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Cats Tip-off 2011-12 Slate with 2K Sports Classic
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 11/04/2011
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Nov. 4, 2011

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Date: Monday, Nov. 7, 2011
Time: 7 p.m. MST
Location: Olson Court, McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach) [Sirius/XM: 85/85]
TV: ESPNU (Dave Fleming/Miles Simon)

GAME DATA: Arizona (0-0, 0-0 Pac-12) hosts Valparaiso (0-0, 0-0 Horizon League) Monday in McKale Center as the nation's 2011-12 college basketball schedule tips off as part of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer ... The first week of the season is a busy one, as the Cats are scheduled to play three times ... Arizona faces a Horizon League foe for the first time since 2007-08 ... Today's contest opens the 108th season of Arizona basketball and the 40th in McKale Center.

THE RANKINGS: UA opens 2011-12 ranked No. 16 in preseason editions of the AP and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' polls. It is the first time that the Cats open the year with a national ranking since 2007-08. UA closed 2010-11 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: Jesse Perry and Kyryl Natyazhko combined for 26 rebounds and Arizona scored 22 of its points from the line as the Wildcats down Humboldt State, 60-51, in an exhibition game on Nov. 1. The clubs combined to make just 36.4 percent of the field goal attempts and committed 30 turnovers. However, Arizona amassed a 49-23 rebound advantage and turned 31 HSU fouls into 38 free throw attempts. Arizona closed the first half on a 19-6 run to take a lead it would not relinquish. Perry led all scorers with 12 points, while Solomon Hill, Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson added eight apiece.

SCOUTING VALPARAISO: Eight lettermen and two starters return from a club that went 23-12 last year now under the guidance of first-year head coach Bryce Drew. The Crusaders are led by Ryan Broekhoff, a 6-foot-7 junior swingman from Frankston, Victoria, Australia, who averaged 10.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in 2010-11. Last season, VU averaged 70.3 points per game, shot 46.7 percent from the field (473-of-1,012) and outrebounded the opposition by a +1.7 margin. Valpo defeated Hillsdale, 73-71, and Augustana, 74-65, in its exhibition games.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the third meeting of two schools with Arizona holding a 2-0 advantage in the series, which dates back to March 15, 1996. UA won the initial match-up, 90-51, in an NCAA Tournament West Region first-round game in Tempe, Ariz., and the latter, a 74-70 win in Tucson on Dec. 30, 2001, in the championship game of the Fiesta Bowl Classic honoring Bobbi Olson. All-time, Arizona is 1-0 in series games played in Tucson, 0-0 in Valparaiso, Ind., and 1-0 in neutral-site games. Please see page 50 of the UA media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Arizona 74, Valparaiso 70, Dec. 30, 2001: Jason Gardner's four-point play with 1:28 remaining erased a one-point deficit and propelled UA to the Fiesta Bowl Classic championship with a four-point win over Valparaiso. Gardner, who was named the tournament's MVP, finished with 19 points, six assists and a season-high five steals. Rick Anderson posted his first career double-double with career-high totals of 18 points and 11 rebounds, as the Cats improved to 5-0 that year in games decided by five points or less.

AGAINST THE HORIZON LEAGUE: All-time, Arizona is 8-1 (.889) against schools that currently reside in the Horizon League. The last time the Wildcats faced a Horizon League opponent was Nov. 18, 2004, when Arizona defeated Wright State, 83-66, in Tucson in the second round of the Preseason N.I.T. For a conference breakdown, see page 51 in the UA media guide.

WHAT'S BACK: With 11 letterwinners returning from last season's Pac-10 title winners, a total of 53.7 percent of the points scored (1,559 of 2,905), 61.7 percent of the rebounding (814 of 1,319), 69.0 percent of the assists (370 of 536) and 63.1 percent of the minutes played (4,855 of 7,700) are back in a UA uniform in 2011-12.

FOR OPENERS: Arizona has a record of 83-21 (.798) in season openers (results are unavailable for four seasons - 1905-06, 1908-09. 1909-10, 1911-12), including a 22-4 (.846) ,mark in the previous 26 seasons. All-time, the Cats are 64-12 at home, 10-9 on the road and 9-0 in neutral-site games.

HOME SWEET HOME: Since his arrival in Tucson three seasons ago, Sean Miller has continued a streak that has seen the Wildcats won nine consecutive home openers, including last season's 90-42 win over Idaho State on Nov. 14. The last time Arizona lost a home opener came on Dec. 1, 2001, in a 105-97 loss to No. 8 Kansas. Prior to that, Arizona hadn't dropped a home opener since the start of the 1992-93 season.

ANOTHER STREAK WORTH CONTINUING: Sean Miller begins his eighth season as a college head coach today, and in those previous seven years he has never lost a season opener. He was a spotless 5-0 in season debuts while at Xavier and is 2-0 at Arizona. Miller has built that streak in convincing fashion, winning those seven games by an average of 30.4 points. Additionally, no game has been closer than 11 points - a 69-58 victory over Oakland on Nov. 19, 2004, in Miller's head coaching debut.

