Game 9: No. 10 Arizona (5-3) vs. Louisiana State (6-0)
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2000
Time: 8:30 p.m. MST
Location: McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Joe Nehls)
TV: FSN (Barry Tompkins/Dan Belluomini)
Game Data: Arizona (5-3) returns home to take on undefeated LSU (6-0) in McKale Center ... The Wildcats look to rebound from its first back-to-back non-conference losses since 1989-90 ... Look for the Wildcats to have revenge on its mind after LSU handed the squad its worst loss of the season last year (86-60) in Baton Rouge ... UA is 9-18 all-time against Southeastern Conference schools ... Arizona has scored 101 points and is shooting a combined 50.4 percent from the field in each of its last two home games ... Over the last two seasons, LSU is 18-0 in November and December.
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 619-222 (.736) and 427-130 (.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 189 of its last 200 home games ... He is assisted by Jim Rosborough, Rodney Tention, Jay John and undergraduate assistant Josh Pastner. Olson is 2-2 vs. Louisiana State.
Last Time Out: Illinois connected on 15-of-19 free throw attempts in the final 3:51 of the game and withstood a brief Arizona rally to earn the eight-point win. The Cats cut the lead to five with 16 seconds to go, but a missed free throw and two three-point attempts to sealed their fate. Arizona opened the second half with a 9-0 run to take a brief 41-38 lead, its only of the second half, before Cory Bradford scored five straight points to give the Illini a 43-41 lead with 14:57 to go. Michael Wright led all scorers with 21 points, while Loren Woods added a career-best five assists.
Scouting Louisiana State: The Tigers enter play this evening with a spotless 6-0 record after Saturday's 84-57 home win over New Orleans. LSU has been outstanding defensively this season, holding opponents to just 58.7 points and a .392 field goal percentage, while forcing an average of 21.5 turnovers. The Tigers average 83.8 points. shoot .492 from the floor and post a +3.0 rebound margin. Five LSU players average double figures, led by Ronald Dupree's 19.0 ppg average. He also leads the team with a 10.0 rebounds per game average.
The Series: Tonight's game is the fifth meeting of the two schools with each team posting two wins apiece. The home team has won each meeting of the series, which dates back to the 1990-91 campaign, including LSU's 86-60 win in Baton Rouge last year. Arizona is 2-0 in series games played in Tucson, 0-2 in Baton Rouge and 0-0 in neutral-site games.
Last UA-LSU Meeting: LSU handed Arizona its worst loss in the Lute Olson era in its 86-60 win on Jan. 29, 2000, in Baton Rouge. The Wildcats suffered its worst shooting performance of the year, connecting on just 33.9 percent (21-of-62) of its FG attempts. LSU's Stromile Swift poured in 29 points to lead a Tiger attack that shot 48.5 percent from the floor and forced 17 UA turnovers. Loren Woods posted 12 points and 11 boards, while Michael Wright chipped in with 14 points.
Consistent Production: Michael Wright posted game-high totals of 21 points and seven rebounds in UA's 81-73 loss to No. 5 Illinois. Wright was 8-of-12 from the floor and added an assist in 32 minutes of action. For Wright, it was 59th career double-figure scoring game and the 15th 20-point game of his career. The junior forward has scored in double figures in 21 of his last 22 games dating back to last season, including all eight this year. He is the only UA player to have scored in double figures in all eight games this year. Wright has also led the Wildcats in rebounding in six of eight games this year. He leads the team in scoring (18.3) and rebounding (9.9), while he ranks second in FG percentage (.585) and FT percentage (.808).
Get back on the left side of the ledger: Saturday's loss to Illinois marked the first time the program has lost consecutive non-conference games since the 1989-90 season. The last time Arizona lost two straight non-conference games (it actually lost three straight that season) happened in a 100-92 loss at Pittsburgh on Jan. 27, 1990; a 95-87 loss at UNLV on Feb. 18, 1990; and a 78-76 loss at Duke on Feb. 25, 1990. As with the current streak, each of those losses came away from home.
Counterproductive: Not completely coincidental, each of Arizona's three losses this season have come in the squad's three lowest scoring games. In addition to Saturday's 73-point output in the loss to Illinois, the Cats were held to a season-low of 69 points in the losses vs. Purdue (Nov. 24) and at Connecticut (Dec. 9).
