Game 11: No. 12 Arizona (7-3) vs. Mississippi State (7-2)
Date: Saturday, Dec. 30, 2000 Time: 5:30 p.m. MST
Location: Lute Olson Court at McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Joe Nehls)
TV: FSNA (Dave Sitton/Bob Elliott)
Game Data: Twelfth-ranked Arizona (7-3) hosts Mississippi State (7-2) in the championship game of the 16th annual Bank One Fiesta Bowl Classic ... The Wildcats have won the previous 15 Fiesta Bowl titles and are 31-0 all-time in Classic play ... The Wildcats' average margin of victory in 15 Fiesta Bowl Classic title games is 18.0 points with five games decided by 10 points or less ... Arizona is 10-18 (.357) all-time vs. Southeastern Conference opponents, but 1-0 (LSU) this season ... Under Lute Olson, Arizona has a 69-10 (.873) record in in-season tournament competition ... Happy New Year!!
The Rankings: UA dropped to No. 12 in the current Associated Press poll and to No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll. Arizona opened the year as the nation's top-ranked team in the media and coaches polls. Incidentally, UA has been ranked in the AP top 25 for 98 consecutive weeks, the longest active streak in the nation. The Cats have been ranked in 225 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 621-222 (.737) and 429-130 (.767)... 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 263-26 (.910) in McKale Center and have won 191 of its last 202 home games ... He is assisted by Jim Rosborough, Rodney Tention, Jay John and undergraduate assistant Josh Pastner. Olson is 1-0 vs. Mississippi State.
Last Time Out: Arizona held sharpshooting Butler to just 39.7 percent from the floor, 10.6 percent lower than its season percentage, and handed the Bulldogs its worst loss of the season. Loren Woods played his best game of the year, totaling 25 points (9-of-11 FGs) and nine boards, to go with three blocks. Woods tallied eight of his points in a 13-2 run over the final 6:44 to break open what was a very tight game. He was one of three UA players to finish in double figures as the Cats moved to 31-0 all-time in Fiesta Bowl Classic games.
Scouting Mississippi State: Mississippi State comes into tonight's championship game riding a four-game win streak after Thursday's 90-80 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. State has been excellent defensively this season, limiting opponents to 38.9 percent shooting and 69.1 points, while posting a +13.8 rebound margin. Four MSU players average in double figures, led by Robert Jackson's 13.6 ppg mark. Jackson also leads the Bulldogs with a 9.9 rebounds per game average.
The Series: Tonight's game is the second meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 1-0 series advantage. The only previous meeting came early in the 1970-71 season when the Cats triumphed, 77-75, in the championship game of the Poinsettia Classic in Greenville, S.C. Arizona is 0-0 in series games played in Tucson, 0-0 in Starkville and 1-0 in neutral-site games.
Less Than 80: Thursday's 72-60 win over Butler marked just the 10th time in 31 Bank One Fiesta Bowl games that Arizona had scored less than 80 points. In fact, Thursday's 72-point output was Arizona's sixth-lowest point total in the tournament's 15-plus year history. Here is a look at the Cats' 10 lowest scoring Classic games: 53, vs. Texas Tech, Dec. 29, 1986
54, vs. Princeton, Dec. 27, 1985
66, vs. North Carolina-Wilmington, Dec. 28, 1999
70, vs. St. Bonaventure, Dec. 27, 1986
71, vs. Boston College, Dec. 28, 1985
72, vs. Butler, Dec. 28, 2000
74, vs. Penn State, Dec. 28, 1989
75, vs. West Virginia, Dec. 30, 1992
78, vs. Michigan State, Dec. 29, 1987
79, vs. Rutgers, Dec. 30, 1995
After the Break: For the second game in a row, Arizona used stellar shooting in the second half to break open a close game. Thursday vs. Butler, the Cats used a season best 62.5 FG percentage (15-of-24) after the break to help secure the win. Over the past two games, Arizona has connected on 33-of-55 (.600) of its field goal attempts in the second half. The Wildcats have outscored the opposition, 84-60, in the second half of the last two games.
Controlling the boards: The Cats continue to do a good job of controlling the boards. UA outrebounded Butler, 44-22, to mark the third time this year that the squad has posted a +20 rebound advantage on an opponent. In holding Butler to a season opponent-low of 22 rebounds, Arizona had a 28-9 rebound advantage at halftime. On the year, Arizona has a +9.9 rebound advantage.
