Arizona’s student section has showed up and showed out the last few games, with players regularly citing their energy as helping in recent wins. But in the last two men’s basketball contests at McKale Center, the Zona Zoo has found itself getting involved in controversy.
A postgame incident Thursday night between some students and UCLA freshman Mac Etienne, which resulted in Etienne being arrested and cited for misdemeanor assault after allegedly spitting at fans, was followed up by several expletive-laden chants toward USC players during Saturday’s 72-63 victory.
The first of those, aimed at USC guard Boogie Ellis, came less than a minute into the game after he and Arizona’s Dalen Terry knocked heads going for a loose ball and resulted in both players going to their respective locker rooms to be evaluated before returning. UA athletic director Dave Heeke could be seen strolling through the Zona Zoo shortly after that, but the chants continued throughout the game.
UA coach Tommy Lloyd called the post-UCLA incident “disappointing, probably on both sides” but also said he didn’t know what led to it happening.
“I think we could all come to this deal, and we could be rowdy, have a damn good time, but I don’t think we need to get personal with student athletes, and I don’t I don’t even know if it was,” Lloyd said. “At Arizona, our goal should be to be the rowdiest, classiest fan base in the country.”
The Wildcats won’t play again at McKale until Feb. 17 against Oregon State, their next three games being on the road. The first of those is Monday at ASU, where the 942 Crew student section is known for its “Curtain of Distraction” gimmick behind the opponent’s basket during the second half.
“I hope their gym will be packed,” said UA’s Azuolas Tubelis, who hit the game-winning basket to beat the Sun Devils in Tempe last January.