Game 5: No. 15 Arizona (2-2) at Houston (2-1)
Date: Saturday, Dec. 3, 2005
Time: 6 p.m. CST
Location: Hofheinz Pavilion (8,479), Houston, Texas
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
TV: ESPN2 (Dave Barnett/Jimmy Dykes)
Game Data: No. 15 Arizona (2-2, 0-0 Pac-10) heads to the “Lone Star State” to take on Houston (2-1, 0-0 C-USA) ... Today’s game marks the Wildcats’ first appearance in Hofheinz Pavilion since Dec. 2, 1995, a 73-69 UA win ... In a combined 64 seasons of collegiate coaching, Lute Olson and Tom Penders have met only twice, both UA wins while Penders was the Texas mentor.
The Rankings: Arizona slipped to No. 15 in the current Associated Press Top 25 and to No. 13 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Polls. UA has been ranked in 305 consecutive AP polls released during the regular season only.
Arizona Head Coach Lute Olson . . . is in his 23rd season at Arizona and his 33rd overall as a college head coach with a career record of 743-258 (.742) and 551-166 (.768) at Arizona ... He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 27, 2002 ... Olson became the 16th coach in basketball history to tally 1,000 career victories (covering all levels) on Dec. 11, 2004 ... Olson recorded his 700th collegiate victory on Jan. 3, 2004, and became Arizona’s career victories leader (510) on Jan. 17, 2004 ... He has the most Pac-10 wins (305) of any coach in league history ... Olson has the second-best conference winning percentage (.778/305-87) and second-most league championships won (11) in Pac-10 history (minimum three years), trailing only UCLA’s John Wooden (.810/304-74/16 titles) ... During his 23-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 11 Pac-10 Conference titles, four Pac-10 Tournament crowns (1988, ?'89, ?'90, 2002) and been to the NCAA Tournament for 21 consecutive seasons, which is the longest active and 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 seven times (1986, ?'88, ?'89, ?'93, ?'94, ?'98, 2003), the Big Ten Coach of the Year twice (1979 & ?'81) and directed the UA program to the nation’s best winning percentage over the past 18 years (479-118/.802) ... In his collegiate career, Olson has produced 49 NBA Draft picks, including 30 at Arizona ?- 21 alone since 1990 ... He’s led UA to 18 consecutive 20-win seasons and has 27 overall in his career, making him one of only four head coaches in NCAA history to record 27 or more 20-win seasons... Under Olson, the Cats are 323-33 (.907) in McKale Center and have won 251 of its last 268 home games ... He is assisted by Jim Rosborough, Josh Pastner and Miles Simon ... Olson is 2-1 against Houston.
Last Time Out: For the third consecutive game, Arizona dug itself into an early hole, but this time was able to climb all the way out in an 81-51 victory over Virginia on Sunday. UVa led 28-22 with 3:13 to go in the first half when UA responded with a 29-1 run over the next 10:43 to break it open. Chris Rodgers led the Wildcats with 20 points, including 15 in the second half, to go with four rebounds and three assists. UA shot better than 50 percent from the field for the first time this season as 10 of 11 players to see action tallied points.
Scouting Houston: The Cougars (2-1, 0-0 C-USA) return home after Tuesday’s 84-83 win at No. 25 Louisiana State. As team, UH shoots 48.2 percent from the field (96-of-199), including 45.1 percent (41-of-91) from three-point range, while averaging a robust 92.0 points per game. Nearly half of the Cougar offense comes from behind the arc as 41 of the team’s 96 field goals on the year are treys. Four players average in double figures, led by Oliver Lafayette’s 20.7 ppg average.
The Series: Today’s game marks the eighth meeting of the two schools with Houston holding a 4-3 series advantage. Arizona has won the last two meetings, including a 73-69 decision in Houston on Dec. 2, 1995, in the last get-together . All-time, Arizona is 2-1 in series games played in Tucson, 1-3 in Houston and 0-0 in neutral site games. See page 101 of the UA media guide for more series information.
