Nov. 5, 2001
Date: Thursday, Nov. 8, 2001 Time: 9 p.m. EST Location: Madison Square Garden (19,763), New York, N.Y. Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen) TV: ESPN2 (Brad Nessler/Dick Vitale)
Game Data: Arizona (0-0, 0-0 Pac-10) opens the 2001-02 season against No. 2 Maryland (0-0, 0-0 ACC) in the first round of the fifth annual Coaches vs. Cancer IKON Classic ... Both teams were 2001 NCAA Final Four participants with the Wildcats finishing as NCAA runners-up and the Terrapins as semifinalists ... Arizona appears in the "World's Most Famous Arena" with five true freshmen and a redshirt freshman on its 11-man travel roster ... This is UA's 10th trip to Madison Square Garden (covering 12 games) and the Wildcats have a 7-5 record in the building.
The Rankings: Arizona opens 2001-02 without a top-25 ranking. The last time the Cats failed to appear in the coaches' poll was Feb. 26, 1990, a span of 202 ranking periods. UA finished the 2000-01 season ranked No. 2 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll and No. 5 in the Associated Press poll. Prior to this season, UA had been ranked in the AP top 25 for 109 straight weeks. Arizona has been ranked in 236 consecutive AP polls released during the regular season only.
Arizona Head Coach Lute Olson . . . enters his 19th season at Arizona and his 29th overall as a college head coach with a career record of 639-225 (.740) and 447-133 (.771) at Arizona ... He recorded his 600th career win and his 400th victory at Arizona during the 2000 campaign and has the fourth most Pac-10 wins (250) 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 18-year tenure at Arizona, the Wildcats have won one national championship (1997), played in the national championship game (2001), participated in four Final Fours (1988, 1994, 1997, 2001), won nine Pac-10 Conference titles and been to the NCAA Tournament for the past 17 years in a row, which is the second-longest streak in NCAA history (North Carolina, 27)... 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 14 years (377-87/.813) ... In his collegiate career, Olson has produced 35 NBA Draft picks, including 20 at Arizona - 15 alone since 1990 ... A Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame finalist in each of the last two years, Olson has led UA to 14 consecutive 20-win seasons and has 23 overall in his career, making him one of only seven head coaches in NCAA history to record 23 or more 20-win seasons... Under Olson, the Cats are 271-26 (.912) in McKale Center and have won 199 of its last 210 home games.
Last Time Out: Arizona shot 53.2 percent from the field and placed five players in double figures to earn a 112-96 win over the EA Sports All-Stars Sunday evening at McKale Center. The Cats used its quickness and accurate shooting to race to the 16-point win. Arizona connected on 41-of-77 (.532) attempts to stretch the lead to as many as 18 points in the second half. EA Sports never got closer than six points in the game's final 17 minutes. Leading the way for Arizona was freshman center Isaiah Fox, who finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and was 6-of-7 from the floor in 23 minutes. Twelve of his 18 came in the first half, including seven points in the first four minutes, as the Wildcats jumped out to a 10-point lead with just over 13 minutes to play.
Scouting Maryland: The Terrapins return four starters and nine letterwinners from last season's NCAA Final Four club that won 25 games. Leading the way are All-America candidates Lonny Baxter and Juan Dixon, who combined to average 33.8 points per game in 2000-01. Point guard Steve Blake is also a good one, as he posted averages of 6.9 points and 6.9 assists last year. It would have been nice to play this one in College Park, as this is the final season for historic Cole Field House.
The Series: Thursday's game is the third meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 2-0 series advantage. The Cats captured both meetings in the series, which dates back to the 1963-64 season, on neutral surfaces. The first meeting, a 57-54 UA win, came Dec. 27, 1963, in the first round of the Evansville Tournament in Evansville, Ind., and won the second game , 87-79, on March 19, 1998, in the NCAA West Regional semifinal in Anaheim, Calif. Arizona is 0-0 in series games played in Tucson, 0-0 in College Park, Md., and 2-0 in neutral-site games.
