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Cats Prepare for First Road Test Saturday
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 11/29/2012
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Nov. 29, 2012

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Date: Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012
Time: 7 p.m. CST
Location: United Spirit Arena (15,098), Lubbock, Texas
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)
TV: ESPNU (Roxy Bernstein/Stephen Bardo)

GAME DATA: Ninth-ranked Arizona (4-0, 0-0 Pac-12) plays its first road game of the season Saturday at Texas Tech (4-0, 0-0 Big 12) ... In the Sean Miller era, the Wildcats are 3-3 in non-conference road games ... Over the last three seasons, UA is 15-8 in December ... The Cats are averaging 85.2 points per game and have nine players averaging 5.0 points per game or better ... All-time, Arizona is 56-61 (.479) against current Big 12 Conference foes, but is 5-5 over the previous five seasons.

THE RANKINGS: UA is ranked ninth in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' polls this week. The Cats' No 9 ranking is the highest for the program under Sean Miller during the regular season, and the first time UA has been ranked as high in-season since coming in at No. 8 in the Jan. 8, 2007, coaches' poll.

ARIZONA HEAD COACH Sean Miller . . . is in his fourth season at the University of Arizona and his ninth overall as a college head coach with a record of 193-82 (.702) and 73-35 (.676) at Arizona ... In his eight-year career, Miller's teams have won 20 games six times and captured five regular-season or postseason tournament titles ... 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, earning Pac-10 Conference and NABC District 20 Coach-of-the-Year honors ... 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 16 trips to the postseason in his 19 seasons as a head, assistant or associate head coach (9 NCAA/7 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, all 23 players to complete eligibility under Miller have earned their degrees ... Miller has recruited classes ranked in the top-10 nationally in each of the last two seasons ... He is assisted by James Whitford, Emanuel Richardson and Joe Pasternack ... Miller is 0-0 vs. Texas Tech as a head coach.

LAST TIME OUT: Holding a 13-point lead at the half, Arizona opened the second half on a 14-2 run in 4:10 to break open the contest in what became a 93-50 UA win over Northern Arizona on Wednesday. The Wildcats shot 60 percent (15-of-25) from the field in the period and limited NAU to 31 percent shooting (9-of-29) in outscoring the Lumberjacks 54-24 to close the game. Mark Lyons led all scorers with 18 points, while Solomon Hill added 17 and Brandon Ashley collected 11 rebounds.

SCOUTING TEXAS TECH: The Red Raiders enter tonight's game with a 4-0 record (0-0 Big 12) following an 84-75 win Monday over Jackson State. On the season, TTU averages 88.8 points per game, shots 47.6 percent from the floor (129-of-271), 27.7 percent (26-of-94) from three-point range and 75.5 percent (71-of-94) from the line. Opponents average 68.2 points, are outrebounded by 9.0 per game and shoot 40.7 percent from the floor (99-of-243). Individually, four Tech players average in double figures, led by Jaye Crockett's 16.0 ppg figure. Crockett also leads the Red Raiders in rebounding at 9.0 rebounds per game.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the 51st meeting of the two schools with Texas Tech holding a 28-22 series advantage. Arizona has won five straight games in the series, which dates back to Jan. 15, 1934, including the last, an 88-82 win in Tucson on Dec. 30, 1995, in the Fiesta Bowl Classic. All-time, Arizona is 15-9 in series games played in Tucson, 4-18 in Lubbock, Texas, and 3-1 in neutral-site games. For more information, please see page 48 of the UA media guide.

THE LAST MEETING: Arizona 88, Texas Tech 82; Dec. 30, 1995: Bolstered by Damon Stoudamire's 27 points, Arizona pulled away in the second half in the championship game of the Fiesta Bowl Classic. Texas Tech collected 23 offensive rebounds and posted a +8 rebound margin, but it was not enough to offset poor shooting (29-of-75/.387) and 30 personal fouls. UA attempted 47 free throws and outscored TTU by 12 points from the stripe. Stoudamire was the primary beneficiary, connecting on 14-of-18 charity attempts.

THIS USED TO HAPPEN MORE FREQUENTLY: While Arizona and Texas Tech meet for the first time in 18 seasons, there might be a few college basketball fans out there unaware that the two schools were actually members of the same conference some time ago. For most of the years from 1931-56, Arizona and Texas Tech competed in the Border Conference, and in fact were the two most successful teams in the league, combining to win more than 400 conference games and 17 conference championships (UA 11/TTU 6). The two squads posted a combined conference-only winning percentage of .624. For composite Border Conference standings, please see page 67 of the UA basketball media guide.

ON THE RISE: The Wildcats seemed to have found its collective shooting eye, as the squad has connected on 55.6 percent of its field goals (60-of-108) in the last two games. Included in the effort were two 60 percent shooting halves (1st vs. LBSU/2nd vs. NAU) in which the Cats nailed 32-of-52 (.615) attempts from the field. All told, the effort has boosted Arizona's season-long field goal percentage to a robust .512 (109-of-213), a figure that leads the Pac-12 Conference by 24 percentage points.

TAKING CONTROL: It might be an understatement to say that Arizona has controlled the boards of late. In its wins over UTEP, Long Beach State and Northern Arizona, the Wildcats posted a 115-65 (38.3-21.7 rpg) advantage on the glass, outrebounding each foe by at least 12. Through four games, Arizona enjoys a +11.7 rebound margin, another figure that leads the Pac-12.

