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A Top-10 Showdown at McKale on Saturday
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 12/12/2012
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Dec. 12, 2012

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Date: Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012
Time: 8 p.m. MST
Location: Olson Court, McKale Center (14,538), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach) [Sirius/XM: 91/91]
TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch/Miles Simon)

GAME DATA: Eighth-ranked Arizona (7-0, 0-0 Pac-12) returns to McKale Center to host fifth-ranked Florida (7-0, 0-0 SEC) Saturday night on ESPN ... Today's game is the first game in December, and just the fourth of the college basketball season, featuring two top-10 ranked teams ... It's the first time two top-10 teams have met in McKale Center since Jan. 10, 2004 ... Both teams are similar statistically, including scoring offense (UA 79.3/UF 73.6), scoring margin (+20.4/+25.3), rebound margin (+11.5/+10.7) and field goal percentage (.486/.473).

THE RANKINGS: For the second straight week, UA is ranked eighth in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' polls. The Cats' No. 8 ranking is the highest for the program under Sean Miller, 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 196-82 (.705) and 76-35 (.685) at Arizona ... In his eight-plus 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 0-1 vs. Florida as a head coach.

LAST TIME OUT: In a game of large momentum swings, Arizona swung first and last to earn a 66-54 win last Saturday at Clemson. UA opened the game with a 22-8 run, Clemson answered with a 36-16 run to take a six-point lead before the Wildcats closed the game with a 22-7 run over the last 7:54 to win it. Powered by 20 offensive boards, Arizona held a 44-33 rebound edge. Mark Lyons led all scorers with 20 points, his first 20-point game as a Wildcat.

SCOUTING FLORIDA: The Gators enter tonight's game with a 7-0 record (0-0 SEC) following a 72-47 win Dec. 5 at Florida State. On the season, UF averages 73.6 points per game, shoots 47.3 percent from the floor (176-of-372), 35.1 percent (53-of-151) from three-point range and 70.5 percent (110-of-156) from the line. Opponents average 48.3 points, are outrebounded by 10.7 per game and shoot 34.9 percent from the floor (124-of-355). Individually, four Florida players average in double figures, led by Kenny Boynton's 14.4 ppg figure. Patric Young leads the Gators in rebounding at 7.9 rebounds per game.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the fourth meeting of the two schools with Florida holding a 2-1 series advantage. Arizona won the first meeting, 75-71, on Nov. 9, 2001, in New York City and Florida captured the last two, including a 78-72 overtime win last season in Gainesville on Dec. 7. All-time, Arizona is 0-0 in series games played in Tucson, 0-1 in Gainesville, Fla., and 1-1 in neutral-site games. For more series information, please see page 47 in the UA media guide.

THE LAST MEETING: Florida 78, Arizona 72 (OT); Dec. 7, 2011: Solomon Hill's three free throws with four seconds remaining in regulation forced an extra period, but Florida sank 8-of-12 free throws in overtime to pull away. UA led by seven points with 6:12 to go in the second half and withstood a 14-4 Florida run before Hill's momentary heroics. Turnovers and rebounding ultimately spelled doom for the Cats, as the Gators enjoyed a +6 margin in turnover points and a +13 margin in second-chance points. Jesse Perry tallied a career-high 23 points to lead the Cats.

AGAINST THE SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE: All-time, Arizona is 20-26 (.435) all-time against teams that currently reside in the Southeastern Conference, and is 0-3 against the league dating back to the start of the 2009-10 season. Arizona last faced an SEC foe on Dec. 7, 2011, losing at Florida, 78-72, in overtime. For more series information against the conferences, please see page 51 of the UA media guide.

ELITE COMPANY: Intersectional match-ups are always interesting, and tonight's game even more so due to the fact that both teams enter the contest ranked in the top-10 nationally. All-told, this just the 11th college basketball game in 2012-13 featuring two ranked teams, and just the fourth featuring two top-10 teams. See the back page of the PDF of this release for a complete list.

TOP-10 SHOWDOWNS: As mentioned earlier, tonight's game is the first time McKale Center has hosted a pair of top-10 teams since Jan. 10, 2004, when No. 4 Stanford defeated No. 3 Arizona, 82-72. In fact this will be the 13th such meeting in McKale Center history, dating back to December 1987, and UA is 9-3 in those games. Please see the back page of the PDF of this release for a complete list of games.

ON THE RISE: Nick Johnson guided Arizona to two more wins last week, posting strong numbers across the board by averaging 18.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 4.5 steals. The sophomore guard connected on 56.5 percent of his field goal attempts (13-of-23), including 4-of-9 from three-point range (.444), and 66.7 percent of his free throws. He opened the week with a career-high 23 points, three rebounds, four assists and a career-high four steals in the win over Southern Miss and followed that up with 13 points, a season-high five boards and a new career-high of five steals in UA's 12-point road win at Clemson. The sophomore averages 13.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game to go with a .548 field goal percentage. He also leads Arizona in points (95), assists (26) and steals (19).

