Jan. 3, 2012
Date: Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012
Time: 8 p.m. PST
Location: Honda Center (17,608), Anaheim, Calif.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)
TV: FOX Sports Net (Steve Physioc/Marques Johnson)
GAME DATA: Arizona (10-4, 1-0 Pac-12) opens the Southern California road swing Thursday against UCLA (7-7, 0-2 Pac-12) in Anaheim ... In addition to its conference implications, the game is also featured as the John R. Wooden Classic ... Arizona is 3-0 in previous Wooden Classic appearances, defeating Utah (69-61) in Dec. 1996, Purdue (79-66) in Dec. 2001 and Mississippi State (68-64) in Dec. 2004 ... Over the last five games, Arizona is outscoring opponents by an average of 5.6 points per game (34.0-28.4) in the first half ... Last Saturday's game was the 250th in the coaching career of Sean Miller, who has won better than 70 percent of those contests.
THE RANKINGS: UA remains unranked in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' polls this week. The Cats were ranked 16th in both 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 176-74 (.704) and 56-27 (.675) 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 3-3 vs. UCLA as a head coach.
LAST TIME OUT: Arizona used an 11-0 run late in the first half and a quick 12-2 burst to open the second half and build as much as a 24-point lead in what became a 68-51 Wildcat win Saturday in UA's first-ever Pac-12 game. UA outshot, outrebounded and held sizeable advantages in points off turnovers and second chance points. Jesse Perry led all scorers with 16 points and was joined in double figures by Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson. Josiah Turner added five steals.
SCOUTING UCLA: The Bruins enter tonight's game with a 7-7 record (0-2 Pac-12) following Saturday's 85-69 loss at California. On the year, UCLA averages 68.8 points, shoots 44.5 percent from the floor (350-of-787), 35.7 percent (75-of-210) from three-point range and 67.1 percent (188-of-280) from the line. Opponents average 64.4 points, are outrebounded by 2.2 boards per game and shoot 43.1 percent from the floor (322-of-747). Individually, two UCLA players average in double-figures, led by Lazeric Jones' 13.6 ppg average. David Wear leads the Bruins with a 6.3 rebounds per game average.
THE SERIES: Today's game is the 84th meeting of the two schools with UCLA holding a 48-35 series advantage. Arizona has won 15 of the last 28 meetings in the series, which dates back to Feb. 19, 1923, but UCLA captured the last, a 71-49 win in Los Angeles on Feb. 26. The last time UA and UCLA met during the regular season on a "neutral" floor came Dec. 28, 1964, at the Los Angeles Classic at the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena, a 99-79 UCLA win. All-time, Arizona is 21-14 in series games played in Tucson, 13-30 in Westwood, and 1-4 in neutral-site games. For more series information, please see page 46 in the UA media guide.
LAST MEETING: UCLA 71, Arizona 49, Feb. 26, 2011: Arizona really had no answer for the UCLA frontline, as Reeves Nelson, Tyler Honeycutt and Josh Smith combined for 49 points and 25 rebounds as the Bruins handed the Wildcats its worst loss of the season. Trailing 26-25 with 6:26 to go in the first, UCLA ripped off a 26-4 run over the next 10:30 and never looked back. Arizona shot a season-low 31.5 percent from the field and was outrebounded, 40-26. Derrick Williams tallied 15 points and Kyle Fogg added 10 in the final game in Pauley Pavilion before it undergoes renovations.
FORTUNATELY, IT'S THE REGULAR SEASON: Arizona has a 6-3 (.667) record all-time in Anaheim's Honda Center, picking up Wooden Classic wins in 1996-97, 2001-02 and 2004-05. However, it's in the postseason that this building causes Cat fans much consternation, as the Cats are 3-0 in the facility in NCAA West Regional semifinal games - defeating Maryland, Notre Dame and Duke - and 0-3 in subsequent West Regional finals, losing to Utah, Kansas and Connecticut. When Arizona does win in the Honda Center, it does so by an average margin of 11.0 points.
FOLLOW HIS LEAD: Jesse Perry guided Arizona to a win in its only game last week by contributing 16 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists as the Cats won its first-ever Pac-12 game. The senior forward connected on 66.7 percent of his field goals (4-of-6) and all seven free throws to go with a block and a steal in 29 minutes. It was Perry's ninth game in double figures this season, equaling his total from all of last season, and continued a stretch that has seen Perry connect on 61.1 percent of his field goal attempts over his last five games (22-of-36). On the season, he averages 11.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game to go with a .550 field goal percentage.
A GOOD 12 MONTHS: 2011 was a good year for Arizona basketball, as the Wildcats amassed a 29-10 (.744) record in the calendar year that included a Pac-10 regular season championship, a run to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight and producing the second overall selection in the 2011 NBA Draft. It marked Arizona's best calendar year since 2005, when the Wildcats went 29-7 (.806), won the 2005 Pac-10 title and advanced to the 2005 NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight.
