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Cats Open Rocky Mountain Road Trip at Utah
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 01/16/2012
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Jan. 16, 2012

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Date: Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012
Time: 6:30 p.m. MST
Location: Jon M. Huntsman Center (15,000), Salt Lake City, Utah
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)
TV: KWBA-TV/FOX Sports Arizona (Dave Sitton/Corey Williams)
Online Coverage: Gametracker | Live Audio

GAME DATA: Arizona (12-6, 3-2 Pac-12) hits the road for Salt Lake City to face Utah (4-13, 1-4 Pac-12) Thursday at the Huntsman Center ... It marks Arizona's first trip to Salt Lake City for a conference game since Feb. 16, 1978, when UA and UU were members of the Western Athletic Conference from 1962-63 to 1977-78 ... In that span, the Wildcats went 15-17 against Utah, including a 4-12 record in Salt Lake City ... Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978-79, Arizona is 7-3 in the Huntsman Center, including a 5-2 mark in four NCAA Tournament appearances.

THE RANKINGS: UA remains unranked in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' polls this week.

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 178-76 (.701) and 58-29 (.667) 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. Utah as a head coach.

LAST TIME OUT: Oregon built a 17-point, second-half lead, only to see Arizona roar back and take a two-point lead of its own with 2:59 to go before E.J. Singler and Garrett Sim sank back-to-back buckets to give the Ducks the lead for good in a 59-57 win Saturday. Arizona had opportunities on the closing possession, but a game-winning trey and a game-tying jumper were off the mark. Solomon Hill led all scorers with 16 points, but Oregon's balance put four players in double figures.

SCOUTING UTAH: The Utes enter tonight's game with a 4-13 record (1-4 Pac-12) following Saturday's 81-45 loss at California. On the year, Utah averages 56.7 points, shoots 41.1 percent from the floor (344-of-838), 28.3 percent (81-of-286) from three-point range and 64.1 percent (195-of-304) from the line. Opponents average 72.1 points, outrebound Utah by 4.7 boards per game and shoot 48.2 percent from the floor (447-of-928). Individually, two UU players average in double-figures, led by Josh Watkins's 15.6 ppg average. Jason Washburn leads the Utes with a 6.5 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the 50th meeting of the two schools with Utah holding a 28-21 series advantage. Arizona captured the last three meetings in the series, which dates back to Dec. 21, 1953, by an 84-71 count on March 20, 2009, in Miami, Fla., in the first round of the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Regional. Since leaving the WAC, UA is 6-3 against Utah. All-time, Arizona is 13-8 in series games played in Tucson, 6-19 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and 2-1 in neutral-site games. For more series information, please see page 49 in the UA media guide.

LAST MEETING: Arizona 84, Utah 71, March 20, 2009: Arizona built a 10-point in the first seven minutes and made it hold up in defeating Utah, 84-71, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Regional. Arizona's "Big Three" - Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise - combined for 66 points and got solid contributions from a host of others as it advanced to the second round for the first time since 2006. UA's pressure bothered Utah from the opening tip, as Arizona forced 14 first-half turnovers and limited the Utes to just 39 percent shooting in the opening period. Nic Wise scored 21 of his career-high 29 points in the second half, while Chase Budinger added 20 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals.

LEADING THE WAY: Solomon Hill guided Arizona to a split last week by averaging 10.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in those two outings. The junior forward connected on 63.6 percent of his field goals (7-of-11), including all three three-point attempts and all three free throws to go with two blocks and three steals. Hill has now led the Cats in scoring seven times and rebounding 11 times this season. He opened the week with eight boards, five assists and a block to go with four points in the overtime win vs. Oregon State before notching 16 points, seven rebounds and two steals in the loss to Oregon. On the season, he averages 12.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game to go with a .484 field goal percentage.

MORE IS BETTER: The Wildcats averaged 69.0 points in two games last week, needing an extra session to reach 81 in Thursday's win over Oregon State and recording 57 Saturday vs. Oregon. Though the Wildcats are averaging 69.2 points per game through 18 starts, the team is averaging just 64.2 points per game in conference play and has been limited to less than 60 points in three of the last four Pac-12 Conference outings.

DIFFERENT HALVES, DIFFERENT RESULTS: Arizona's two games last week displayed similar themes despite the different endings. The Cats got off to slow starts, trailed at halftime and used strong second-half rallies to claw its way back into things. In the games against Oregon State and Oregon, Arizona combined to shoot .367 (18-of-49) from the floor, was outrebounded by an average of 6.5 rebounds and outscored by 7.0 points per first half. In the second half this week, the Cats combined to shoot .524 from the field (22-of-42), including .632 (12-of-19) percent from three-point range, outrebounded foes by +4.0 rebounds and outscored them by 5.5 points per half.

