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Cats, Devils Open Pac-12 Action Saturday
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 12/28/2011
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Dec. 28, 2011

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Date: Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011
Time: 3:30 p.m. MST
Location: Olson Court, McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach) [Sirius/XM: 117/194]
TV: KWBA-TV/FOX Sports Arizona (Dave Sitton/Corey Williams)

GAME DATA: Arizona (9-4, 0-0 Pac-12) opens a new era of conference action as the Cats host intrastate rival Arizona State (4-8, 0-0 Pac-12) Saturday in McKale Center in both clubs' first-ever Pac-12 Conference game ... UA and ASU have previously battled in the Border (UA, 56-31), Western Athletic (ASU, 22-14) and Pac-10 (UA, 47-23) Conferences ... The Wildcats and Sun Devils meet on the hardwood for the 221st time ... The last four series meetings at McKale Center have been decided by an average of 6.5 points per game ... UA is averaging 76.0 ppg in its last five outings ...Four of Arizona's next six games will be away from home.

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 175-74 (.703) and 55-27 (.671) 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 4-2 vs. Arizona State as a head coach.

LAST TIME OUT: Brendon Lavender scored a career-high 18 points, including four of his six treys, in a 32-5 run over 9:06 of the second half as UA rolled to a 100-60 win, Dec. 22, over Bryant. The Cats shot 52 percent from the field, placed five players in double figures and passed out a season-high 23 assists as all 14 players saw action. It marked UA's first 100-point game in McKale Center in the Sean Miller era and the largest margin of victory since Feb. 17, 2001.

SCOUTING ARIZONA STATE: The Sun Devils enter today's game with a 4-8 record (0-0 Pac-12) following the 68-65 loss to Fresno State on Dec. 21. On the year, Arizona State averages 65.2 points, shoots 46.4 percent from the floor (267-of-575), 35.3 percent (65-of-184) from three-point range and 71.3 percent (184-of-258) from the line. Opponents average 65.3 points, are outrebounded by 3.7 boards per game and shoot 39.9 percent from the floor (260-of-652). Individually, three ASU players average in double-figures, led by Keala King's 14.2 ppg average. Kyle Cain leads the Sun Devils with a 7.1 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Today's game is the 221st meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 141-79 series advantage. Arizona has won 27 of the last 34 meetings in the series, which dates back to 1914, including the last, a 67-52 decision on Feb. 13 in Tempe. All-time, Arizona is 78-28 in series games played in Tucson, 62-50 in Tempe, and 1-1 in neutral-site games. For more series information, please see page 46 in the UA media guide.

LAST MEETING: Arizona 67, Arizona State 52, Feb. 13, 2011: Kyle Fogg exploded for a career-high 26 points to lead Arizona to its sixth consecutive win. The junior connected on 7-of-13 field goal attempts, including 6-of-9 from three-point range to lead an offense that connected on just 40 percent of its attempts for the game. UA outrebounded ASU, 36-31, and converted 13 Sun Devil turnovers into 13 points to build as much as a 19-point lead. Derrick Williams tallied 11 points, while Jesse Perry scored all 10 of his points in the second half.

FOR (CONFERENCE) OPENERS: Since joining the Pac-10 Conference in 1978-79, Arizona has a 22-11 (.667) record in conference openers. Of those 33 previous openers, the Cats are 11-0 when opening at home and 11-11 when opening on the road. Arizona last opened conference play at home in 2007-08. Furthermore (and as mentioned earlier), this is Arizona's fourth incarnation of conference play, and here is how the Cats have fared in those debut tilts: Border Conference, W, 39-20 vs. Arizona State on Jan. 15, 1932; Western Athletic, L, 52-50 (ot) vs. Utah, Jan. 11, 1963; and Pac-10, L, 74-68 at Washington State, Dec. 8, 1978.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Solomon Hill guided Arizona to a sweep last week in a pair of games by averaging 18.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game and earned Pac-12 Player-of-the-Week honors for the second time this season. The junior forward, who is the only player in the Pac-12 to claim P.O.W. honors twice in 2011-12, connected on 58.3 percent of his field goals (14-of-24) to go with seven assists, two blocks and a steal. During the week, Hill notched his second double-double of the season and set a new career high in points (23) and equaled another in rebounds (11). He opened the week with an efficient 23 points (8-of-10 FG/1-of-2 3-pt. FG), 11 rebounds and a block in a win over Oakland and added 13 points, seven boards and four assists in the win over Bryant. Hill's efforts led Arizona to its two highest-scoring games of the season and UA's first 100-point game in McKale Center since March 7, 2009. On the season, he averages 12.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.

