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Cats, Bryant Meet in Pre-Christmas Tilt
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 12/21/2011
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Dec. 21, 2011

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Date: Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011
Time: 5 p.m. MST
Location: Olson Court, McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)
TV: KWBA-TV/FOX Sports Arizona (Dave Sitton/Corey Williams)

GAME DATA: Arizona (8-4, 0-0 Pac-12) caps the non-conference portion of the regular-season schedule with a pre-Christmas tilt Thursday vs. Bryant (1-10, 0-0 NEC) in McKale Center ... A word of warning is necessary as the Cats routinely struggled in pre-Christmas games as recently as 2003 before righting that ship of late. Covering the 1991-92 season through 2002-03, Arizona was a cumulative 2-10 in the game immediately prior to Christmas. On a positive note, Arizona is 8-0 in those games since the 2003-04 campaign ... Bryant is the first Northeast Conference foe to appear in McKale Center since Robert Morris on Dec. 22, 2010.

THE RANKINGS: UA remains unranked in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ polls this week. The Cats were ranked 16th in both preseason polls, marking the first time that UA opened the year with a national ranking since 2007-08.

ARIZONA HEAD COACH Sean Miller . . . is in his third season at the University of Arizona and his eighth overall as a college head coach with a record of 174-74 (.702) and 54-27 (.667) at Arizona ... He guided UA to 30 wins and the 2011 Pac-10 regular season championship in a run that culminated in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight ... He was named Pac-10 Conference and NABC District 20 Coach of the Year ... Appointed April 7, 2009, Miller came to Tucson after five successful years at Xavier University, where he amassed four 20-win seasons and four NCAA Tournament appearances ... His clubs won the three Atlantic 10 regular season championships (2007-09) and the 2006 Atlantic 10 postseason tournament title ... During his time at XU, the Musketeers won better than 71 percent of their conference games, including an .813 winning percentage (39-9) in his last three seasons ... Miller has made 15 trips to the postseason in his 18 seasons as a head, assistant or associate head coach (9 NCAA/6 NIT) and has an 9-5 (.643) NCAA Tournament record as a head coach ... He took two Xavier teams to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 (2008, 2009) with his 2008 club advancing to the West Regional final ... His 2007-08 team set a Xavier record for wins in a season with 30, helping him claim Atlantic 10 and NABC District 10 Coach-of-the-Year honors ... Since becoming a head coach, 17 of 18 players to complete eligibility under Miller have earned their degrees ... A standout guard for the University of Pittsburgh (1987-92), Miller was the Big East Freshman of the Year in 1988, won a gold medal on the 1991 U.S. World University Games team ... He is assisted by James Whitford, Emanuel Richardson and Joe Pasternack ... Miller is 0-0 vs. Bryant as a head coach.

LAST TIME OUT: Solomon Hill scored four of his career-high 23 points in a 49-second spurt late in the second half that put the Cats up to stay in an 85-73 win Tuesday over Oakland. Arizona shot 67 percent from the field in the second half and built as much as a 19-point lead as Hill guided the Cats to its highest point total and field goal percentage of the season. Hill, who also added a career-high 11 rebounds, was joined in double figures by Kyle Fogg (17) and Jesse Perry (13).

SCOUTING BRYANT: The Bulldogs enter today’s game with a 1-10 record (0-0 NEC) following Sunday’s 75-55 loss at Boston College. On the year, Bryant averages 63.2 points, shoots 42.0 percent from the floor (259-of-616), 33.6 percent (87-of-259) from three-point range and 61.6 percent (90-of-146) from the line. Opponents average 76.5 points, outrebound BU by 5.4 boards per game and shoot 47.8 percent from the floor (301-of-630). Individually, three Bryant players average in double-figures, led by Alex Francis’ 17.4 ppg average. He also leads the Bulldogs with an 8.0 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Today’s game is the first meeting of the two schools. Arizona is 6-1 (.857) all-time against teams that currently reside in the Northeast Conference. Arizona last faced an NEC opponent on Dec. 22, 2010, downing Robert Morris, 82-56, in McKale Center. For series information on the conferences, please see page 51 in the UA media guide.

