Game 10: No. 10 Arizona (6-3) vs. Butler (5-3)
Date: Thursday, Dec. 28, 2000
Time: 6:30 p.m. MST
Location: McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Joe Nehls)
TV: FSNA (Dave Sitton/Bob Elliott)
Game Data: Arizona (6-3) continues its current five-game homestand by hosting the 16th annual Bank One Fiesta Bowl Classic in McKale Center ... Three of the four teams in the field participated in last season's NCAA Tournament ... Arizona is 30-0 all-time in the Fiesta Bowl Classic and has captured the team title in each of the previous 15 seasons ... The Widcats' average margin of victory in 15 first-round Classic games is 26.1 points ... Arizona is averaging 96.7 points in three home games this season ... Arizona is a combined 3-0 all-time against the three clubs in this tournament field.
The Rankings: UA dropped to No. 10 in the Associated Press poll and to No. 8 in this week's 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 97 consecutive weeks, the longest active streak in the nation. The Cats have been ranked in 224 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 620-222 (.736) and 428-130 (.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 261-26 (.909) in McKale Center and have won 190 of its last 201 home games ... He is assisted by Jim Rosborough, Rodney Tention, Jay John and undergraduate assistant Josh Pastner. Olson is 0-0 vs. Butler.
Last Time Out: After a sluggish start last Wednesday, Arizona blistered the nets with 58.1 percent shooting in the second half (a season best) to outscore LSU, 44-28, earn the 13-point win and snap a two-game losing streak. Led by Gilbert Arenas, who scored 16 of his season-high 24 points in the second half, the Cats broke open the game with a 24-7 run midway through the second. Arenas was the key in the run scoring 11 points, including 10 consecutive at one stretch. He was 8-for-12 from the field for the game to go with a career-best five treys, and was one of five UA players to score in double figures.
Scouting Butler: The Bulldogs enter the week with a 5-3 mark after an 84-60 win over Santa Clara on Dec. 20. Butler has lost those three games by an average of 2.7 points. As a team the Bulldogs shoot a robust 50.1 percent (205-of-409) and average 75.3 points per game and have scored at least 70 points in seven of eight games to date. A very balanced team, six Butler players average in double figures, led by LaVall Jordan's 12.9 ppg 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, 108-92, in Tucson . Arizona is 1-0 in series games played in Tucson, 0-0 in Indianapolis and 0-0 in neutral-site games.
Second Half Flourish: Gilbert Arenas helped Arizona snap a two-game losing streak in leading the Wildcats to an 88-75 win over LSU. He scored 18 of his season-high 24 points in the second half as UA pulled away for the win. Arenas hit 8-of-12 shots from the floor, including a career-best 5-of-8 from three-point range, in keying a 24-7 run to break open the game. He scored 11 points in the decisive run and at one point poured in 10 consecutive UA points in 1:56 of that run to turn a five-point deficit into a three-point lead. All told, Arenas went 6-for-7 from the floor in the second half and pulled down four of his five boards after the break.
Playing the Percentages: In last Wednesday's game vs. LSU, Arizona used a season-best 58.1 second half field goal percentage (18-for-31) to help outscore the Tigers, 44-28, and secure the 13-point win. The effort helped UA shoot 50.8 percent for the game, marking the third time this season the team has posted a shooting percentage of 50 percent or better. UA also clamped down defensively in the second half vs. LSU, limiting the visitors to just 32.0 percent after the half.
Comfortable surroundings: Maybe the comforts of home do mean something. After playing six of its nine games away from home to start the season, one can see a marked difference in UA the statistics at McKale Center. In three home games this season, the Wildcats are shooting 50.5 percent (97-of-192) from the floor and 78.3 percent (72-of-92) from the line, while averaging 96.7 points per game. Those numbers are decidedly better than the overall season statistics in the same three categories: 46.5 FG percentage, 74.0 FT percentage and 83.7 points per game.