...AND ANOTHER: Arizona enters the 2011-12 campaign having won 19 consecutive home games here at McKale Center. Including a 17-0 mark at home last year, Arizona has not lost a home game since Feb. 21, 2010, by a 73-69 count to Arizona State. According to the NCAA, UA's streak currently is tied for the seventh longest active homecourt streak in the nation.

IN NOVEMBER: Fast starts have become a regular occurrence for the Wildcats. The program is a cumulative 72-21 (.774) in the month of November over the last 27 seasons. Those numbers are even more impressive considering the strength of the opposition, as nearly one-third of those foes (29 of 93) were nationally ranked at the time of the game. In those contests, Arizona is 18-11 (.621).

THE EYES COURTSIDE: It's not everyday that we can say this, but a pair of former Wildcat greats will be providing expert analysis of this game, as Matt Muehlebach (1987-91) provides the color for the Wildcat Radio Network and Miles Simon (1994-98) will do the same for ESPNU this evening. That duo was a combined 116-7 (Muehlebach 64-0/Simon 52-7) in games played in McKale Center, a .943 winning percentage. Additionally, Simon was a member of the 1995-96 UA squad that first faced Valparaiso, totaling 18 points (8-of-10 FG), four rebounds, three assists and three steals in 25 minutes of that 1996 NCAA Tournament game.

ON THE GLASS: A year after ranking third in the Pac-10 Conference with a +4.0 rebound margin, the Wildcats were back at it Nov. 1 vs. Humboldt State, outrebounding the Lumberjacks, 49-23. Over the two exhibition games, Arizona posted a +18.5 rebound margin. Rebounds can be a telling statistic, as Arizona was 22-2 last season when outrebounding the opposition. During the exhibition season, Jesse Perry (8.0 rpg), Kyryl Natyazhko (6.5 rpg) and Solomon Hill (6.5 rpg) each averaged more than 6.0 rebounds per game. Additionally, Hill (14) and Natyazhko (12) combined for 26 rebounds against Humboldt State, a figure that was three more than the entire Lumberjack squad could muster.

GETTING DEFENSIVE: In the Nov. 1 exhibition against Humboldt State, Arizona limited a club that posted 26 wins a year ago to just 32.7 percent shooting (18-of-55), including 26.9 percent (7-of-26) in the second half. In its two exhibition games, Arizona has limited foes to just 42.3 percent shooting (44-of-104) and has managed to outshoot them, .448-.423.

ON TARGET: UA head coach Sean Miller has played 10 players in each game of the preseason, and of those 10, five have a field goal percentage better than 50 percent: Brendon Lavender (.667), Solomon Hill (.636), Nick Johnson (.625), Josiah Turner (.556) and Jesse Perry (.500). The 50-percent plateau is a noteworthy one for individuals and teams, as the Wildcats were 12-1 last season with shooting 50 percent or better from the field.

WELCOME TO McKALE: Arizona's freshman backcourt duo of Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner have been productive through the exhibition portion of the schedule, combining to average 20.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Johnson, a 6-foot-2 native of Gilbert, Ariz., has connected on 10-of-16 field goal attempts (.625) and led the Cats in scoring at 13.0 ppg, while Turner, a 6-foot-3 product of Sacramento, Calif., averaged 7.5 points and 3.5 assists per game, while shooting 55.6 percent (5-of-9) from the floor. He also leads the Cats with two blocked shots.

TOEING THE LINE: In two preseason exhibitions, the Wildcats averaged 28.0 free throw attempts per game, a figure that is 4.3 attempts better than last season's club. Arizona's 34 made free throws were nine more than the opposition attempted and the 56 total attempts were more than double that of the opposition. While UA did manage to outscore the exhibition opponents by six points per game at the stripe, the Cats do need to work on the accuracy, as the club connected on just 60.7 percent of its charity tosses.

A SECOND-HALF CLUB: Though two exhibition games, Arizona has proven to be a bit of a second half team. After being outscored cumulatively by Seattle Pacific and Humboldt State, 68-63, in the first half, the Cats rebound to win the second-half scoring battle, 65-52. Opponent field goal percentage dropped by nearly 10 points from first half to second half in UA's two exhibition games.

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.

IT'S ANYONE'S GUESS: According to media members who regularly cover the league, Arizona was picked to finish third in this season's Pac-12 Conference race. The Wildcats received 404 points and 11 first-place vote (see chart at left), trailing UCLA and California. The 404 points earned is the most since 2005-06, the last time UA was predicted to win. Historically speaking, Arizona has been the preseason favorite 11 times in the last 22 years.

UP NEXT: Arizona will next be in action on Wednesday, Nov. 9, when the Cats host Duquesne as part of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. Tip-off in McKale Center is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST and will be televised by ESPN2.

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