BEHIND THE ARC: One facet of the UA offense that has been consistently good is the Cats' three-point attack. UA has connected on 45.6 percent (41-of-90) of its shots from behind the arc and is averaging better than 10 treys per contest. Additionally, the contributions are from many, as five UA players are averaging at least one made trey per team game played. Currently, seniors Kevin Parrom and Solomon Hill share the team lead with nine treys apiece.

AT THE OTHER END: Aside from Arizona's offensive exploits (UA currently leads the Pac-12 in seven offensive categories), the team has shown some defensive prowess as well. Through four games, Arizona opponents are averaging just 61.5 points per game and are shooting .400 (82-of-205) from the field. Twice this season Arizona has held the opposition to less than 40 percent shooting, including Wednesday win over Northern Arizona in which the Lumberjacks made 20-of-55 (.364) shots.

TOO SOON TO TELL: While four games does not make a season, it's worth noting that Arizona sports a +2.5 turnover margin. That figure might not be eye-popping, but sizably bigger than last season (+0.6) and is easily the best turnover margin of the Sean Miller era.

SEARCHING FOR TRENDS: Arizona has shot 50 percent or better from the field in each the last two outings. In an early season effort to extrapolate data and predict trends, it's worth noting that Arizona managed to accomplish that feat just once in 35 games last season (vs. Oakland and Bryant) and it took 13 games to do so. By comparison, the 2019-10 club also managed to reach the 50-percent plateau in back-to-back games only once in 31 outings, and not until mid-January; while the 2010-11 team did it four times (featuring two streaks of three), including the first two games of the season. What's the link? The 2010-11 Wildcats advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight, while the other two didn't advance to the Big Dance.

BETTER BALL MOVEMENT: Through four games, Arizona is averaging 19.5 assists per game, a figure that is easily the highest per game average in Sean Miller's tenure. UA has passed out 20 or more assists in a game twice already in 2012-13. Most impressively, 72 percent of Arizona field goals this season (78-of-109) have come courtesy of an assist. Individually, four Wildcats have already reached double figures in the assist column.

TOEING THE LINE: Arizona has been good so far this season at getting to the free throw line, as the Cats have made 12 more free throws than the opposition has attempted and connected at a .759 (82-of-108) clip. On average, Arizona is attempting 9.5 more free throws and scores 8.5 more points per game than the opposition. Over the last two games, 46 of Arizona's 187 points have come at the line.

MORE OF THE SAME: Sophomore Nick Johnson continues to be affecting the game from many angles. Wednesday vs. Northern Arizona, the 6-foot-3 guard from Gilbert, Ariz., posted career-high totals of seven assists and four steals to go with 10 points and three rebounds. On the year, Johnson is averaging 10.3 points per game. 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game to go with a .500 (14-of-28) field goal percentage. Further, he leads Arizona with a 5.0:1 assist:turnover ratio.

IMPACTFUL: Credit forward Brandon Ashley with a valuable lesson learned in Thursday's game. Despite managing only two points on 1-of-4 shooting, the 6-foot-8 freshman from San Francisco, Calif., grabbed 11 rebounds, while totaling three assists and three blocks. As he said postgame, "Tonight wasn't my night offensively. I wanted to make sure I was still in the game and contributing on defense by getting rebounds." He's averaging 10.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game to date.

EFFICIENT: The two seniors in Arizona's starting five were certainly efficient in Wednesday's win, as Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill combined for 35 points and four assists against Northern Arizona. The duo sank 10-of-15 field goal attempts (.667), including 75 percent (6-of-8) from three-point range, to go with 9-of-12 shooting from the free throw line. Both Lyons and Hill share Arizona's scoring lead, as both average 14.0 points per game.

STEPPING UP: Sophomore forward Angelo Chol notched his first double-figure scoring game with 10 points Wednesday vs. the Lumberjacks. The 6-foot-9 product of San Diego, Calif., hit 3-of-4 field goals and 4-of-5 free throws to go with four boards and an assist. On the season, Chol averages 5.0 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.

PRESEASON PROGNOSTICATIONS: According to media members who regularly cover the league, Arizona was picked to finish first in this season's Pac-12 Conference race (see poll at left). The Cats received 403 points and 15 first-place votes, topping the rest of the league by one point. UCLA, California and Stanford rounded out the top-four spots in the poll. It's the first time since 2005-06 that Arizona was the preseason favorite and the Wildcats have been the preseason target a league-leading 12 times since the poll debuted in 1989-90.

SCORING 80: Arizona scored 93 points on Wednesday vs. Northern Arizona, 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 209-20 (.913) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points. RECRUITING CLASS: The Arizona coaching staff signed two student-athletes to National-Letters-of-Intent as part of the November early signing period. Rondae Jefferson (F, 6-7, 215) from Chester, Pa., who preps at Chester H.S.; and Elliott Pitts (G, 6-5, 180) from Dublin, Calif., who preps at De La Salle H.S.; make up a class that is ranked No. 18 nationally by espn.com.

UP NEXT: Following tonight's game, returns home to host Southern Mississippi on Tuesday, Dec. 4. Tip-off in McKale Center is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. MST and can be seen on the Pac-12 Networks.

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