Last Meeting: Arizona 73, Houston 69; Dec. 2, 1995: Joseph Blair tallied 18 points and 17 rebounds as the Wildcats downed Houston, 73-69. Two members of the current Wildcat coaching staff also figured prominently in the contest, as assistant coach Miles Simon pored in 11 points and added three assists, while coordinator of basketball operations Reggie Geary posted eight points, six boards and six assists.
Against Conference USA: All time, Arizona is 73-39 (.652) against the schools that currently make up Conference USA. UA has played at least one C-USA opponent in each year since 2002-03 and is 5-0 against the league in that span.
No December Chill: Much has been made of Arizona’s fast starts under Lute Olson, as the program’s 52-12 (.813) record in November states. However, UA’s record in December is almost as impressive. Entering the 2005-06 season, Arizona is 124-36 (.775) in the month of December under Olson, including a 13-0 record over the last two seasons.
Off and Running: In four games last week, Chris Rodgers averaged a team-best 15.5 points to go with 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game. He finished in double figures in all four contests, marking the first time in his Arizona career that Rodgers has scored 10 or more points in four straight games, including back-to-back 20-point efforts vs. Michigan State and Virginia. Ten of his 19 field goals made this season come from three-point range and his 14 made free throws (in 19 attempts/.737) lead the squad.
FORCING THE ISSUE: The Wildcats forced Virginia into 24 turnovers in the home opener on Nov. 27, marking the third time in four games this season that Arizona collected 24 or more turnovers in a game. Through four games Arizona forced a total of 94 turnovers, which is good for an average of 23.5 turnovers per game. To date, those 94 turnovers have led to 97 Arizona points.
ON THE GLASS: Controlling the boards has been difficult to date for the Wildcats as the club has been outrebounded in each of its first four games. By comparison, Arizona was outrebounded just 10 times in 37 games last season. It’s been four years since the Wildcats were outrebounded in four consecutive games, dating back to Jan. 10-Jan. 23, 2002, when the Cats were out-boarded in five straight games, though that team went 4-1 in that span.
TOUGH DEFENSE: Defense continues to be the UA calling card as it has limited the opposition to just 63.2 points per game. Opponents are shooting 42.2 percent from the field, including 23.7 percent from three-point range against Arizona. For good measure, Arizona is averaging 12.3 steals per game. Proving that it’s never to early to extrapolate data, the last time Arizona allowed fewer points per game came during the 1986-86 season (62.3 ppg). That was the last year of college basketball without the three-point field goal.
FINDING THE RANGE: Arizona continues to struggle with its shooting percentage, as the team connected on 39.8 percent (102-of-256) of its attempts during a 2-2 start. That percentage was helped greatly by the effort against Virginia, as the Wildcats shot a season-best 50.8 percent (33-of-65) from the floor. Interestingly, UA shot just 37.1 percent (13-of-35) in the first half vs. the Cavaliers and rebounded to shoot a season-best 66.7 percent (20-of-30) in the second.
Not Good: One statistic that hasn’t been up to par this year is the Wildcats’ free throw percentage, which stands at 60.6 percent (57-of-94). By comparison, the Wildcats shot a cumulative 70.2 percent (12,375-of-17,637) from the free throw line in Lute Olson’s first 22 seasons in Tucson.
Finding Positives: Despite the fact that Arizona currently holds a 2-2 record, the team has shown the ability to post large scoring runs in each game to date:
29-1 run over 10:43 vs. Virginia, Nov. 27 (UVa went 0-of-12 with seven turnovers during the run)
20-4 run over 9:10 vs. Kansas, Nov. 21 (KU hits 3-of-first-12 FG attempts with nine TO)
21-9 run over 12:23 vs. Connecticut, Nov. 22 (UA hits 7-of-11 FG in run)
21-6 run over 7:12 vs. Michigan State, Nov. 23 (no MSU field goals in last 5:44 of regulation)
For Simplicity’s Sake: Perhaps the game is just this simple. When Arizona leads at the half, the Cats are 2-0. When facing a halftime deficit, Arizona is 0-2.