A SELECT FEW: When Kyle Fogg dropped in a pair of free throws at the 10:33 mark of the first half, he became the 46th player in Arizona history to score 1,000 career points. Fogg’s career efforts have also elevated the UA program, marking it one of only 12 schools in the nation that have had 46 or more career 1,000-point scorers. Here is the complete list based on research provided by the University of Louisville: 1. North Carolina, 64; 2. Louisville, 63; 3. Duke, 60; 4. Kentucky, 57; tie 5. Syracuse and Kansas, 54; 7. Notre Dame, 51; 8. West Virginia, 48; tie 9. Wake Forest and Marshall, 47; and tie 11. Arizona and Cincinnati, 46.

BLOW BY: It may have taken Kyle Fogg 116 games and 1,080 total shots to reach 1,000 points, but it didn’t take him long to move up the UA career scoring ladder. In fact it took the senior guard 9:27 to score points 999 and 1,000 in the game Tuesday, and another 12:21 to score eight more points and move past Wildcat letterman and current UA radio network analyst Matt Muehhebach into sole possession of 45th place on the UA career scoring list. Muehlebach scored 1,006 points from 1987-91.

TO NEW HEIGHTS: Arizona used its best shooting effort of the year to score a season-high 85 points Tuesday. UA connected on 30-of-54 field goal attempts en route to a season-high 55.6 field goal percentage. Included in the effort was 66.7 percent accuracy (16-of-24) in the second half – Arizona’s best effort in any half this season – where the club made nine of its first 10 shots in the stanza en route to 45 second-half points, also the most points the Cats have tallied in any half this year. Tuesday’s accuracy and output certainly continued a few recent trends, as the Wildcats are 23-0 when scoring 80 or more points and 22-1 when shooting 50 percent or better from the field in the Sean Miller era.

AT THE LINE: The Wildcats managed to use the free throw line to its advantage Tuesday, outscoring Oakland, 17-12, from the stripe and getting nine more attempts. Toeing the line has served Arizona well, especially when UA has the advantage, as the club is 6-1 this year when attempting more free throws than the opposition. On the season, UA outscores its opponents by an average of 2.5 points per game from the stripe.

CONTROLLING INTEREST: Arizona posted its highest rebounding total in six games Tuesday in ourebounding Oakland, 39-28. Additionally, the +11 margin marked the third time this year that Arizona has outrebounded an opponent by 10 or more in a single game. Through 12 games, Arizona is 7-1 when winning the rebound battle, and carries a +1.1 rebound margin.

OUR TURN TO SHINE: Against Gonzaga, it was Arizona’s starting backcourt that combined to shoot 56 percent from the field. Tuesday against Oakland, it was the frontcourt’s time to shine, as starting forwards Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill combined to make 13-of-17 (.765) shots from the floor. Not coincidentally, Perry (.515) and Hill (.485) currently rank 1-2 on the team in terms of field goal percentage, and in the last five games that duo is shooting 55.1 percent (43-of-78) from the field.

MORE FROM FOGG: Aside from the offensive milestones passed by Kyle Fogg Tuesday (see above), the 6-foot-3 guard also passed a notable plateau on the defensive end Tuesday in registering his 100th career steal. He leads the team with 13 steals through 12 games.

NICE STAT LINE: Junior forward Solomon Hill definitely filled his line of the boxscore on Tuesday, finishing with a career-high totals of 23 points and 11 rebounds to go with three assists and a block in 34 minutes. Hill connected on a career-best eight field goals (most for a UA player in a game this season) in 10 attempts and dropped in 6-of-7 free throws for good measure. It was the 30th career came in double figures for the native of Los Angeles, Calif., and his team-leading eighth this season. He is one of three UA players (Jesse Perry/Kyle Fogg) to register a 20-point game this year.