Last Meeting: Led by Mike Bibby's game-high 26 points, the Arizona starting five scored 83 of the team's 87 points in the team's 87-79 win over Maryland in the 1998 NCAA West Regional semifinal. Eighteen of Bibby's points came in the first half, while Miles Simon added 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists. The Terps, who shot just .372 for the game, cut the UA lead to five points with 4:07 to go, but back-to-back treys by Bibby and Simon put the game away.
For Openers: Arizona has a record of 73-20 (.785) in season openers, including a 15-3 mark (.833) under Lute Olson. The Wildcats are 56-12 at home, 10-8 on the road and 7-0 in neutral-site games.
Call it a Coincidence: Maybe it was destiny that Isaiah Fox came to play at the University of Arizona. Not only was his father, Nils, an offensive lineman at UA (1983-84), but Isaiah was born on the same day (in Tucson) that Lute Olson was hired as the Arizona head coach, March 29, 1983. Both the Wildcat program and Isaiah seemed to have grown up nicely.
Marking Time: It's certainly no secret that Jason Gardner will occupy a lot of minutes as the team's most experienced guard and on-the-court leader. Gardner has logged a team-leading 76 minutes in the two preseason showcases to date. Considerable playing time is nothing new to Gardner, who has averaged 34.4 minutes per game over his two-year career. That's the highest figure in school history for a player with at least 50 games played.
Offensive Output: When factoring in the Red-Blue Scrimmage on Oct. 28, Arizona has certainly displayed the ability to put points on the board, scoring 125 points in the scrimmage and adding 112 in the exhibition win over EA Sports last Sunday. In the previous three seasons, the Cats managed to top the century mark in consecutive games only one time, last year in wins over Gonzaga (101-87) and St. Mary's (101-41).
Similar Storylines: A similar storyline has run through the Cats' last two MSG appearances. In both of those trips (Preseason N.I.T in 1995 and 1999) Arizona took the court with at least one unknown guard. In 1995, it was unproven sophomore Miles Simon who paired with senior Reggie Geary to defeat Michigan and Georgetown, while freshmen Jason Gardner and Gilbert Arenas led UA to wins over Notre Dame and Kentucky. This year it's freshmen Will Bynum and Salim Stoudamire pairing with the now-veteran Jason Gardner.
On the Glass: Bolstered by the play of junior Luke Walton and freshman Isaiah Fox, Arizona did post a 47-43 rebound advantage vs. EA Sports. Walton and Fox combined for 23 rebounds, including 12 of the team's 17 offensive boards.
Welcome back: Arizona's best perimeter shooter, junior Rick Anderson is a welcome return after sitting out last season as a redshirt. True to form, the 6-foot-9 Anderson hit 17-of-24 shots from the floor (.708), including 2-of-2 from three-point range, in the preseason. He scored 19 points against EA Sports, 15.3 points higher than his career average.
From the Floor: Playing against outside competition for the first time in 2001-02 must have been to the team's liking, as the Wildcats connected on 41-of-77 (.532) attempts from the floor, including 8-of-19 (.421) from three-point range. Just for reference, Arizona was a spotless 14-0 last season when shooting 50 percent or better.
An Interesting Combination: What do you get when you combine one of Arizona's youngest teams on record with the earliest start of the season?...A lot of question marks. The last time Arizona started a season without a senior on the roster was 1944-45. No UA team has ever opened the regular season as early as Nov. 8. The earliest prior start was in 1997-98, when UA defeated Tennessee, 73-72, on Nov. 13.
We Like it Here: Despite being located some 2,123 miles from New York City, Arizona is no stranger to Madison Square Garden. As mentioned earlier, UA is 7-5 at MSG, and has won its last six games here. UA capped Preseason N.I.T. title runs in 1990, 1995, and 1999 with two wins apiece at The Garden.