GETTING OFFENSIVE: Credit offensive rebounding for the victory on Saturday, as Arizona offset its lowest field goal percentage of the season (22-of-62/.355) with its highest number of offensive rebounds (20). The effort led to an 18-11 advantage in second-chance points, and marked the most offensive boards for the program in more than five years. The last time UA grabbed 20 offensive rebounds came on March 19, 2006, in an 82-78 loss to Villanova in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

A STATE OF CONTROL: Arizona has now outrebounded six consecutive opponents, including Clemson Saturday by a 44-33 margin. In that span, Arizona is averaging a +13.8 rebound margin with the lowest being a +7 vs. Southern Miss on Dec. 4. Currently, the Wildcats' +11.5 rebound margin leads all Pac-12 schools.

STEPPING UP: Look no further than the free throw line to see where the Wildcats are doing good work. Not only are the Wildcats connecting on 76.3 percent (135-of-177), but through seven games, Arizona averages 25.3 free throws per game and is outscoring opponents by an average of 9.6 points per game from the line. Not only has Arizona nearly made twice as many FTs as its opponents (135-68), the Cats have made 30 more charity tosses than foes have attempted. Saturday at Clemson, Arizona made 17-of-20 free throws (.850) including 12-of-13 in the second half.

MAKE HIS MARK: Senior Mark Lyons continues to make a positive impact on the Wildcats, as the senior posted his first 20-point game of the season Saturday at Clemson. He connected on 7-of-13 field goals and all five free throws to go with four boards, a game-high four assists (1 TO) and a steal. On the season, Lyons is averaging 13.4 points and 2.6 assists per game to go with a .450 (27-of-60) field goal percentage.

HE DOES MORE THAN SCORE: While Solomon Hill had an off night offensively - 2-of-16 FGs - at Clemson, he did manage to contribute in other areas, posting his first double-figure rebound game of the season (15th career) with 10 boards. That effort included seven offensive rebounds, the most offensive rebounds for a Wildcat since Derrick Williams pulled down nine at Washington State on Jan. 22, 2011. The 6-foot-7 forward also added three assists, two blocks and two steals. Through seven games, Hill is averaging 12.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.

PRODUCTIVE: Freshman Brandon Ashley collected nine points, six boards and a blocked shot Saturday at Clemson, an effort that included his first collegiate trey. The 6-foot-8 forward from San Francisco, Calif., connected on 3-of-5 field goals to boost his season FG percentage to .594 (19-of-32). Currently, he ranks second on the team with a 6.4 rebounds per game average and fourth in scoring at 9.3 ppg.

A STEADYING INFLUENCE: Kaleb Tarczewski is nothing if not consistent. The 7-foot freshman center from Claremont, N.H., has grabbed five or more rebounds in each of the last five games, averaging 7.2 rpg in that span. He leads the Wildcats in that category for the season (6.7 rpg) to go with a 6.3 ppg average and a .552 (16-of-29) field goal percentage.

STOLEN MOMENTS: Led by Nick Johnson's career-high five, Arizona tallied a season-high 13 steals at Clemson, which is the highest single-game total in the Sean Miller era. The Cats average 8.9 steals per game to date, also a Miller era high.

WORTH NOTING: With a pair of wins last week, Arizona moved to 7-0 on the season, which is the best start for the program since the 1998-99 squad started the season 8-0 ... UA is 2-0 this season in true road games, and in those two games has limited the hosts to an average of 55.5 points and a cumulative .365 (42-of-115) field goal percentage, while posting a +13 rebound margin. Arizona is the only Pac-12 school with a pair of true road wins this season ... The win at Clemson was UA's fifth consecutive against the Atlantic Coast Conference under Sean Miller.

ALWAYS ON THE RUN: Arizona has displayed a knack for timely runs so far this season. Saturday at Clemson, the Wildcats used a 22-7 run to close the contest and earn a 12-point win. Here is a look at Arizona's notable runs to date:
26-3 run over 8:41 (2nd) at Texas Tech, Dec. 1
21-4 run over 9:07 (2nd) vs. Long Beach State, Nov. 19
23-6 run over 7:55 (1st) vs. Long Beach State, Nov. 19
22-7 run over 8:56 (2nd) at Clemson, Dec. 8
13-0 run over 4:26 (2nd) vs. UTEP, Nov. 15
14-2 run over 4:10 (2nd) vs. Northern Arizona, Nov. 28
22-10 run over 9:27 (1st) vs. Charleston Southern, Nov. 11
14-4 run over 5:48 (2nd) vs. Southern Miss, Dec. 4

SCORING 80: Arizona scored 85 points Dec. 1 at Texas Tech, topping the 80-point plateau for the fourth time this year (4-0). Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 210-20 (.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: The Wildcats return to action on Tuesday, Dec. 18, when the team hosts Oral Roberts in its final non-conference home game. Tip-off in McKale Center is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST and can be seen on the Pac-12 Networks.

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