March 25, 2011
Date: Saturday, March 26, 2011
Time: 4:05 p.m. PDT
Location: Honda Center (17,608), Anaheim, Calif.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)
TV: CBS (Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery/Leslie Visser)
GAME DATA: No. 5 seed Arizona (30-7, 14-4 Pac-10) advances to the 2011 NCAA Tournament West Regional final against No. 3 seed Connecticut (29-9, 9-9 Big East) Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. ... This is Arizona's ninth Elite Eight appearance (1976, '88, '94, 97, '98, 2001, '03, '05, '11) and the Wildcats have a 4-4 record in those games ... Not counting vacated appearances, this is UA's 27th NCAA Tournament appearance overall and the program has a 45-25 (.643) record in NCAA Tournament action ... Arizona's advancement to the Elite Eight marks the ninth time in 14 appearances that Arizona has won a regional final since 1976 ... This is Arizona's 18th appearance in the West Region - the most of any Tournament regional - and 29 of UA's 45 NCAA Tournament victories (64 percent) have come while playing in the West.
THE RANKINGS: UA has been ranked for seven consecutive weeks and currently is No. 17 in the March 14 Associated Press and No. 15 in the March 7 ESPN/USA Today Coaches' polls. UA's seven straight weeks in both national polls is the longest for a Pac-10 club in 2010-11.
ARIZONA HEAD COACH Sean Miller . . . is in his second season at the University of Arizona and his seventh overall as a college head coach with a record of 166-69 (.706) and 46-22 (.676) at Arizona ... 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/6NIT) and has an 8-4 (.667) 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 17 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 Archie Miller, Emanuel Richardson and James Whitford ... Miller is 0-0 vs. Connecticut as a head coach.
LAST TIME OUT: Derrick Williams scored 25 of his career-high 32 points in the first half, and his teammates repaid the favor by blitzing Duke in the second period en route to a 93-77 win Thursday in the West Regional semifinal. Despite Williams' early efforts, Duke led 44-38 at the break before Arizona took the game over with a 19-2 run that covered 4:11. In the decisive period, the Wildcats outscored the Blue Devils, 55-33, outshot them, .583-.375, and outrebounded them 25-9, to had Duke its worst loss of the season. In addition to Williams, who also added 13 rebounds, two assists and two steals, Lamont Jones posted 16 points and six assists, while Solomon Hill added 13 points and five rebounds.
THE SERIES: Today's game marks the fifth meeting of the two schools with Connecticut holding a 4-0 series advantage. The Huskies won the series opener, 79-69, Dec. 7, 1999, at the Great Eight in Chicago and haven't stopped, also winning 71-69 on Dec. 9, 2000 in Storrs, Conn.; 100-98 (ot) on Jan. 26, 2002 in Tucson and 79-70 on Nov. 22, 2005, in Lahaina, Maui, as part of the Maui Invitational. All-time Arizona is 0-1 in series games played in Tucson, 0-1 in Storrs, Conn., and 0-2 in neutral-site games. For more series information, please see page 40 in the UA media guide. Connecticut and Arizona have never met in NCAA Tournament play.
LAST MEETING: Connecticut 79, Arizona 70, Nov. 22, 2005: After trailing by as many as 10 points in the first half, Arizona came from behind and took the lead, but couldn't hold on in a 79-70 loss. UA used a 16-8 run over the first nine minutes of the second half to take its first lead of the game, but the Huskies answered with a 16-1 run shortly thereafter to take control. The contest was ultimately won at the line, as Connecticut connected on 30-of-35 charity attempts and outscored UA, 30-12, from the line.
LET'S NOT GET AHEAD OF OURSELVES: Tournament logic states very clearly that semifinal wins are just that - part of the way to a championship. If the Cats are to claim this season's NCAA West Regional crown, it will have to reverse a few regional final trends. First, Arizona has lost its last two regional finals: the 2003 West Regional, 78-75 to (2) Kansas on March 29 in Anaheim and the 2005 Chicago Regional, 90-89 (ot) to (1) Illinois in Rosemont, Ill. Additionally, Arizona is 0-2 in regional finals in the Honda Center, dropping a 76-51 decision to (3) Utah on March 21, 1998, in addition to the aforementioned 2003 result.
THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN VERY OFTEN: The Cats' outburst against Duke matched the season high put up against the Blue Devils, 93 by St. John's at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 27 in a 93-73 loss. It was the most points scored against Duke in an NCAA game in 50 contests, going back to March 16, 1997, in Birmingham, Ala., when Providence and God Shamgod beat the Devils 98-87. That game earned the Friars a match in the Southeast Regional final against Arizona, which had vanquished Kansas in the semifinal. UA beat Providence and went on to win the national title a week later. The storied Duke program has given up 90 or more points in its lengthy NCAA history only eight times.
A MEMORABLE OUTBURST: Derrick Williams' 32 points, his career high, matched the school record for an NCAA Tournament performance, matching the total posted by guard Khalid Reeves against Loyola (Md.) in first-round action in 1994. Additionally, his 25 first-half points were the most for a Wildcat player in any half this season.