Stat Lines: Luke Walton continues to perform in typical boxscore-filling fashion. In the two exhibition games, the San Diego native shot .563 (18-of-32) from the floor, grabbed 17 rebounds, passed out 14 assists and collected four steals.
The Comparisons Start Now: The freshman backcourt tandem of Will Bynum and Salim Stoudamire has already drummed up comparisons to the 1993-94 guard-dominated squad led by Khalid Reeves and Damon Stoudamire. The fact that Will (3) and Salim (20) wear the same numbers as Khalid (3) and Damon (20) only fuels the fire. In 1993-94, Reeves and Stoudamire combined to average 42.5 points and total 311 assists and 119 steals. Here are Khalid and Damon's freshman season statistics:
G-GS FG-A Pct. 3FG-A Pct. FT-A Pct. Reb-Avg. A Stl Pts.-Avg. Reeves (1991): 35-0 104-229 .454 31-67 .463 78-113 .690 82-2.3 103 36 317-9.1 Stoudamire (1992): 30-0 76-167 .455 28-69 .406 37-48 .771 65-2.2 76 22 217-7.2
A Nice Addition: Isaiah Fox, the last recruit signed in Arizona's 2000-01 recruiting class, certainly has been a welcome addition. In his first action against outside competition, Fox hit 6-of-7 shot from the floor, 6-of-7 shots from the line, and grabbed 11 rebounds en route to 18 points. The 6-foot-9 center has been the team's leading rebounder since practice began. Not bad for a guy who has lost 21 pounds since the start of fall classes.
Opening Notes: Since 1987-88, UA is 24-1 in season-opening tournaments and has won 10 straight since a 72-70 loss to Minnesota in the 1994 Great Alaska Shootout.
Pac-10 Predictions: In voting done by Pac-10 Conference media members, Arizona was picked to finish fourth in the league standings, its lowest predicted finish since 1985-86. Despite receiving two first-place votes (one of three teams to do so), UA ranked fourth with 200 points behind UCLA, Stanford and USC. Ironically, the last time the Cats were picked to finish as low, Coach Olson and crew captured the first his of nine Pac-10 titles. See complete chart at left.
Roster Moves: Two players were added to the roster late last week after surviving the program's fall tryout. Junior Fil Torres (G, 6-2, 185) from Lisle, Ill., and freshman Anas Fellah (G, 5-10, 165) from Tucson have officially joined the program. Counting senior forward Peter Hansen, who will join the team after the completion of football season, these two additions bring the number of players on the roster to 14.
Talent Pool: With the NBA season opening earlier this week, no fewer than 11 former Wildcats are on NBA active rosters. Only one other school in the country (North Carolina) has more of its alumni on active rosters. Here is the list of Arizona players currently playing in the NBA: Gilbert Arenas (G/Golden State/1st year), Mike Bibby (G/Sacramento/4th year), Jud Buechler (F/Phoenix/12th year), Michael Dickerson (G/Memphis/4th year), Richard Jefferson (F/New Jersey/1st year), Steve Kerr (G/Portland/14th year), Chris Mills (F/Golden State/9th year), Sean Rooks (C/Los Angeles Clippers/10th year), Damon Stoudamire (G/Portland/7th year), Jason Terry (G/Atlanta/3rd year), and Loren Woods (C/Minnesota/1st year).
Wildcats on TV in 2001-02: Arizona will once again receive extensive television coverage, as every game, including exhibitions, are scheduled to be televised live in 2001-02. The schedule features 13 national appearances with five games offered on Fox Sports Net, five games slated for CBS-TV, two on ESPN/ESPN2 and one on ABC-TV. Fox Sports Net Arizona will also produce 17 games to be shown in the Arizona market, including four appearances on Tucson's KWBA-TV 58.
Up Next: Arizona will take on either No. 6 Florida or No. 16 Temple in the consolation/championship game on Friday, Nov. 9. The consolation game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. EST on ESPN2, while the championship game will top-off at 9 p.m. on ESPN.