Game 7: No. 5 Arizona (5-1) at No. 15 Connecticut (6-1)
Date: Saturday, Dec. 9, 2000
Time: 4 p.m. EST
Location: Harry A. Gampel Pavilion (10,027), Storrs, Conn.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
TV: CBS (Jim Nantz/Billy Packer)
Game Data: The Wildcats (5-1) travel to Storrs, Conn., to take on No. 15 Connecticut (6-1) in its first true road game of the season ... Connecticut is the second ranked team the Cats have faced this season (No. 8 Illinois) ... The Arizona offense comes in red hot, as the team has topped the century mark in each of its last two games ... UA is 22-11 all-time against Big East schools ... Pending first round results at the upcoming Bank One Fiesta Bowl Classic, it's possible that each of Arizona's next five opponents participated in last year's NCAA Tournament ... Last year, UA was 2-1 on CBS-TV.
The Rankings: UA held steady at No. 5 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Polls. Arizona opened the season as the nation's top-ranked team in the media and coaches polls. Incidentally, UA has been ranked in the AP top 25 for 95 consecutive weeks, the longest active streak in the nation. The program has also been ranked in 222 consecutive AP polls released during the regular season.
Arizona Head Coach Lute Olson . . . is in his 18th season at Arizona and his 28th overall as a head coach with a career record of 619-220 (.738) and 427-128 (.769)... He recorded his 600th career win and his 400th victory at Arizona last year and has the fourth most Pac-10 wins in history, trailing UCLA's John Wooden (304, 1949-75), Oregon State's Slats Gill (276, 1929-64) and Washington's Hec Edmundson (266, 1921-47)... He has the second-best conference winning percentage in Pac-10 history (minimum three years), trailing only Wooden (.810/304-74) ... During his 17-year tenure at Arizona, the Wildcats have won one national championship (1997), gone to three Final Fours (1988, 1994, 1997), won nine Pac-10 Conference titles and been to the NCAA Tournament for the past 16 years in a row, which is the second-longest streak in NCAA history (North Carolina, 26)... He also led Iowa to the 1980 Final Four... Olson has been named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year six times (1986, 88, 89, 93, 94, 98), the Big 10 Coach of the Year twice (1979 & 81) and directed the UA program to the nation's best winning percentage over the past 13 years... In his collegiate career, he has produced 35 NBA Draft picks, including 20 at Arizona 15 alone on the 1990s... He has led Arizona to 13 consecutive 20-win seasons and has 22 overall in his career, making him one of only six head coaches in NCAA history to record 22 or more 20-win seasons... Under Olson, the Cats are 261-26 (.909) in McKale Center and have won 189 of its last 199 home games ... He is assisted by Jim Rosborough, Rodney Tention, Jay John and undergraduate assistant Josh Pastner. Olson is 0-1 vs. Connecticut.
Last Time Out: Arizona held Saint Mary's to just 25.0 percent shooting and handed the Gaels its worst loss in school history in a 101-41 win. The Cats jumped out to a 52-13 halftime advantage behind the offense of Gilbert Arenas and Jason Gardner. The duo combined for 29 first-half points and were 5-for-10 from behind the arc in the opening stanza. Luke Walton posted his second career double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds to go with a career-high six steals and five assists. He was one of four player in double figures for the Cats. Incidentally, nine of the 11 Wildcats to see action vs. Saint Mary's scored points.
Scouting Connecticut: The Huskies enter play this afternoon with a 6-1 record and No. 15 ranking after last Saturday's 97-70 home win over New Hampshire. Since returning from the Maui Invitational, UConn is 3-0 at Gampel Pavilion and won those games by an average of 16.3 points. As a team, Connecticut is averaging 81.3 points per game and posts a +9.7 rebound advantage. Individually, guard Albert Mouring leads the team with a 19.4 ppg average, while the forward combination of Caron Butler and Edmund Saunders averages 30.9 points and 18.4 rebounds between the two.
The Series: This is the second meeting of the schools with Connecticut holding a 1-0 series advantage. The Huskies captured the only previous meeting, 78-69, in Chicago on Dec. 7 of last season as part of the Great Eight.
Century Mark: It was a good week for the Wildcat offense, as the squad topped the 100-point barrier in wins over Gonzaga (101-87) and Saint Mary's (101-41). That marked the first time UA had notched 100 points in back-to-back games since Jan. 20-22, 1977, a span of 728 games. Arizona's 101 points against Gonzaga was the first time the Cats topped the century mark since scoring 112 points on Feb. 5, 1998, against Washington, a span of 80 games.
Miscellaneous Information: Arizona's 60-point win over Saint Mary's College tied for the third-largest margin of victory in school history. It was the fourth time in school history that UA had won by at least 60 points ... Additionally, SMC's first-half FG percentage of 17.9 percent (5-of-28) was the second lowest in McKale Center history. Only a 13.8 percent mark (4-of-29) by California on Jan. 7, 1988 topped the effort ... Luke Walton is the only UA player to have at least one block in each game this year.
Nice Effort: Luke Walton put together quite a week as the Cats picked up two wins at home by averaging 13.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists. He closed the week with his second career double-double with season-high totals of 16 points and 11 rebounds against St. Mary's to go with five assists, a career-high six steals (a UA team high this year) and a blocked shot. In the win over Gonzaga, Walton tallied 10 points and nine boards to go with six assists, three steals and a blocked shot. Walton played a combined 52 minutes last week and committed just one turnover. In his last three games, Walton is averaging 11.7 points, 9.3 boards and 4.7 assists. He leads the team with 22 assists and 14 steals and ranks second with a 5.7 rebounds per game average.
