gives credit to the crowd for that record.
"It's always the atmosphere," Hill said. "When you get a crowd behind you and you get a crowd that will cheer when you're down 10, it's amazing. They help us keep leads." Hill was in Arizona head coach Sean Miller's first recruiting class and was one of the top rated recruits in the country. When Hill decided to come play for Arizona, he knew about the history of Arizona and McKale Center. Hill also had high expectations of McKale because of the tradition that he knew Arizona had as a basketball program.
"I knew that it was the place to play," Hill said. "I knew about the players that came through here, I knew about the tradition and I knew about Coach Lute (Olson) and what they were trying to build here. I felt great about coming in with Coach Miller and the rest of this class and trying to start something new."
Hill also knew about the success that Arizona basketball had every year, specifically the 25-year streak where the Wildcats advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
"Arizona was always the school that you kept an eye on," Hill said. "We had that streak going where we were in the tournament every year, so you always have high expectations for a team like that."
Since this is the last series at McKale this year, Hill's focus is to get the five seniors two more wins at McKale and send them off on a high note.
"I have a lot of love for my seniors," Hill said. "It would be good to get these guys some tournament games. Get some games back under Jesse's belt, and get Fogg, Lavender and Dondre to end on a good note. But we need to finish strong and everyone knows that."
The Wildcats also have a freshman that is contributing more than expected. Angelo Chol is starting to produce to the point where he is one of the first guys to come off the bench and play significant minutes.
Chol is having the time of his life here at Arizona, and playing at McKale is one of the best experiences he has ever had in his basketball career.
"Playing here is amazing," Chol said. "The fans are always cheering for you and the energy is great inside McKale. I love the student section because it gives us more energy in the game."
Even though Chol has only been here for one year, he still has a moment in his career that he will remember for the rest of his life, which was the white out this year against Washington.
"My favorite moment so far has been the whiteout," Chol said. "Having College Gameday here and playing in front of all those fans was amazing."
Chol didn't know too much about the program but did know that former Wildcat Chase Budinger played at Arizona.
"I knew a little bit about it," said Chol. "I had high expectations because I knew that there were great players that have played here before like Chase Budinger because he also played in San Diego."
Chol is also looking to end the season on a high note, not only for himself and the team but also for the seniors.
"The season is coming to an end," Chol said. "We need to come back and win these next two games at McKale for the seniors since it's their last games.
The Wildcats are hoping to make the NCAA Tournament this year and are trying to finish off strong because their time at McKale has been so special, and they want to make sure that the seniors will always remember their last two games at McKale were victories.