Stolen Moments: Arizona heads to Houston averaging 12.25 steals per game. How good has the Wildcat pressure been? UA collected 10 steals in Sunday’s win over Virginia and that was a season low. Hassan Adams (3.25 spg) and Chris Rodgers (3.0 spg) currently rank 1-2 in the Pac-10 in steals per game average.
Board Work: Senior Hassan Adams has certainly stepped up his efforts on the glass recently, as he’s pulled down 18 rebounds over the last two games. The effort raised his rebounds per game average to 6.5. Success on the glass is nothing new for the 6-foot-4 guard has a career average of 5.6 rebounds per game.
Bright Spot: Despite being limited to only 21 minutes due to early foul trouble, junior Mustafa Shakur made his presence felt with 14 points and season-high totals of six rebounds and seven assists. The 6-foot-3 product of Philadelphia hit 5-of-7 shots from the floor, including both three-point attempts. Incidentally, Arizona is 29-6 (.829) during Shakur’s career when he passes out five or more assists in a game.
Making the Most of It: Sophomore Bret Brielmaier made his second career start Sunday vs. Virginia and responded with three points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal. He’s averaging 2.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in 15.5 minutes per game. Not bad for a guy that joined the program as a walk-on last season. Brielmaier is one of only two walk-ons to start a game in the Lute Olson era, and the first to do it twice.
Signs of Life: There are signs that the UA offense is beginning to smooth itself out. The Cats have posted a positive assist:turnover ratio in each of the last three games, including a season-best 20:9 ratio against Virginia. In the last two games, Arizona has a total of 40 assists against 19 turnovers in a total of 85 minutes played.
Scoring 80: Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 143-18 (.888) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points. Sunday’s win over Virginia was the first time this year the Cats surpassed 80 points.
Tops in the Pac-10: In the annual poll of media members who regularly cover the Pac-10 Conference, Arizona was selected as the team to beat for the league title for the fourth year in a row and 11th time in the last 16 seasons. The Cats received 23 of a possible 34 first place votes and 325 points overall. Stanford (294), UCLA (263) and Washington (238) rounded out the top four spots. It is the 11th time in the last 16 seasons that Arizona has been tabbed the preseason Pac-10 favorite. Arizona has gone on to win the league title eight times in that span.
The Next Level: With the 2005-06 National Basketball Association regular season underway, no fewer than 10 former Wildcats are on active NBA rosters. Only one school has more alumni in the league (Duke, 11). Here is the complete list: Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards; Mike Bibby, Sacramento Kings; Channing Frye, New York Knicks; Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers; Richard Jefferson, New Jersey Nets; Damon Stoudamire, Memphis Grizzlies; Salim Stoudamire, Atlanta Hawks; Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks; Luke Walton, Los Angeles Lakers, and Loren Woods, Toronto Raptors. Incidentally, the Pac-10 ranks third among the NCAA Division I conferences with 38 former players in the NBA, trailing only the Big East (50) and ACC (49).
Early Signees: Coach Olson and his staff signed three student-athletes to National-Letters-of-Intent during the November early signing period. Chase Budinger (F, 6-7, 190) from Carlsbad, Calif., LaCosta High School; Jordan Hill (F, 6-8, 210) from Atlanta, Ga., The Patterson (N.C.) School; and Nic Wise (G, 5-10, 180) from Kingwood, Texas., Kingwood High School, will join the squad next fall.
Up Next: Arizona returns home for a pair of home games. UA hosts Northern Arizona on Thursday, Dec. 8, and Saint Mary’s on Saturday, Dec. 10. The games will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. and noon MST, respectively, and both will be carried live by FSN Arizona.