A Little Windex, Please: The Wildcats continue to do a great job of controlling the glass. In the win over St. Mary's, Arizona equaled a season high by posting a +29 rebound advantage. In four of six games to date, Arizona has posted at least a +5 rebound advantage over the opposition. On the year, Arizona is outrebounding the opposition by an average of 44.8-33.3.
FG Percentage Defense: UA held St. Mary's to just .250 FG shooting in Saturday's win, the lowest for an opponent this season. UA has held four of six opponents to less than 40 percent shooting. On the year, UA opponents are shooting a cumulative .387 from the field.
Filling In: In Loren Woods' absence, the trio of Michael Wright, Gene Edgerson and Luke Walton have done a great job of picking up the rebounding slack. It's no surprise that Wright leads the team with a 10.3 rpg average, but Edgerson and Walton are currently tied for second on the squad with 5.7 rpg averages.
Unselfish Play: Jason Gardner passed out six assists against St. Mary's, marking the third time this season he has tallied at least five assists. In his career, UA is 15-3 when Gardner has at least five assists in a game. Gardner also leads the Cats with 19 treys and a .442 3-point FG percentage. Interestingly, Gardner's 3-point FG percentage is .042 higher than his overall FG percentage.
A Shot-Blocking Presence: Michael Wright has been nothing if not consistent this season. The junior forward has scored in double-figures in all six games to date (the only UA player to do so), including a season-high 25 vs. Gonzaga. He hit 6-of-8 FG attempts against St. Mary's to raise his season FG percentage to .563. He has also been good from the line, connecting on 35-of-42 attempts (.833) this year.
Maybe It Was the Socks... that helped Lamont Frazier to one of his best games of the season. After wearing what looked to be a pair of Gene Edgerson's old school socks pulled up to the knees, the senior guard responded with a season-best eight points (4-of-4 FGs), two boards and two assists in a career-best 20 minutes of action.
Center Of Attention: Senior Eugene Edgerson earned just his eighth career start last Saturday and narrowly missed his second career double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds. He also added a season-best two assists in the win over Saint Mary's. Incidentally, it was Edgerson's seventh career double-figure rebounding game.
Finding the Range: After struggling a bit from the field in Maui, sophomore Gilbert Arenas has been much more accurate of late. In his last three games, Arenas is a combined 21-of-42 (.500) from the field. It has raised his season FG percentage to .471 which is nearly 20 points higher than his .453 FG percentage last year.
Quietly Going About His Business: One of the nation's top role players continues to play without much fanfare. Senior forward Justin Wessel has produced whether starting or coming off the bench. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native currently leads the team with a 62.5 FG percentage (10-of-16) and has grabbed at least six boards in three of six games this season. He started in five of six games in Loren Woods' absence. Over the past three seasons, Arizona is 17-3 when Wessel starts.
Help Off the Bench: Freshmen Travis Hanour and Michael Schwertley chipped in with career highs in the win over Saint Mary's. Hanour posted nine points and five rebounds, while Schwertley notched seven points, his first collegiate points, and added five boards. The duo was a combined 7-for-7 from the free throw line.
Toeing The Line: Through six games this season, Arizona has connected on 75.0 percent of its free throw attempts. The club has been good at getting to the line, as the Cats have made eight more free throws (120) than the opponents have attempted (112). Arizona has attempted at least 30 free throws in a game three times this season.
Forcing Turnovers: In its last two games, the Arizona defense has forced a total of 45 turnovers, including a opponent-high 24 on Saturday. On the year, UA has forced the opposition into 115 miscues, an average of 19.2 per game. To date, UA has a +3.2 turnover margin.
(Almost) Full Strength: With Richard Jefferson's playing status still in doubt (as of Monday), Arizona hasn't played a game at full strength in quite some time. Yes, Loren Woods missed the first six games this year due to an NCAA suspension, but the team's shorthanded status actually dates back to last season. When factoring injuries to Jefferson and Woods , the Wildcats haven't played a complete game at full strength since Jan. 6, 2000, at California. In the ensuing 26 games, the team has a 20-6 record.
Frequent Fliers: Building a non-conference schedule with quality opponents is nothing new for Arizona, but facing the majority of them away from home can be a challenge. If you combine the season-opening road trip to Maui and Indianapolis with trips to Storrs, Conn., and Chicago, the Arizona Wildcats will have traveled a total of 16,502 miles in its first six games away from home.
Millennium Man: In scoring a game-high 25 points in the win over Gonzaga, Michael Wright eclipsed the 1,000 point mark in his career. His basket at 18:44 of the first half gave him 1,001 career points and made him the 29th player in UA history to top the 1,000 point barrier. Wright now has 1,037 career points and trails Matt Othick (1989-92) for 28th place at 1,055 points.
Call them favorites: In the Pac-10 Conference's annual poll of media members, the Arizona Wildcats were a unanimous choice to finish first in the 2000-01 men's basketball race (see poll at left). Arizona received all 29 first place votes and 290 points overall to finish ahead of runner-up Stanford. In the last 11 years, the preseason winner of the poll has won or shared the actual league title nine times. UA has been the preseason favorite six other times.
Early Signees: Coach Olson and his staff signed five players to National Letters-of-Intent during the November early signing period: Wil Bynum (5-10, 170, G, Chicago, Ill./Crane Tech Prep), Channing Frye (6-10, 230, C, Phoenix, Ariz./St. Mary's H.S.), Isaiah Fox (6-9, 255, C, Santa Monica, Calif./Crossroads H.S.), Dennis Latimore (6-8, 230, F, Halsted, Kan./Halsted H.S.) and Salim Stoudamire (6-2, 175, G, Lake Oswego, Ore./Lake Oswego H.S.).
Up Next: Arizona has a week off for final exams before traveling to Chicago for a game against No. 9 Illinois at the United Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 11 a.m. CST and will be televised on ESPN.