ELITE COMPANY: Williams' 32 points Thursday pushed his season total to 721, making him only the third Arizona player (now accomplished four times) to reach that level in a single season behind guard Khalid Reeves' 848 in 1993-94, and two years by forward Sean Elliott who knocked down 743 in 1987-88 and 735 a year later in 1988-89. It's some dramatic growth for the 6-foot-8 forward, who notched 486 points in his freshman campaign last year. No Arizona player has scored more points in his first two seasons than Williams, who now has 1,207 career points.
GOING FOR TWOS: Derrick Williams has feasted at the free throw line this year, leading the nation in attempts, but moved in a slightly more aggressive direction in the Duke game, knocking down 11 field goals in 17 tries. That's 65% from the field -- including an Arizona-record-matching (Mike Bibby, 1998, Regional semifinal vs. Maryland) NCAA-game performance with 5-for-6 from beyond the arc. The 11 makes was Williams' season high, eclipsing a pair of nine FG efforts before Christmas this year. His 17 attempts matched his career high against North Carolina State in December 2009.
AN INTERESTING EXTRAPOLATION: Williams' combination total of 45 -- 32 points and 13 rebounds -- against Duke was his career best for two-way dominance, eclipsing a 31+12 effort against Cal and a 31+10 mark against Arizona State, both in the first couple weeks of January. Additionally, it was his 13th double-double of the season and the 17th of his career.
FOUR FOR 30: Sean Miller has coached Arizona to a 30-victory season for only the fourth time in school history, a remarkable 14-game swing from his 16-14 mark in his inaugural season in Tucson last year. The 30-7 mark stacks up against these previous Lute Olson-coached clubs:
1987-88 35-3 (.921) 1997-98 30-5 (.857) 2004-05 30-7 (.811) 2010-11 30-7 (.811)
SPEED ZONE: Arizona's 55 second-half points Thursday night were its season high for that frame, topping 49 notched against Oregon on March 5 in a 90-82 victory. The Cats had 57 points in one half -- the first -- of a game against Northern Colorado on Nov. 21.
AGAINST NO. 3 SEEDS: UA will face third-seeded Connecticut on Saturday in the Regional Final. UA is 2-2 against No. 3 seeds in NCAA action. Its defeat of top-seed Duke put it slightly above average against No.1 seeds with a 7-6 mark in the Wildcats' 29 years of previous play in the NCAA Championships. (It should be noted: two of those appearances were vacated due to infractions by the NCAA - single-game losses in 1999 and 2008).
CLEANING THE GLASS: Arizona, a decent rebounding team with a plus-3.8 margin, has had 40 or more boards nine times this year including an even 40 against Duke in swamping the Blue Devils 40-27 on the glass. That was the most rebounds by UA in its last 10 games, and the lowest Duke rebounding total all year (29 vs. Princeton in its season opener). To say Sean Miller's half-time emphasis that rebounding was going to be a critical factor in the last 20 minutes was taken to heart is an understatement. The Cats outrebounded Duke 25-9 in the second stanza. Included in that spree were 11 second-half offensive boards. The total of 16 offensive rebounds was UA's third-highest total this year behind 19 against Washington on Feb. 19 and 17 against Cal State Fullerton on Dec. 8.
ON TARGET: Arizona has a collection of some sharp shooters, helping the school post a .403 season percentage from three-point range. Towhit: Arizona has eclipsed 60 percent from beyond the arc five times this season including an even .600 against Duke on Thursday on 9-for-15 shooting. That's a reasonably modest number of treys, as UA has hit 10 or more in a dozen different games in 2010-11. Another piece of good news is that UA contests the three with some acumen, allowing only a .293 percentage by opponents in 37 games. The Cats' 292 made three-pointers is a school season record, passing the 279 made by the 1993-94 team spearheaded by the long-range bombing backcourt of Damon Stoudamire and Khalid Reeves.
MORE FROM MOMO: Lamont "MoMo" Jones picked a nice time to have one of his best games of the year. The 6-foot sophomore matched a season high with six assists (also against WSU on Feb. 17), had no turnovers for the fourth time this year, hit 60 percent from the field in controlled shooting (6-of-10) and notched 16 points to go with three rebounds. Plus his defense was part of the effort that helped Arizona hold Duke to its lowest shooting percentage (.467) in six games (and below its season average, .472).
ODDS AND ENDS: Arizona's victory over No. 3 Duke was its most recent over a team ranked that high since its early season victory over No. 4 Gonzaga in 2008, the Cats last victory over a top-10 squad... UA evened its NCAA Tournament series with Duke, 1-1, after a 10-year wait since the 2001 NCAA title tilt in Minneapolis... UA helped the Pac-10 snap a four-game losing streak to Duke in NCAA play... Arizona gave Duke an 0-2 mark in NCAA games in the state of California, to go with its Regional semifinal loss in the same location, Anaheim, in 2003 (69-65 loss to Kansas)... UA climbed the mountain and handed the Blue Devils only their ninth NCAA loss as a No. 1 seed, dropping them to 45-9 as a top seed.
UP NEXT: With a win, Arizona advances to the NCAA Final Four, April 2-4, in Houston, Texas. A loss sends the team home for the offseason.