DOUBLING UP: Solomon Hill recorded his second double-double (second career) of the season Tuesday vs. Oakland, posting 23 points and 11 rebounds. It was the seventh double-double tallied by a Wildcat this season, as Jesse Perry has five of his own. Arizona’s seven double-doubles in 2011-12 equal the most of any Pac-12 Conference school (Colorado), and UA’s and CU’s combined total of 14 double-doubles is nearly half as many as the league had produced (31) entering the week.

DISTRIBUTION POINT: Nick Johnson continues to prove to be a stellar distributor of the ball, as the 6-foot-2 guard from Gilbert, Ariz., has collected six assists in each of the last two games – against four turnovers in 61 minutes played – and has seen his assist per game average rise to 2.8 and his assist:turnover ratio improve to 1.62:1. In addition to his 10.4 points per game figure, Johnson ranks second on the team with 34 assists and has passed out six in a game three times this season.

IMMEDIATE IMPACTS: A pair of Wildcats affected Tuesday’s contest despite seeing only limited action. Junior swingman Kevin Parrom tallied three points, three rebounds and a block in 13 minutes, while senior guard Brendon Lavender collected six points (2-of-2 3-pt. FG) and a rebound in nine minutes. Lavender’s first trey with 11:39 to go gave Arizona its biggest lead of the night, 67-48. All told, Arizona bench outscored Oakland, 17-6.

COMING BACK STRONG: Jesse Perry sank 5-of-7 field goal attempts Tuesday en route to 13 points and four boards against Oakland. It was the seventh double-figure scoring game of the season for the senior forward, but just his second in the last five outings. Last year, Perry had nine double-figure scoring games, but didn’t get his first until Dec. 19, the 12th game of the season. Currently, Perry averages 11.1 points per game, and in his last five games is shooting 61.8 percent (21-of-34) from the floor.

HEATING UP: Over the last five games, Kyle Fogg has developed into an efficient offensive threat, leading the team with a 13.8 ppg average to go with a .489 (22-of-45) field goal percentage. Included in that effort is 50-percent shooting (12-of-24) from three-point range. Fogg is averaging 4.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game in that span. As a team, Arizona is shooting .475 (123-of-259) from the field, an improvement over the 12-game total of 44.6 percent (279-of-626).

POSITIVE STEPS: While the totals are modest, it’s worth noting that point guards Jordin Mayes and Josiah Turner combined for 14 points and five assists against Oakland. The individual assist totals (Turner 3/Mayes 2) were season highs for each.

CAUSE AND EFFECT: Arizona’s 11 second-chance points Tuesday were the most it had posted in six games. UA’s 11 offensive rebounds were also its high-water mark in the last six outings.

SCORING 80: Arizona scored a season-high 85 points on Dec. 20 vs. Oakland, topping the 80-point plateau for the third time this year (3-0). Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 203-19 (.914) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points.

PRESEASON PROGNOSTICATIONS: According to media members who regularly cover the league, Arizona was picked to finish third in this season’s Pac-12 Conference race. The Cats received 404 points and 11 first-place votes, trailing UCLA and California. The 404 points earned is the most since 2005-06, the last time UA was predicted to win. UA has been the preseason favorite 11 times in the last 22 years.

RECRUITING CLASS: The Arizona coaching staff signed four student-athletes to National-Letters-of-Intent as part of the November early signing period. Brandon Ashley (F, 6-8, 215) from Oakland, Calif., who preps at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev.; Grant Jerrett (F, 6-10, 220) from LaVerne, Calif., who preps at LaVerne Lutheran H.S.; Kaleb Tarczewski (C, 7-0, 220) from Southborough, Mass., who preps at St. Mark’s School; and Gabe York (G, 6-1, 170) from Orange, Calif., who preps at Orange Lutheran H.S.; make up a class that was ranked No. 1 nationally by espn.com and rivals.com.

UP NEXT: Arizona gets a bit of a holiday respite before returning to action on Saturday, Dec. 31. Arizona opens Pac-12 play in McKale Center against Arizona State. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. MST and can be seen on KWBA-TV and FOX Sports Arizona.

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