Nov. 14, 2011
Date: Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011
Time: approx. 9:30 p.m. EST
Location: Madison Square Garden (19,763), New York, N.Y.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach) [Sirius/XM: 113/190]
TV: ESPN2 (Dan Shulman/Dick Vitale/Andy Katz)
GAME DATA: No. 15 Arizona (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12) begins its longest road trip of the regular season by facing St. John's (3-0, 0-0 Big East) Thursday in Madison Square Garden in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer ... This is the Wildcats' seventh game in Madison Square Garden since November 2001 and the team is 5-1 in the previous six games there ... Arizona's scoring margin through three games is +9.0, 0.5 points per game higher than last season's figure (+8.5).
THE RANKINGS: UA is ranked 15th in the current (Nov. 14) Associated Press poll and 16th in 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 169-70 (.707) and 49-23 (.681) 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 0-0 vs. St. John's as a head coach.
LAST TIME OUT: Solomon Hill and Kyle Fogg combined for 22 second-half points as Arizona rallied to post a 73-63 win Sunday over Ball State. UA shot more efficiently, posted a +7 margin on the boards and forced five more turnovers as it erased an 11-point deficit and outscored Ball State, 44-25, in the period. The Cats outscored the Cardinals 31-3 from the free throw line, including 19-3 in the second half. Fogg finished with 21 points, while Hill notched his first career double-double. Junior Kevin Parrom made his first appearance of the season since suffering a gunshot wound on Sept. 23.
SCOUTING ST. JOHN'S: The Red Storm enter tonight's game with a 3-0 record (0-0 Big East) following Sunday's 82-59 win over UMBC. On the season, St. John's averages 78.0 points, shoots 49.7 percent from the floor (79-of-159), 23.8 percent (10-of-42) from three-point range and 66.7 percent (66-of-99) from the line. Opponents average 63.7 points, outrebound SJU by 5.0 boards per game and shoot 39.4 percent from the floor (71-of-180). Individually, four Red Storm players average in double-figures, led by God'sgift Achiuwa's 17.7 ppg average. He also leads SJU with an 8.3 rebounds per game average.
THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the first meeting of the two schools. All-time, Arizona has a 30-24 (.556) record against schools that currently reside in the Big East Conference. The Wildcats last faced a Big East team on March 26, 2011, in what was a 65-63 loss to Connecticut, in the West Regional final in Anaheim, Calif. For a conference breakdown, see page 50 in the UA media guide. For a conference breakdown, see page 50 in the UA media guide.
AT THE GARDEN: Since making it s first appearance at New York's famed Madison Square Garden in December of 1947, Arizona has compiled a 12-5 record (.706) mark all-time at "The World's Most Famous Arena," including an 11-1 record since 1990. Here is a quick look at Arizona's most recent visits to 7th Avenue between 31st and 33rd Streets in NYC:
Nov. 21, 1990: Arizona 91, Notre Dame 61, Preseason N.I.T.
Nov. 23, 1990: Arizona 89, Arkansas 77, Preseason N.I.T.
Nov. 22, 1995: Arizona 86, Michigan 79, Preseason N.I.T.
Nov. 24, 1995: Arizona 91, Georgetown 81, Preseason N.I.T.
Nov. 24, 1999: Arizona 76, Notre Dame 60, Preseason N.I.T.
Nov. 26, 1999: Arizona 63, Kentucky 51, Preseason N.I.T.
Nov. 8, 2001: Arizona 71, Maryland 67, Coaches vs. Cancer IKON Classic
Nov. 9, 2001: Arizona 75, Florida 71, Coaches vs. Cancer IKON Classic
Dec. 9, 2003: Arizona 91, Texas 83, Jimmy V Classic
Nov. 24, 2004: Arizona 61, Michigan 60 (ot), Preseason N.I.T.
Nov. 26, 2004: Wake Forest 63, Arizona 60, Preseason N.I.T.
Dec. 5, 2006: Arizona 72, Louisville 65, Jimmy V Classic
LAST APPEARANCE AT THE GARDEN: Arizona 72, Louisville 65, Dec. 5, 2006: For the first time in seven games, Arizona relied on its defense to secure a win, as the Cats prevailed over Louisville, 72-65. UA built an early 15-point lead, but struggled mightily from the floor from there, shooting a season-low 34.0 percent and missing 20 of its first 22 shots to open the second half. The Cats did earn a 30-5 scoring advantage from the free throw line, bolstered by Ivan Radenovic and Jawann McClellan who each connected on 9-of-10 attempts.
NO STRANGER TO THESE SURROUNDINGS: As Sean Miller brings a club to Madison Square Garden for the first time as a head coach, MSG won't be completely unfamiliar territory to him. During his playing career at Pittsburgh (1987-89, 1990-92), Miller made 12 appearances in the building, including a trip to the 1991 Preseason N.I.T. finals. All told, Miller's record as a player was 5-7 (.417).