OFF THE MARK: Arizona limited Arizona State to 36.0 percent shooting (18-of-50) in Saturday's win, marking the fifth time this year that the Wildcats have held an opponent to less than 40 percent shooting. That continues a good run of defense for the Cats, one that has seen the team limit opponents to a combined 39.3 field goal percentage (110-of-280) over the last five games. On the season, Arizona opponents are shooting a cumulative .405 (320-of-790) from the field.
TWO BY TWO: A pair of good things, which usually occur in tandem, happened in Saturday's game. Led by Josiah Turner, who collected a season-high five steals, Arizona tallied a season-high 10 steals Saturday vs. Arizona State. It was the second time that Arizona has reached double figures in steals. Not coincidentally, Arizona also forced its intrastate rival into 19 turnovers, a UA opponent season high. The Wildcats continue to make improvements on its turnover margin, as the figure now stands at -0.4, but was -1.5 just two games ago.
INCHING HIGHER: Despite Saturday's 68-point outing, the Wildcats are averaging 75.2 points per game over its last five outings. That output is 4.3 points better than UA's season-long scoring average. Bolstering the UA offensive attack in the last handful of contests is an improved field goal percentage, as the squad is shooting 48.9 percent (133-of-272) from the field in the last five games. That figure is 3.7 higher than the Cats' overall field goal percentage of .452 (334-of-739). Individually, Jesse Perry has made 61.1 percent (22-of-36) of his field goal attempts in that span.
SUB 60: UA limited Arizona State to 51 points in Saturday's win, including just 20 points in the first half, which marked the fourth time in 2011-12 that Arizona has held an opponent to fewer than 60 points and the first in four games. Through 14 games, Arizona opponents are averaging 62.9 points per game, five points less than last season's scoring defense figure (67.9 ppg).
IN CONTROL: With 17 rebounds from the starting frontline, Arizona held a 32-30 rebound edge in Saturday's win and has now outrebounded four of its last five opponents. On the season, the Wildcats have outrebounded 10 of 14 opponents to date and are 9-1 when accomplishing the feat. Through those 14 games, Arizona carries a +2.3 rebound margin. Individually, Solomon Hill (7.9 rpg) and Jesse Perry (7.6 rpg) combine to average better than 15 rebounds per game.
ONE RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: As mentioned above, the Wildcats did a good job last Saturday of forcing turnovers and winning the rebound battle, but what may have been more important was Arizona's ability to convert those opportunities into points. Against the Sun Devils, Arizona boasted a 22-11 advantage in points off turnovers and a 14-7 edge in second-chance points. It's always good when you double up the opposition in those hustle-type categories.
WHO NEEDS A GO-TO GUY?: The Wildcats continue to display a balanced offensive attack, as four UA players are averaging in double figures through 14 games, and two more are averaging 7.0 points or better. To date, eight Wildcats have registered 41 double-figure scoring games and there have been six different players lead the team in scoring this season. Not since 2006-07 has Arizona had as many as four players finish the year with scoring averages of 10.0 points or better.
DOUBLE-DOUBLES: Forward Solomon Hill collected his third double-double of the season (third career) Saturday with 11 points and 10 rebounds against Arizona State. The 6-foot-6 junior from Los Angeles, Calif., also passed out three assists and added a block and a steal vs. the Sun Devils. On the season, Hill leads Arizona with per game averages of 12.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. It was Arizona's ninth double-double of the year.
THIS GUY IS GOOD: Freshman Nick Johnson continues to prove himself to be one of Arizona's most consistent performers. In his Pac-12 debut Saturday, the 6-foot-2 guard from Gilbert, Ariz., tallied 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-5 from three-point range, and added an assist and a steal in 31 minutes. Over his last five games, Johnson is averaging 10.8 points per game while shooting 51.2 percent (21-of-41) from the field. The Wildcats are 6-2 since inserting Johnson into the starting line-up on Nov. 29.
HE CAN PASS, TOO: Forward Jesse Perry has been a bedrock for the Wildcats all season by averaging 11.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game to go with a team-leading 55.0 field goal percentage (61-of-111). In the last two games, the senior has proven to be a solid distributor as well, passing out six assists against zero turnovers in 51 total minutes played. SCORING 80: Arizona scored a season-high 100 points on Dec. 22 vs. Bryant, topping the 80-point plateau for the third fourth this year (4-0). Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 204-19 (.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: The Wildcats next will be in action on Sunday, Jan. 8, when UA heads to Los Angeles, Calif., to take on USC. Tip-off at the Galen Center is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. PST and can be seen nationally on FOX Sports Net.