OUT OF THE GATE: Slow starts have been a UA bugaboo all season, as the 10-minute mark of the first half continues to loom large when determining Wildcat fortunes. Eight times in 2011-12 Arizona has trailed at the 10-minute mark and gone on to lose six of those games. Further, Arizona is 3-5 when trailing at halftime and 1-5 when trailing with five minutes to go in the second half.

OFF THE MARK: One area of concern last week for the Cats was its free throw shooting. UA entered the week ranked second in the Pac-12 with a .725 free throw percentage, yet connected on only 33-of-54 (.611) of its charity tosses in the two tilts. The effort dropped UA's free throw percentage 16 points to .709 (273-of-385). Individually, Kyle Fogg leads the UA regulars with an .818 (54-of-66) FT percentage.

FOOL'S GOLD: It's not often that one team can outscore another by 19 points in less than 15 minutes and still lose, but that's what happened to the Cats on Saturday. Trailing 41-24 with 17:33 to go, Arizona responded with a 32-13 run over the next 14:35 to take a 56-54 lead with 2:59 before Oregon closed things out. UA was 9-of-16 (.563) from the field, while limiting UO to 5-of-18 (.278) shooting during the run. Incidentally, the 32 points scored by Arizona in that 14 minutes and change was more than it had scored in either first half last week.

MAKING SHOTS MATTERS: Over the course of 85 minutes played last week, Arizona managed to cumulatively outshoot its opponents, connecting on 44.3 percent (43-of-97) of its field goal attempts, 20 percentage points better than the opposition (47-of-111/.423). Shooting percentages also prove meaningful for the Cats, as the club is 10-1 this season (3-0 Pac-12) when shooting better than the opposition and 2-5 (0-2 Pac-12) when it doesn't. In the Sean Miller era, Arizona is 41-4 when outshooting the opposition and 17-25 when not.

LONG-RANGE ACCURACY: One area of the court in which Arizona was highly successful last week was behind the three-point line. In the games against the Oregon schools, Arizona connected on 19-of-39 (.487) of its three-point attempts. Of the six Wildcats to sink a trey last week, five of those players shot 50 percent or better from behind the arc. On the season, Arizona shoots 37.1 percent (134-of-361) from behind the arc and leads the Pac-12 with an average of 7.4 made treys per game.

DIALED IN: In Pac-12 play, Arizona is limiting opponents to less than 40 percent shooting, outrebounding foes by 1.6 boards per game and outscoring them by 5.4 points per game. Through the first three weekends of conference play, UA opponents are shooting just 38.7 percent (106-of-274) from the floor, including 25.7 percent (19-of-74) from behind the arc, to go with an average of 58.8 points per game. Four of Arizona's five conference opponents have failed to score more than 65 points against the Wildcats.

SCORING GUARDS: Arizona's top-two scorers are forwards Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry, who combine to total an average of 23.9 points per game. But it was the Wildcat guards who handled most of the scoring efforts last week. UA guards Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, Kyle Fogg, Brendon Lavender and Jordin Mayes tallied 94 of the team's 138 points. In Thursday's win over Oregon State, the Arizona guards amassed 69 of the team's 81 points. Over the course of UA's 18 games, those five guards are responsible for 55 percent (685-of-1245) of the scoring.

ON TARGET: In addition to leading Arizona with a 7.5 rebounds per game figure and shooting 64 percent from the floor last week, Solomon Hill also equaled season highs with two steals in each contest and he set a new career high with three three-point field goals Saturday against Oregon. It marked the first time in Hill's 87-game career that the 6-foot-6 native of Los Angeles, Calif., made every three-point FG attempt when taking three or more.

PRODUCTIVE: Freshman Josiah Turner put forth a solid week, averaging 7.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in a pair of appearances. Saturday against Oregon, the 6-foot-3 guard from Sacramento, Calif., tallied 11 points, two steals and a block in a season-high 29 minutes played. The point total was Turner's third double-figure effort of the season and was his highest in 10 appearances. On the season, Turner averages 6.9 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. He also ranks 13th in the Pac-12 with an average of 1.2 steals per game.

SCORING 80: It took an extra session to do it, but Arizona scored 81 points Thursday against Oregon State, topping the 80-point plateau for the fifth time this year (5-0). Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 205-19 (.915) 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 espn.com and rivals.com.

UP NEXT: Arizona next will be in action on Saturday, Jan. 21, when the Cats travel to Boulder, Colo., to take on the University of Colorado. Tip-off in the Coors Events Center is scheduled for 4 p.m. MST and can be seen on KWBA-TV and FOX Sports Arizona.

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