Showing Improvement: Loren Woods continues to show improvement with each passing game. Woods keyed the win over Butler by scoring eight of his points in the decisive 13-2 run to close the game. He finished with a season-high 25 points on 9-of-11 FG shooting to go with nine boards and three blocks. It was his third straight double-figure effort of the season and the seventh time in his UA career that he has scored at least 20 points in a game.
Off the Bench: One of the most overlooked performers in Thursday's win may have been John Ash. The senior guard saw seven minutes of action without committing a turnover and connected on 1-of-2 free throws. He was also solid on the defensive end. Ash has been slowed this season by a sore back.
That's Offensive: If Gene Edgerson is known for one thing, it's his tenacity on the glass. Edgerson posted his second-best rebounding effort of the season on Thursday when he collected eight caroms. Interestingly enough, six of his eight rebounds vs. Butler were on the offensive end and all came in the first half. In terms of offensive rebounds at the break, Edgerson had outdone Butler, 6-2.
Team Leader: By connecting on 3-of-7 three-point attempts vs. Butler, Jason Gardner continues to lead the squad with 31 treys and a 45.6 three-point FG percentage. Gardner has made at least two treys in each of the Wildcats' nine games this season. He has a string of 20 straight games with at least one trey dating back to last season.
Not So Close: In marching to a 31-0 Fiesta Bowl Classic record, Arizona has an average winning margin of 21.7 points in those games. Close games have been few and far between. The last time Arizona had a first round game decided by less than 10 points came on Dec. 28, 1991, in an 83-76 win over Evansville.
20-point plateau: Loren Woods' 25-point effort vs. Butler marked the fifth time this season that a UA player had broken the 20-point plateau. It was four points shy of his career high.
Marksman: Junior Michael Wright has quietly risen to the top of Arizona's field goal percentage chart. Going 5-for-6 from the field vs. Butler raised his season FG percentage to a team-leading 59.8 percent (58-of-97). He has also been solid from the free throw line, connecting on 59-of-71 attempts (.831). Wright has made more free throws than any other Wildcat has attempted.
From the Line: The Wildcats continue to do a good job of capitalizing on its free throw attempts. The squad hit 21-of-29 (.724) charity attempts vs. Butler and outscored the Bulldogs by 13 from the line. It was the third time this season that the Cats have posted a +10 or better scoring margin from the free throw line.
Off the Mark: Gilbert Arenas' two points in Thursday's game marked the lowest offensive output in his 44 game career. It marked the third time this season and the sixth time in his career that he had been held to less than 10 points. But you can expect the sophomore to bounce back because he has averaged 16.4 points in games immediately following single-digit efforts, including a high of 24 vs. LSU on Dec. 20.
Continuing his Climb: With his 16 points on Wednesday, Michael Wright moved into 25th place on UA's career scoring list with 1,105 points. Just ahead of Wright at the moment in 24th place is Phil Taylor (1975-78) who totaled 1,127 career points.
Olson Honors: UA head coach Lute Olson will be given the John R. Wooden Award Legends of Coaching award. The award was adopted by the Wooden Award Committee in 1999, and recognizes the lifetime achievement of coaches who exemplify Coach Wooden's high standards of coaching success and personal achievement. Olson will be honored at the 25th annual John R. Wooden Awards program.
Home Sweet Home: Since a 66-64 loss to UCLA on Feb. 13, 1997, Arizona is 51-1 (.981) in its last 52 home games. Included in the run are two undefeated seasons and a 16-1 campaign in 1999-2000. The only loss in that span was a 70-68 decision to New Mexico on Dec. 21 of last season.
No Longer A Top-10 Club: Falling to No. 12 in the current (Dec. 25) AP Top 25 poll ended the longest active streak in the country in terms of number of consecutive weeks in the top 10. UA has been ranked in the AP top 10 for 25 consecutive polls, dating back to 1999-2000. The streak included all 19 polls last year and six this year.
A Measure of Quality: Of the 40 teams (not counting Arizona) that have made a total of 45 appearances in the Bank One Fiesta Bowl Classic, 10 have made NCAA Tournament appearances in that same season.
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.). It was ranked as the ninth-best recruiting class in the nation by Clark Francis' Hoop Scoop magazine
Stanford Game Time Set: The start time for the Jan. 6 game with Stanford has been set by CBS-TV. The Pac-10 matchup will tip at 11 a.m. MST in McKale Center and be part of the network's split national package prior to the National Football League's AFC Divisional Playoff.
Up Next: Following the New Year's holiday, the Wildcats open Pac-10 play in McKale Center on Thursday, Jan. 4 vs. California. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. MST and will televised on KWBA-TV.