It's Good to be Home: After traveling 16,502 miles in November and December, the Cats will spend most of the next six weeks at home. All told, nine of the team's next 11 games are in McKale Center, where the team has won 189 of its last 200 (.945) home contests.
Back at It: Center Loren Woods continues to round into shape, as he scored 15 points (9-of-10 FTs) to go with four rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals vs. Illinois. The five assists were a new career high, while his nine free throws equaled a career best. It was his first double-figure effort of the year (in two games) and the 24th while at Arizona.
Mr. Outside: By connecting on 3-of-9 three-point attempts vs. Illinois, Jason Gardner continues to lead the squad with 24 treys and a 42.9 three-point FG percentage. Gardner has made at least two treys in each of the Wildcats' eight games this season. He is the only player on the squad with a trey in each game to date. Dating back to last season, he has at least one trey in 18 straight games.
All-Around Effort: Sophomore Luke Walton continues to be a productive force. Not only does he lead the team with 16 steals and a 2.42 assist:turnover ratio, but he also ranks second with a 5.4 rebounds per game average and 29 assists. Through eight games Walton is averaging 6.9 ppg.
Multiple Contributions: Richard Jefferson posted a career-high three steals vs. Illinois. He also hit 5-of-10 shots from the floor and finished with 10 points, his fifth double-figure effort of the year, and seven rebounds. The three steals doubled his output for the year.
Assisting The Cause: Through eight games this year, Arizona has posted a 1.03 assist:turnover ratio. Including Saturday's game, where the Wildcats collected 19 assists with just 14 TOs, UA has posted positive assist:turnover ratios in six of eight games this season. Individually, four players have positive ratios, led by Luke Walton.
From the Line: Getting to the line has always been a staple of the UA offense and this year is no different. The Wildcats average 19.3 made free throws per game, five more than the opposition. That is 33.1 percent of the team's +15.1 scoring margin. Arizona leads the Pac-10 Conference in free throws made with 154 and ranks second in percentage at .733.
A Quiet Leader: One of the most overlooked players on the UA roster may be senior Justin Wessel. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native is averaging 3.3 points and 2.8 rebounds in 15 minutes of play per game. He leads the team in field goal percentage at .650 (13-of-20).
Forcing Turnovers: In its last four games, the Arizona defense has forced a total of 75 turnovers, including a opponent-high 24 against Saint Mary's on Dec. 2. On the year, UA has forced the opposition into 145 miscues, an average of 18.1 per game. To date, UA has a +2.2 turnover margin.
Continuing his Climb: With his 21 points on Saturday, Michael Wright moved into 27th place on UA's career scoring list with 1,076 points. Just ahead of Wright at the moment is Joseph Blair (1992-96) who totaled 1,086 career points and ranks 26th in UA scoring history.
A Top-10 Club: Despite falling to No. 10 in the current Associated Press Top 25, Arizona still has the longest active streak in the country in terms of number of consecutive week in the top 10. The Wildcats have been ranked in the AP top 10 for 25 consecutive polls, dating back to last season. That streak includes all 19 polls last year and six this season.
Different Combinations: In trying to find a consistent starting roatation, Lute Olson has used five different starting lineups through the first eight games. Michael Wright and Jason Gardner are the only two players to start every game. In comparison, Coach Olson used just two different lineups through the first eight games last year.
Against the SEC: While Arizona does have an all-time mark of 9-18 vs. the Southeastern Conference, the Cats have won five of the last six against the league. Of the UA's nine wins all-time, eight of those have come under Lute Olson.
Road Draw: Arizona continues to be quite a road draw in the non-conference portion of its schedule. In six games away from home, the Wildcats have played to a combined 101 percent capacity in four different venues with six sellouts. Arizona drew 2,500 fans to each of three dates at the Lahaina Civic Center (2,400 capacity) at the Maui Invitational; 17,523 at Conseco Fieldhouse (17,339); 10,027 at Gampel Pavilion (10,027); and 21,885 at the United Center (21,711). That's a grand total of 56,935 fans, or 658 above capacity. Arizona's home attendance is 28,892 for an average of 14,446. That's 99.3 percent of capacity.
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: The WIldcats will be idle for eight days surrounding the Christmas holiday. The team returns to action on Thurs., Dec. 28, to host the Bank One Fiesta Bowl Classic. Arizona hosts Butler at 6:30 MST and the game will be televised on Fox Sports Net Arizona. The Classic also features Louisiana-Lafayette and Mississippi State.