Game 6: No. 5 Arizona (4-1) vs. Saint Mary's (0-4)
Date: Saturday, Dec. 2, 2000
Time: 6 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: The Wildcats (4-1) host Saint Mary's College (0-4) in this, the second of two games this week against West Coast Conference foes ... Wednesday's 101-87 win over Gonzaga raised the Arizona record to 11-10 against WCC schools ... It was also the first time the squad had topped the century mark since Feb. 5, 1998 ... Following this contest, the Cats hit the road for two games sandwiched around final exams, Dec. 9 at No. 16 Connecticut and Dec. 16 vs. No. 9 Illinois in Chicago ... Pending first round results at the Bank One Fiesta Bowl Classic, it's possible that each of Arizona's next five opponents participated in last year's NCAA Tournament.
The Rankings: UA slipped to 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.
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 618-220 (.737) and 426-128 (.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 260-26 (.909) in McKale Center and have won 188 of their last 199 home games ... He is assisted by Jim Rosborough, Rodney Tention, Jay John and undergraduate assistant Josh Pastner. Olson is 0-0 vs. Saint Mary's College.
Last Time Out: The Wildcats parlayed a 34-14 free throw advantage into a 13-point win as the team bounced back from its first loss of the season. Gonzaga shot 52.5 percent from the floor, including 11-of-13 from three-point range, and outrebounded Arizona, 35-33, but couldn't overcome 32 personal fouls and 21 turnovers. Gilbert Arenas scored seven points in a 9-0 run late in the game to break an 82-82 tie. All told, UA outscored the Zags, 19-5, in the game's last 5:08. Michael Wright, who led all scorers with 25 points, was 11-of-13 from the stripe, while Gene Edgerson went 8-for-8.
Scouting Saint Mary's: Saint Mary's enters play today with an 0-4 record after Sunday's 82-68 loss to San Jose State and has lost those four games by an average of 21.0 points per game. As a team, the Gaels shoot 38.2 percent from the floor and 66.2 percent from the line and are averaging 64.8 points per game. Individually, freshman Ross Benson leads the team with averages of 11.3 points and 7.0 rebounds.
The Series: This is the fourth meeting of the schools with Saint Mary's holding a 2-1 series advantage. The Gaels captured the last meeting, 71-64, played during the 1951-52 season in Tucson. The first two meetings were played at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. SMC won the inaugural meeting, 58-50, during the 1948-49 campaign, while Arizona triumphed, 67-57, in 1949-50.
Century Mark: Not only was Arizona's 101-point offensive output its highest of the season, but was also the first time the Cats topped the century mark since scoring 112 points on Feb. 5, 1998, against Washington, a span of 80 games. It was also the 81st 100-point game in Arizona history.
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 1,022 career points and trails Matt Othick (1989-92) for 28th place at 1,055 points.
Player of the Week: Michael Wright was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week after averaging 16.8 points and 12.5 rebounds in UA's four games last week. He earned Maui Invitational MVP honors after posting averages of 16.3 points and 13.7 rebounds in the three-game tournament, including two double-doubles. In the season opener vs. Chaminade, Wright tallied 15 points and a Maui Invitational-record 19 boards. He followed that with 18 points and 13 rebounds in the win over Dayton and totaled 16 points and nine rebounds vs. No. 8 Illinois. He closed the week with 18 points (on 7-of-11 FG shooting) and nine boards last Saturday against Purdue. It was the second time in his career that Wright has been so honored.
From the Line: One of the keys to victory in Wednesday's win was UA's 34-14 free throw advantage. It was the most made FTs in a game for Arizona since March 4, 1999, vs. USC in an 88-73 win. In that game, the Cats hit 35-of-48 attempts. In hitting 34-of-39 charity attempts vs. Gonzaga, Arizona improved to 99-of-128 (.773) on the year. Incidentally, Arizona has now made as many free throws as the opponents have attempted (99).
Off the Bench: Bolstered by Gilbert Arenas' 21 points on Wednesday, the UA bench outscored Gonzaga, 33-9 in the win. It was just the second time this season that the UA bench has outscored an opponent (Chaminade). In five games to date, UA's bench has been outscored by an 84-83 count.
Assisting the Cause: With the trio of Richard Jefferson, Luke Walton and Jason Gardner combining for 18 assists, the Wildcats posted a season-best 21:13 assist to turnover ratio. Since the start of last season, Arizona is 13-4 when registering more assists than turnovers in a game.