On the Perimeter: On the strength of its guard combination of Gilbert Arenas and Jason Gardner, Arizona posted its best three-point shooting effort of the season. Arenas (5-of-8) and Gardner (4-of-5) combined to hit 9-of-13 shots from behind the arc to lead the team to a season-best effort of 11-of-22 (.500). The team was 6-for-8 from three-point range in the second half. It was the first time this season that the squad had reached double figures in three-point field goals and just the second time since the start of last season.
Dropping Dimes: Arizona collected a season-high 22 assists in the win over LSU, marking the third time this year that the squad has totaled at least 20 assists. Luke Walton and Jason Gardner each tallied five assists apiece as the Cats posted a positive assist:turnover ratio for the fourth time in the last five games. Furthermore, 73.3 percent of Arizona's field goals came credited with an assist, the highest percentage of the season. Arizona is 16-4 over the last two seasons when Gardner posts at least five assists in a game.
Board Meetings: The Wildcats outrebounded yet another opponent on Wednesday, posting a 37-25 rebound advantage over LSU. It was the sixth time in nine games that the Cats have outboarded an opponent. On the year, Arizona has a +8.6 rebound margin. The 25 rebounds allowed to LSU were a season low for a UA opponent. Incidentally, UA has posted a double-figure rebound margin four times this year.
Team Leader: By connecting on 4-of-5 three-point attempts vs. LSU, Jason Gardner continues to lead the squad with 28 treys and a 45.9 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 19 straight games with at least one trey dating back to last season.
Juggling the Lineup: In a search for consistency, Arizona has used six different starting lineups in nine games. Only Michael Wright and Jason Gardner have started all nine games. Incidentally, Gene Edgerson earned the start in Wednesday's game and is now 2-0 this season when starting. It was the ninth career start for Edgerson and UA is 9-0 in those games.
Topping 20: Gilbert Arenas' 24-point effort vs. LSU signaled the fourth time this season that a UA player had broken the 20-point plateau. It was also Arenas' first 20-point effort of the season and the ninth of his career.
Steady Improvement: Senior Loren Woods continues to be more assertive with each passing game. The center scored a season-high 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go with a season-best six boards and two blocks. He's now averaging 13.7 points in three games and has connected on 10-of-17 (.588) FG attempts in the last two games.
Zeroing In: Forward Richard Jefferson has also stepped up the productivity recently. In the last two games, the junior from Phoenix has hit 10-of-18 (.556) field goal attempts. He has also been more active on the glass, grabbing 12 boards in that span.
From the Line: The Wildcats continue to do a good job of capitalizing on its free throw attempts. The squad hit 15-of-16 first-half attempts en route to a 17-of-21 (.810) performance vs. LSU. On the year, Arizona leads the Pacific-10 Conference in made free throws with 171 and ranks second in percentage at .740. Overall, 22.7 percent of the team's offense this season has come from the free throw line.
Front Line Production: One of the keys to victory could be the rebounding production of the starting front line. In the six wins, the starting front line combination has averaged 20.5 rebounds per game, while in the three losses the front line has averaged just 13.3 rebounds. Additionally, UA's three lowest front line rebounding totals have come in the team's three losses (12 vs. Purdue; 13 at Connecticut; 15 vs. Illinois).
A Top-10 Club: Despite falling to No. 10 in the current (Dec. 20) AP Top 25, Arizona still has 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 includes all 19 polls last year and six this year.
Against the Fiesta Bowl Field: As mentioned earlier, Arizona has a cumulative 3-0 record against the tournament field. The Wildcats are 1-0 against each school. UA is also a combined 87-67 (.565) against the three conferences represented...68-46 vs. the Sun Belt, 9-3 vs. the Midwestern Collegiate and 10-18 vs. the Southeastern Conference.
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.
Continuing his Climb: With his 13 points on Wednesday, Michael Wright moved into 26th place on UA's career scoring list with 1,089 points. Just ahead of Wright at the moment in 25th place is A.J. Bramlett (1996-99) who totaled 1,098 career 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 concludes play in the Bank One Fiesta Bowl Classic on Saturday against either Louisiana-Lafayette or Mississippi State. Game time is scheduled for either 3:15 or 5:30 p.m. MST depending on Thursday's outcome. 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.