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Cats Host Falcons Thursday
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 10/26/2011
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Oct. 26, 2011

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Date: Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011
Time: 6:30 p.m. PDT
Location: Olson Court, McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)
TV: FCS Pacific (Dave Sitton/Corey Williams)

GAME DATA: Arizona (0-0, 0-0 Pac-12) hosts Seattle Pacific (0-0) in its first exhibition game prior to the start of the 2011-12 season Thursday in McKale Center ... Seattle Pacific is an NCAA Division II institution located in Seattle, Wash. ... Last season, the Falcons posted a 20-10 record overall and a 12-6 conference mark ... UA opens the regular season in McKale Center on Monday, Nov. 7, against Valparaiso as part of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST.

THE RANKINGS: UA opens the 2011-12 campaign ranked No. 16 in the preseason ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll. It is the first time that the Wildcats open the year with a national ranking since 2007-08. UA closed last year ranked No. 9 by the coaches.

ARIZONA HEAD COACH Sean Miller . . . begins his third season at the University of Arizona and his eighth overall as a college head coach with a record of 166-70 (.703) and 46-23 (.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 last 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 and was a member of his alma mater's all-centennial team in 2005 ... Miller, 42, earned a degree in communications from Pitt in 1992 ... He is assisted by James Whitford, Emanuel Richardson and Joe Pasternack.

LAST TIME OUT: In what was a defensive struggle, Arizona's +11 rebound margin and 19 offensive rebounds nearly offset poor shooting in a 65-63 loss to Connecticut in the 2011 NCAA Tournament West Regional final. The Connecticut backcourt combined for 49 of the team's 65 points to stave off a Wildcat rally in the final three minutes. Both teams took turns holding the lead - there were seven lead changes in the game - and UA erased most of a six-point deficit with 2:31 to go, before missing a pair of potential game-winning treys in the final seven seconds. Derrick Williams led UA with 20 points, while Jesse Perry added 14 on 7-of-9 shooting.

SCOUTING SEATTLE PACIFIC: Coached by Ryan Looney, the Falcons return three starters and eight letterwinners from last season's 20-10 club that also finished third in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. SPU is led by post player Andy Poling, a 6-foot-11 post player who averaged 14.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in 2010-11 and is a preseason D-II honorable mention All-American according to The Sporting News. Last season, SPU averaged 75.3 points per game, shot 49.2 percent (780-of-1586) from the floor and outrebounded the opposition by 7.0 rebounds per game. A balanced attack saw four Falcons average in double figures.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the first meeting of Arizona and Seattle Pacific. All time, Arizona has a 1-0 record against Great Northwest Athletic Conference teams, having defeated Alaska Anchorage, 107-88, on Nov. 25, 1994, in the second round of the Great Alaska Shootout. Additionally, the Wildcats played at GNAC member Simon Fraser on Sept. 3, 2006, as part of a preseason foreign tour of Canada. The Cats won, 73-45.

RANKED FOES: Tonight's game can certainly qualify as one of those early season match-ups of nationally ranked squads fans always enjoy, as both clubs carry preseason rankings. Arizona enters the contest ranked No. 16 in the preseason ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll, while Seattle Pacific is ranked No. 24 among Division II teams in The Basketball Bulletin's preseason poll.

AGAINST THE EMERALD CITY: While tonight's game is the first meeting of the Cats and Falcons, UA is obviously no stranger to foes from Seattle, as the Wildcats are a combined 49-28 (.636) against the University of Washington (44-26) and Seattle University (5-2). Those squads are a combined 6-29 (.171) when playing in Tucson.

YIN AND YANG: It's always hard to quantify the good vs. bad in an intrasquad scrimmage, but it is worth mentioning that the Red and Blue teams combined to hit 47-of-84 (.560) shots from the floor last Saturday, including 14-of-30 (.467) from three-point range. The obvious bad news is that someone in an Arizona uniform was defending as well. All told, eight of the 13 players to see action in the scrimmage shot 50 percent or better from the floor.