TOURNAMENT TIME COULD HELP: In one of those tournament oddities, Arizona gets to wear the white jerseys tonight while facing a St. John's team that routinely calls MSG home. Wearing white could help the Cats - at least mentally - as the club is 23-1 (.958) since the start of last season when playing as the designated home team.
BOARD WORK: Led by the lead-by-example efforts of Jesse Perry, Arizona has more than held its own on the glass this season, posting a +7.7 rebound margin through three games and outrebounding two of three opponents by nine or more. Sunday vs. Ball State, Arizona posted its highest rebound advantage (39-29) of the young season. Individually, Perry leads all Cats with an 8.3 rebounds per game figure, just ahead of Solomon Hill (8.0 rpg).
PILING UP POINTS: On the way to 44 second-half points Sunday, UA's most in any half this season, The Wildcats tallied 19 points from the line and five of the team's 10 field goals were from behind the arc. Arizona does manage to respond in the second half, outscoring opponents by an average of 12.0 points after the break.
WELCOME BACK: The numbers don't necessarily jump out from Sunday's boxscore, but Kevin Parrom's 18 minutes of action were certainly meaningful ones as he participated in game action for the first time since suffering a gunshot wound to his right leg on Sept. 23 while visiting family in New York City. It was a typical game for the 6-foot-6 junior forward from the Bronx, N.Y., as he tallied six points, four rebounds and two assists, including a key trey midway through the second half.
BALL SECURITY: Slowly but surely, the Wildcats may be learning the importance of protecting the ball. Sunday against Ball State, Arizona committed a season-low 13 turnovers, three fewer than its per game average this year. It proved to be a key in the decisive second half, as Arizona won the turnover battle (8-3) and the turnover points battle (7-2) in a period that saw UA outscore BSU, 44-25.
RARE FEAT: Arizona managed to win a game Sunday despite shooting 39.5 percent (17-of-43) from the field. Such efforts are a rarity on the hardwood, as the Wildcats are just 16-20 (.444) in the Sean Miller era when shooting worse than the opposition (as was the case vs. Ball State), and have only won one game in that span when shooting less than 40 percent from the floor. It happened Jan. 28, 2010, in a 76-68 win over Stanford where the Cats connected on 21-of-64 (.328) field goal attempts.
A TELLING NUMBER: As do most teams, Arizona makes a concerted effort to get to the free throw line, and early in this season the Wildcats are getting there quite often. Through three games, UA is averaging 36.3 free throw attempts per game as a team. Sunday vs. Ball State, Arizona enjoyed a 43-13 advantage in free throw attempts and a 31-6 advantage in points scored from the line. Individually, Nick Johnson (8.7 fta/g) and Solomon Hill (8.0 fta/g) are averaging better than eight attempts per game.
DOUBLING UP: Junior forward Solomon Hill put forth his best effort of the season Sunday by collecting his first career double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. The 6-foot-6 native of Los Angeles, Calif., hit 4-of-6 shots from the floor and equaled a career high with his rebound total all in a UA season high 38 minutes played. Arizona has now had a player notch a double-double in all three games, as Jesse Perry accomplished the feat in the first two games of 2011-12.
BEWARE THE FOGG: Almost overlooked in Sunday's performance was Kyle Fogg's 21-point, three-rebound effort. The 6-foot-3, senior guard from Brea, Calif., knocked down 3-of-5 treys and 8-of-9 free throws to post his sixth career 20-point game. En route, he also passed 900 career points scored and 125 career treys. On the season, Fogg is averaging 14.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
BALANCED ATTACK: Throughout the preseason, UA coach Sean Miller stressed that it was going to take an across-the-board effort for these to be successful, especially offensively. Through three games, that has been the case, as four Arizona players are averaging in double figures with a fifth coming in at 9.7 ppg. What's been interesting is that it's seemingly a different guy each night, as those five players (Fogg, Perry, Hill, Mayes, N. Johnson) have combined for seven games with 10 or more points and none has more than two.
DEFENDING THE THREE: A year after ranking fifth nationally with a .293 (175-of-598) three-point field goal percentage defense figure, Arizona continues to defend that area closely, as the Cats have limited its first three opponents this year to a cumulative .247 (18-of-73) figure from behind the arc. Such an effort might not be necessary against St. John's, as the Red Storm average just 8.3 three-point attempts per game, on average 16 fewer attempts per game than that of Valpo, Duquesne and Ball State.
IN NOVEMBER: Fast starts have become a regular occurrence for the Wildcats. The program is a cumulative 75-21 (.781) in the month of November over the last 27 seasons. Those numbers are even more impressive considering the strength of the opposition, as more than 30 percent of those foes (29 of 96) were nationally ranked at the time of the game. In those contests, Arizona is 18-11 (.621).
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: Pending Thursday's results, Arizona will face either Mississippi State or Texas A&M on Friday, Nov. 18. Should Arizona win, the 2K Sports Classic championship game will take place at 7 p.m. EST. If the Cats lose, the consolation game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. EST. Both games will be televised by ESPN2.