The Arizona Wildcats closed out their first home sweep of the Pac-12 season on Saturday night by taking down the Colorado Buffaloes by nine points.
When looking at the stat sheet, one of the biggest things that jumps out about that game is the free throw disparity. Arizona was 26-of-33 from the line, while the Buffs were just 10-of-14. CU had 25 fouls called on it compared to the Cats’ 16.
So why the huge difference?
Part of it is that Arizona has learned to defend without fouling thanks to the extended stretch of having just seven scholarship players available.
But according to Colorado head coach Tad Boyle, part of it also has to do with the McKale Center crowd, and Sean Miller.
“Number one, they’re good defensively,” Boyle said to me after the game. “They’re very disciplined, they’re vertical.”
“And their fans get ‘em some calls. Their coach gets ‘em some calls.”
“I’m just being real. You asked the question and I’m gonna answer it. That’s not to take anything away from how good they are defensively; got a lot of respect for ‘em.”
During this weekend, Arizona took 50 free throws, while its opponents only took 18. The Wildcats had 24 fouls called on them. Colorado and Utah had 42 called on them.
“The ability for them to chuck cutters in the first half affected our team a lot,” Boyle continued. “It was one of the reasons for our inability to get to the foul line, but you just have to overcome that when you’re on the road, and understand that it’s going to be called differently night in and night out. Sometimes that’s gonna go your way, and many times, especially in this building against Arizona, it’s not, and you have to overcome that.”
“It’s just part of it,” coach added. “I’m not complaining. I’m not making excuses. I’m just answering your question.”
So far this season, the Wildcats have taken 381 free throws compared to its opponents 271. Arizona and Colorado have actually taken the exact same number of free throws, and the Buffs have played one fewer game.
In nine home games, Arizona has a 218 to 118 advantage in that category. So in the other eight away/neutral site games, they are only +10 at the free throw line.
Is there a little bit of truth to what Boyle’s saying? Probably. But all teams benefit from being at home in certain ways. Arizona’s advantage is more distinct because of the McKale atmosphere compared to just about every other team in the region.
Just one more reason why it’s extremely tough for opposing teams to come to Tucson and win games.