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Cats Return Home; Host Aztecs
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 11/21/2011
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Nov. 21, 2011

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Date: Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011
Time: 6:30 p.m. MST
Location: Olson Court, McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach) [Sirius: 113]
TV: FS Arizona Plus (Dave Sitton/Corey Williams)

Click here to find FS Arizona Plus on your cable system

GAME DATA: No. 23 Arizona (4-1, 0-0 Pac-12) returns home to face San Diego State (5-1, 0-0 MWC) Wednesday in McKale Center ... The Wildcats look to get back on the winning side of the ledger after suffering its first loss last Friday ... Last year, Arizona was 6-1 in games immediately following a defeat ... UA has five players averaging 9.6 ppg or more through five games ... The new-look Cats and Aztecs combined for 64 victories a year ago.

THE RANKINGS: UA is ranked 23rd in the current (Nov. 21) Associated Press poll and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ poll. The Cats were ranked 16th in both 2011-12 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 170-71 (.705) and 50-24 (.676) 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 0-1 vs. San Diego State as a head coach.

LAST TIME OUT: Mississippi State put its size and experience to good use in posting a 67-57 win Friday in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. The Bulldogs held a 38-24 advantage in points in the paint and a 13-7 lead in turnover points, while limiting Arizona to just 40.4 percent shooting. MSU never trailed in the contest, weathering seven separate possessions where UA had a chance to take the lead but couldn’t convert. Jesse Perry collected his fourth double-double of the season and was named to the all-tournament team.

SCOUTING SAN DIEGO STATE: The Aztecs enter tonight’s game with a 5-1 record (0-0 MWC) following Saturday’s 77-73 overtime win over Long Beach State. On the season, San Diego State averages 72.3 points, shoots 45.0 percent from the floor (156-of-347), 31.4 percent (32-of-102) from three-point range and 65.7 percent (90-of-137) from the line. Opponents average 63.0 points, are outrebounded by 6.0 boards per game and shoot 41.5 percent from the floor (136-of-328). Individually, four Aztecs average in double-figures, led by Jamaal Franklin’s 18.0 ppg average. Garrett Green leads SDSU with a 6.8 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Tonight’s game is the 27th meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 20-6 advantage in the series, which dates back to Dec. 27, 1945. The Aztecs won the last meeting, 63-46, in San Diego on Dec. 12, 2009. Prior to that game, UA had won seven straight and 12 of 13 in the series. All-time, Arizona is 14-1 in series games played in Tucson, 6-5 in San Diego, and 0-0 in neutral-site games. For more series information, see page 48 in the UA media guide.

LAST MEETING: San Diego State 63, Arizona 46, Dec. 12, 2009: Led by Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State parlayed a 38-25 rebounding edge into a 17-point win. Leonard posted 13 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Aztecs to its first win over the Wildcats since December 1983. Seven of Leonard’s rebounds were offensive as SDSU pulled down a UA opponent-high 17 offensive boards in the contest, including 12 in the first half, and held a 40-24 advantage in points in the paint. Derrick Williams led Arizona with 13 points and nine rebounds.

STEPPING UP: Jesse Perry averaged 11.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots last week in earning a spot on the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer all-tournament team. The senior forward connected on 42.9 percent field goals (9-of-21), including 33 percent (1-of-3) from behind the arc, to go with two steals and an assist. During the week, Perry posted two double-doubles, raising his Pac-12-leading figure to four in five games this season. He opened the week with 11 points to go with 10 rebounds against St. John’s and added 11 points, 10 boards and two blocks vs. Mississippi State in the title game. On the season, Perry averages 10.8 points and 9.0 rebounds per game to go with a 46.7 field goal percentage.

ACCEPTING CHARITY: Arizona has done a good job of getting to the free throw line, averaging 27.8 free throw attempts per game – nearly six more attempts than the opposition. However, that advantage was not apparent Friday’s loss to Mississippi State, as the Cats attempted just nine charity tosses (made five). The last time Arizona attempted fewer than 10 free throws in a game come on Dec. 5, 2008, in a 67-66 loss at Texas A&M when the Cats attempted only five (made two).

BEST OF TIMES/WORST OF TIMES: It was a tale of two halves – at least from a field goal percentage perspective – for the Wildcats in Friday’s loss to Mississippi State. The Cats opened the game connecting on 15-of-32 (.469) attempts in the first half, which was a season high for the opening half, and closed the game by hitting on 8-of-25 attempts (.320), which was a season low in the second half. Arizona missed 11 of its last 15 field goal Friday at Madison Square Garden and mustered a season-low 57 points against Mississippi State.