MORE GOOD STUFF: The Red squad's guard combination of Kyle Fogg and Brendon Lavender combined for nine assists and no turnovers in the Red-Blue Game, helping the Red team amass a 16:5 assist:turnover ratio. Combined, the squads passed out 27 assists against 15 turnovers.

ON TARGET: Senior guard Kyle Fogg posted a nice all-around effort with 15 points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals in the Red-Blue Game. What might have been most welcome was his 5-of-10 shooting from the floor. A career .406 shooter from the field, the 6-foot-3 native of Brea, Calif., shot just 37.3 percent from the floor (94-of-252) in 38 games a year ago. For reference, Fogg attempted eight or more field goal attempts 16 times last season and shot 50 percent or better in just six of those contests.

A TALL ORDER: Kyryl Natyazhko posted 13 points and five rebounds in the Red-Blue Game, Oct. 22, to go with two assists and a steal in 20 minutes of action. The 6-foot-11 junior hit 6-of-11 attempts from the field and scored 11 of those 13 points in the second half, as the Red outscored the Blue, 40-28, in the period. Last year, Natyazhko averaged 1.9 points and 2.2 rebounds per game.

DOING WHAT HE DOES BEST: Sean Miller has long opined that Brendon Lavender is Arizona's best shooter and he did nothing to dispel that Saturday. Lavender was an efficient 5-of-7 from the floor, including 4-of-6 from three-point range, en route to 15 points, four assists and a steal in 23 minutes. Lavender does his best work from behind the arc, as 150 of his 215 career attempts have been three-point attempts.

BACK AT IT: A year ago, Solomon Hill ranked second on the team in rebounds and steals and fourth in scoring. Well, he was back at it in the Red-Blue Game, totaling six points, six rebounds and six assists in 22 minutes. His rebound and assists either held or shared game-high honors.

LONG DISTANCE THREAT: Forward Jesse Perry used 3-of-4 shooting from three-point range to post a game-high 20 points in the Red-Blue Game. The 6-foot-7 senior from St. Louis, Mo., hit 7-of-11 shots overall en route to his highest point total in an Arizona uniform, though just an exhibition. What makes Perry's effort so eyebrow-raising is that he made just 7-of-25 (.280) attempts from behind the arc a season ago.

NICE DEBUT: Bronx, N.Y., native Sidiki Johnson made the most of his McKale Center debut by connecting on all seven field goal attempts, including two treys, on the way to 18 points and three boards in 19 minutes of action. Interestingly, the 6-foot-8 freshman forward only seemed to have issues at the free throw line, where he banked in his first two attempts before missing his last three. Perhaps he needs to adjust to the sellout crowd of 14,601 that was in attendance.

STARTING AND FINISHING WELL: Shortly after winning Saturday's pregame dunk contest, freshman guard Nick Johnson went out and collected 17 points, two boards, two assists and two steals. The Gilbert, Ariz., native hit on 7-of-12 field goal attempts, including 3-of-4 from three-point range.

CONTROLLING THE GLASS: Freshman forward Angelo Chol proved to be a bit of a presence Saturday, corralling a game-high six rebounds to go with eight points and a steal. The 6-foot-9 forward from Khartoum, Sudan, also connected on 4-of-7 field goal attempts.

NOTEWORTHY: Josiah Turner was included on the Wayman Tisdale Award preseason watch list, the United States Basketball Writers Association announced Oct. 20. Turner, a 6-foot-3, 192-pound guard from Sacramento, Calif., was one of 12 first-year players in contention for national freshman-of-the-year honors. Also, Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn named Turner the No. 5 "Freshman of Instant Impact" among 16 first-year players nationally.

IF YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...: If you've managed to reach the end of the notes, you deserve to be rewarded with this informative nugget: There are two players in this contest who speak a total of eight languages. Arizona's Kyryl Natyazhko (Ukrainian, Russian, Lithuanian and English) and Seattle Pacific's Modou Niang (English, Japanese, French and Wolof [a Senegalese language]) might lead the nation as hardwood linguists.

UP NEXT: Arizona will next be in action on Tuesday, Nov. 1, when the Cats host Humboldt State in its final exhibition game of the season. Tip-off is scheduled in McKale Center at 6:30 p.m. PDT and will be televised by FS Arizona.

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