On the Rebound: Richard Jefferson rebounded well from an 0-for-6 performance at Purdue to score a season-high 20 points, grab eight rebounds and add seven assists. He was 6-for-11 from the floor and 6-for-6 from the line in reaching 20 points for the fourth time in his career.
A Shot-Blocking Presence: His defensive abilities have never been questioned, but against Gonzaga Lamont Frazier added a new dimension to his defense with a career-high two blocked shots. Perhaps he's trying to fill the void left by Loren Woods' suspension, as the 6-foot-3 guard ranks third on the squad with three blocks.
Far Sighted: Who knows, maybe it's eyesight that has caused Jason Gardner to connect on a robust 45.7 percent of his three-point attempts (16-of-35) to lead the team. Interestingly, though, Gardner has made just 2-of-14 (.143) FG attempts from inside the three-point line.
Filling It Up: Luke Walton continues to produce whether or not he comes off the bench or starts. In earning his second start of the year against Gonzaga, Walton tallied a season-high 10 points, grabbed nine boards, and added six assists (no turnovers), three steals and a block. In the last two games, Walton is averaging 9.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He ranks second on the team with 17 assists.
Topping 20: Michael Wright's 25-point effort on Wednesday was the 16th 20-point game of his career. The outcome is usually positive when he goes for at least 20, as the squad is 14-2 when Wright accomplishes the feat.
Decisive: Credit Gilbert Arenas with sparking the team two victory Wednesday, as the sophomore guard tallied seven of the Cats' nine points in the decisive 9-0 run to break open the game. Arenas' seven consecutive points came in a span of 1:40 in the second half.
Dropping dimes: Jason Gardner amassed five assists in Wednesday's win over Gonzaga to continue a career-long trend. He has posted at least five assists in a game 17 times in his 39-game career and the team is 14-3 in those games. Interestingly, he ranks third on the squad with 16 assists.
Down the Stretch: Through five games this season, Arizona has connected on 77.3 percent of its free throw attempts. The club has been equally as good in late-game situations. In the Gonzaga game, UA was 8-for-11 from the line in the last five minutes to continue a season-long trend of marksmanship. In the last four games, Arizona is 29-of-35 (.829) from the line in the last 5:00 of the second half.
Forcing Turnovers: The Arizona defense forced Gonzaga into a season-high 21 turnovers in Wednesday's game. On the year, UA has forced the opposition into 91 miscues this year, an average of 18.2 per game. To date, UA has a +2.8 turnover margin.
Subtle Contributions: One player that continues to make subtle, but important, contributions is freshman Travis Hanour. In six minutes vs. the Zags, Hanour hit 2-of-3 FG attempts and grabbed a rebound. In four games this year, Hanour has hit 50.0 percent of his attempts from the field (4-of-8) and all four free throws to go with eight rebounds and two blocks.
STARTING AGAIN: With Loren Woods out for the first six games of the season, senior Justin Wessel has again stepped into the starting lineup at center. "The Weaze," as he is known to teammates and fans, started eight games last season and seven the year before in spot duty. In the first five games of this season, Wessel averaged 3.2 ppg and 3.0 rpg. Over the past three seasons, Arizona is 17-3 when Wessel starts.
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.
NBA Update: With the NBA season underway, here is a list of former Wildcats currently on active rosters in the National Basketball Association: Mike Bibby (Vancouver), Jud Buechler (Detroit), Michael Dickerson (Vancouver), Sean Elliott (San Antonio), Steve Kerr (San Antonio), Chris Mills (Golden State), Sean Rooks (Los Angeles Clippers), Damon Stoudamire (Portland) and Jason Terry (Atlanta).
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.).
Wildcats on TV in 2000-01: Arizona will once again receive extensive television coverage, as 31 games are scheduled to be televised live in 2000-01. The schedule features 14 national appearances with seven games offered nationally on Fox Sports Net, four games slated for CBS-TV, four on ESPN and one on ABC-TV. Fox Sports Net Arizona will also produce 16 games to be shown in the Arizona market, including three appearances on Tucson's KWBA-TV 58.
Up Next: The Wildcats have a week off until traveling to Storrs, Conn., to play next Saturday, Dec. 2, at Connecticut. The game is scheduled for a 4 p.m. EST tip-off and will be televised nationally on CBS-TV.