ON THE GLASS: Led by the efforts of Jesse Perry (9.0 rpg) and Solomon Hill (8.0 rpg), Arizona has done a good job on the glass this season, posting a +4.0 rebound margin through five games this season. The Wildcats had outrebounded each of its first four opponents this season before Mississippi State turned the tables on the glass, 38-34. In the Sean Miller era, Arizona is 35-8 (.814) when it outrebounds the opposition.

PILING UP POINTS: While the Wildcats have displayed a far more balanced offensive attack with five players are averaging 9.6 points per game or more this season, the team is still searching for consistent offensive contributions, especially in key moments. In Friday’s game against Mississippi State, Arizona had seven possessions in the contest trailing by one point with an opportunity to take the lead and cumulatively went 0-of-7 from the field, 0-of-2 from the free throw line and committed two turnovers. The Cats never held the lead in that contest.

SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT: In a pair of games in New York City last week, the Wildcats displayed a bit of ball security, as the Cats equaled its season low with 10 turnovers in the games against both St. John’s and Mississippi State. Arizona entered the week averaging 16.0 turnovers per game and now that average stands at 13.6.

ON THE RISE: Freshman Josiah Turner posted two solid performances this week in New York City, averaging 8.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. The 6-foot-3, 192-pound guard from Sacramento, Calif., connected on 5-of-12 field goals and sank 5-of-6 free throws to go with a pair of steals. On the year, Turner is averaging 5.8 points and 2.0 rebounds per game.

BATTLING ON THE BOARDS: Junior center Kyryl Natyazhko collected two points, a season-high six rebounds and two assists in Friday’s game against Mississippi State. It was the most rebounds grabbed by the 6-foot-11 native of Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, since he collected eight against Robert Morris on Dec. 22, 2010, and marked his 12th career game with five or more rebounds. Natyazhko is averaging 1.8 points and 3.0 rebounds per game on the young season.

COUNTING ON HIM: Junior forward Solomon Hill continues to be a productive force at the forward spot, as he ranks second on the team with per game averages of 11.6 points and 8.0 rebounds to go with a .485 (16-of-33) field goal percentage. Additionally, he leads the club with 30 free throw attempts, 13 assists and an average of 33.0 minutes per game. In two games at Madison Square Garden last week, Hill averaged 13.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and shot .556 (10-of-18) from the floor. He’s finished in double figures in each of his last three outings.

ON THE INSIDE: Arizona tallied a season-high six blocked shots Friday vs. Mississippi State. That’s a bit better than normal for the Cats, as the squad averages 3.6 blocks per game. On the year, Arizona has 18 blocks compared with nine for the opposition. An improved inside presence would be beneficial for Arizona, a team that averaged 2.6 blocks per game a year ago.

BEHIND THE ARC: In two games in New York City last week, Arizona connected on 20-of-49 (.408) attempts from three-point range, including a season-high 14 made treys (in 29 atts.) Nov. 17 vs. St. John’s. The 20 treys in two games was two more than the Cats had made in its three to open the season. The effort boosted Arizona per game average to 7.6 treys per game in 2011-12.

SUCCESS RATE: Despite the loss Friday, Arizona’s 4-1 start equals the best five-game start for the Wildcats in the Sean Miller era. Miller’s first club was 3-2 after five games and finished 16-15, while last year’s squad was 4-1 en route to a 30-8 finish.

IN NOVEMBER: Fast starts have become a regular occurrence for the Wildcats. The program is a cumulative 76-22 (.776) in the month of November over the last 27 seasons. Those numbers are even more impressive considering the strength of the opposition, as 30 percent of those foes (29 of 98) were nationally ranked at the time of the game. In those contests, Arizona is 18-11 (.621).

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 Wildcats received 404 points and 11 first-place votes (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.

SCORING 80: Arizona scored a season-high 81 points on Nov. 17 vs. St. John’s, topping the 80-point plateau for the first time this year. Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 201-19 (.914) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points.

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 both espn.com and rivals.com.

UP NEXT: Arizona will next be in action on Tuesday, Nov. 29, when the Cats travel to Las Cruces, N.M., to face New Mexico State. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST and can be seen on FS Arizona Plus.

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