Dec. 3, 2001
Date: Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2001 Time: 6 p.m. MST Location: America West Arena (19,023), Phoenix, Ariz. Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen) TV: FSN (Steve Physioc/Marques Johnson)
Game Data: It's almost like conference play as Arizona (3-1, 0-0 Pac-10) takes on Illinois (6-1, 0-0 Big Ten) for the fourth time in the last two seasons ... The Cats and Illini are the first of two games scheduled as part of the Southwest Showdown doubleheader in America West Arena. Arizona State and Utah meet in the nightcap ... Arizona won two of the three epic battles last year, including an 87-81 win in the NCAA Midwest Regional Final in San Antonio on March 25 ... Arizona is 24-24 (.500) all-time vs. Big Ten Conference opponents, but has won 10 of the last 15 against the Big Ten, including a 3-2 mark last year.
The Rankings: After Saturday's loss, Arizona fell to No. X in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll (yet to be released) and to No. 8 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll. The Cats were unranked in both preseason polls. Arizona has been ranked in 238 consecutive AP polls released during the regular season only.
Arizona Head Coach Lute Olson . . . is in his 19th season at Arizona and his 29th overall as a college head coach with a career record of 642-226 (.740) and 450-134 (.771) at Arizona ... He recorded his 600th career win and his 400th victory at Arizona during the 2000 campaign and has the fourth most Pac-10 wins (250) in history, trailing UCLA's John Wooden (304, 1949-75), Oregon State's Slats Gill (276, 1929-64) and Washington's Hec Edmundson (266, 1921-47) ... He has the second-best conference winning percentage in Pac-10 history (minimum three years), trailing only Wooden (.810/304-74) ... During his 19-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 nine Pac-10 Conference titles and been to the NCAA Tournament for the past 17 years in a row, which is the 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 six times (1986, '88, '89, '93, '94, '98), 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 14 years (377-87/.813) ... In his collegiate career, Olson has produced 35 NBA Draft picks, including 20 at Arizona - 15 alone since 1990 ... A Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame finalist in each of the last two years, Olson has led UA to 14 consecutive 20-win seasons and has 23 overall in his career, making him one of only seven head coaches in NCAA history to record 23 or more 20-win seasons... Under Olson, the Cats are 271-27 (.909) in McKale Center and have won 199 of its last 211 home games ... He is assisted by Jim Rosborough, Rodney Tention and Jay John ... Olson is 16-7 vs. Illinois.
Last Time Out: Eighth-ranked Kansas relied on its experience and patience in earning the 105-97 win Saturday in McKale Center. Paced by Drew Gooden's 23 points and career-high 15 rebounds, the Jayhawks jumped out to a 53-38 lead at the break and used key treys down the stretch from Jeff Boschee and Kirk Hinrich to hold off a late UA rally. KU shot .557 from the floor and limited the Wildcats to just a .353 FG percentage. Jason Gardner set a school record with eight three-point FGs and finished with a career high 34 points.
Scouting Illinois: The No. 2 Fighting Illini enter play this week with a 6-1 record after an 80-56 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Saturday. Illinois is averaging 81.4 points per game as a team and shooting .455 (187-of-411) from the floor, but the defense has been strong as well. UI is limiting the opposition to just 64.6 points on .408 shooting, while posting a +5.7 rebound advantage and forcing 18 turnovers per game. Frank Williams leads the team with a 14.6 points per game average.
The Series: Tonight's game marks the 11th meeting of the two schools with the series knotted at five wins apiece. Arizona has won two of the last three meetings, including an 87-81 decision, on March 25, 2001, in the NCAA Midwest Regional Final. All-time, Arizona is 3-0 in series games played in Tucson, 0-3 in Champaign, and 2-2 in neutral-site games.
Last Meeting: The Wildcats won the 2001 NCAA Midwest Regional title at the free throw line as the team set NCAA Tournament records for free throws (43) and free throw attempts (56) in the 87-81 win on March 25, 2001, in San Antonio. Gilbert Arenas, the Midwest Regional Most Outstanding Player, scored 18 of his 21 points in the first half and Jason Gardner hit two key treys in the second half to lead the team to its fourth Final Four appearance. Six Illinois players fouled out in the game, which saw Arizona hit 16-of-21 free throws in the final three minutes.
Almost Famous: Luke Walton narrowly missed a triple-double by totaling 20 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in Saturday's 105-97 loss to No. 8 Kansas. Walton was 5-of-12 from the floor and 9-of-9 from the line en route to a season-high 20 points. He also added 11 rebounds for his second double-double of the season (fourth career) and tallied a season-best nine assists in 37 minutes of action. Eleven of his points and six of his assists came in the second half, as the Wildcats rallied from a 15-point halftime deficit. On the year, Walton is averaging 12.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists.
A Rarity: Arizona's loss to Kansas was just the team's fifth loss at home since the start of the 1996-97 season. In that span, the Cats are 71-5 (.934) in its last 76 home games. Under Olson, UA is 271-27 (.909) in 19 years at McKale Center.
More of a Rarity: In allowing 105 points to the Jayhawks, an Arizona opponent topped the 100-point plateau for the first time since March 11, 1995, in a 103-98 2OT home loss to Arizona State. It is just the fourth time a UA team coached by Lute Olson has allowed 100 points and the first time the Cats have allowed 100 in regulation at home since Feb. 17, 1973, in a 110-105 loss to Arizona State. Incidentally, it was just UA's fourth loss in its last 50 games when scoring at least 80 points, dating back to the start of the 1998-99 season.
Record-Setting Performance: Guard Jason Gardner set school records with his both his three-point goals (8) and three-point FG attempts (16) on Saturday en route to a career-best 34 points. He also tied a McKale Center record as he connected on those 8-of-16 attempts from three-point range. His 167 career treys ranks sixth on the UA career charts.
Scoring 30: As mentioned above, Gardner's 34 points were a career high and marked just the second time in the team's last 80 games a UA player has scored at least 30 points in a game (Jason Terry, 32, Feb. 20, 1999/Gilbert Arenas, 30, Feb. 15, 2001). Incidentally, Jason Terry was also the last UA player to score as many as 34, when he poured in 37 at Oregon on Jan. 21, 1999.
From the Perimeter: Credit the KU duo of Drew Gooden and Nick Collison with forcing Arizona into a game played on the perimeter. UA set team records with its 38 three-point attempts for the game and 23 in the second half. The Cats shot a respectable .368 for the game from behind the arc (14-of-38), a figure that was actually .015 higher than its overall FG percentage (.353). Arizona connected on just 16-of-47 (.340) of its attempts inside the arc against Kansas.
A Common Theme: All five UA opponents have been ranked this season, including four in the top 10. Counting the Fighting Illini on Dec. 4, Arizona will have played nine consecutive ranked opponents.
In Session: Call it a learning experience...the Wildcat freshmen were a combined 9-of-38 (.237) vs. Kansas, including 4-of-20 (.200) in the second half.
In December: Arizona is 101-33 (.754) under Lute Olson in December, including a 61-16 (.792) mark since the 1990-91 season.
More on Gardner: Jason Gardner has scored more than 20 points in all four games to date this season. The last Wildcat to score at least 20 points in four straight games was Gilbert Arenas from Feb. 12-26, 1999. In those four games, Arenas tallied 97 points, while Gardner's total is 108 (27.0 ppg).
Shouldering the Load: Trailing Kansas 75-59 with 10:59 to go in the second half, Arizona responded with a 14-4 run over the next 3:57 to trim the deficit to just six. Eventually, UA would get as close as four (99-95) with 29 seconds remaining. The junior trio of Gardner, Walton and Rick Anderson combined to score 45 of the team's 59 second half points.
Shooting Straight: Kansas blistered the nets Saturday, posting a .557 (39-of-70) field goal percentage for the game. The Jayhawks actually opened the contest by shooting .568 (25-of-44) in the first half, which boosted the team to a 53-38 lead at the break. The last time a UA opponent shot that well from the floor came on Dec. 23, 1997, when No. 17 Florida State shot .564 (31-of-55) from the floor in an 84-79 win in Tallahassee.
On the Glass: Arizona was outrebounded by an opponent (45-44) for the first time this season. Entering Saturday's game, Arizona had +4.3 rebound edge before KU outboarded the Cats on the strength of 31 defensive rebounds. To its credit, UA did manage to grab 27 offensive rebounds, but that will happen when a team misses 55 shots from the floor.
From the Line: One trend that did continue in Saturday's games was a scoring advantage from the free throw line. UA outscored Kansas, 23-20, from the line, but had to take seven more attempts to do so. On the year, Arizona has made more free throws (74) than the opposition has attempted (69). The team is also shooting .725 from the charity stripe.
Scoring 80: Saturday's seven-point loss to Kansas is even more notable when considering the fact that Arizona scored 97 points. Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 46-4 (.920) since the start of the 1998-99 season when scoring at least 80 points. Last year, the Cats were a spotless 17-0 when scoring at least 80 points.
Stepping Up: Freshman forward Dennis Latimore played his best game of the season vs. Kansas, totaling five points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes. The five points were the first of his career, while the seven boards were more than he had collected (6) in the previous three games.
Scoring Balance: While the Wildcats are averaging 82.8 points per game and have four players averaging in double figures, here is an interesting figure. Not since the 1959-60 season has there been such a discrepancy between the team's No. 1 (Gardner 27.0) and No. 2 (Anderson 13.0) scorer. In that season Ernie McCray led the squad with a 23.9 ppg average, while Bill Weese ranked second at 9.0 ppg.
Making His Debut: While he may not have been credited with an official minute played, freshman Anas Fellah made his collegiate debut Saturday, replacing Rick Anderson with 27 seconds remaining. Fellah, who prepped at Tucson's Amphitheater High School, was one of two walk-ons to make the squad in preseason try-outs.
Pac-10 Predictions: In voting done by Pac-10 Conference media members, Arizona was picked to finish fourth in the league standings, its lowest predicted finish since 1985-86. Despite receiving two first-place votes (one of three teams to do so), UA ranked fourth with 200 points behind UCLA, Stanford and USC. Ironically, the last time the Cats were picked to finish as low, Coach Olson and crew captured the first his of nine Pac-10 titles.
Roster Moves: Two players were added to the roster in late October after surviving the program's fall tryout. Junior Fil Torres (G, 6-2, 185) from Lisle, Ill., and freshman Anas Fellah (G, 5-10, 165) from Tucson have officially joined the program. Counting senior forward Peter Hansen, who has officially joined the team now that football has ended, these two additions bring the number of players on the roster to 14.
Up Next: The Wildcats travel to Anaheim, Calif., to take part in the John R. Wooden Classic. Arizona takes on Purdue in the first game, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and can be seen on Fox Sports Net Arizona. UCLA meets Alabama in the day's second game.