FIVE-IN LEADS TO WINS: Arizona placed a season-high five players in double figures in Thursday's 100-60 win over Bryant, led by Brendon Lavender's 18 points. It marked Arizona's first 100-point effort in McKale Center since March 7, 2009, in a 101-87 win over Stanford. Additionally, the 40-point margin of victory was UA's largest in more than a decade - since a 105-61 win at USC on Feb. 17, 2001.

DOUBLE TIME: Forward Jesse Perry recorded his sixth double-double of the season Thursday with a 16-point, 10 rebound effort that included six offensive rebounds. The 6-foot-7 senior connected on 7-of-8 field goal vs. Bryant and equaled a career high with three assists. Through 13 games, Perry averages 11.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, while shooting .543 (57-of-105) from the floor.

ON THE RISE: Freshman guard Josiah Turner put forth one of his best games to date last Thursday, totaling nine points, three rebounds and five assists against Bryant. The 6-foot-3 native of Sacramento, Calif., knocked down a trey and went 4-of-4 from the line and did not commit a turnover in 19 minutes of action. On the season, Turner is averaging 7.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.

A GOOD WEEK: Arizona enjoyed its best offensive week of the season by averaging 92.5 points per game in victories over Oakland and Bryant. Not surprisingly, UA's 100 points vs. Bryant and 85 vs. Oakland were the two highest single-game point totals of the season. Further, the Wildcats found its collective shooting eye, as the club connected on 53.3 percent of its shots (64-of-120) for the week, including a blistering 51.2 percent (21-of-41) from three-point range, and topped the 50-percent plateau in both outings. Of the eight Wildcats to attempt at least seven field goals this week, six shot 50 percent or better from the floor.

OUR TURN TO SHINE: The good shooting continues a trend that has seen the Wildcats shoot 49.3 percent (138-of-280) from the field over the last five games. That effort includes a 41.0 percent clip (41-of-100) from three-point range. In that span, the Cats are averaging 76.0 points per game (+4.9 over its 13-game totals) and are outscoring the opponents by an average of 10.2 points per game. Individually, senior forward Jesse Perry leads the assault, connecting on 65 percent (26-of-40) from the field over the last five games. Additionally, Kyle Fogg and Brendon Lavender have combined to shoot 22-of-39 (.564) from behind the arc since Dec. 7.

ON THE GLASS: UA also rebounded the ball very well in its games this week, posting a +14.5 rebound margin in wins over Oakland and Bryant. In the pair of games, Arizona grabbed a total of 26 offensive rebounds, a figure that was near the total defensive rebounds (36) by the opposition. In Thursday's win alone, Arizona grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and enjoyed a 24-4 advantage in second-chance points en route to a 42-24 rebound edge. That +18 rebound margin equaled the third-highest margin of the Sean Miller era.

VINNIE JOHNSON-ESQUE: Senior guard Brendon Lavender scored 15 of his career-high 18 points in the second half of Thursday's win including four treys in a 32-5 run that covered 9:06 of the stanza. The 6-foot-5 native of Mesa, Ariz., connected on 6-of-10 field goals in the contest, including 6-of-8 from behind the arc, to notch the fifth double-figure scoring game of his career - all in just 11 minutes of action. On the season, Lavender averages 4.0 points per game and shoots 53.1 percent (17-of-32) from the field.

LEADING THE WAY: Solomon Hill continues his productive ways, as he leads the Wildcats in scoring (12.2 ppg), rebounding (7.7 rpg) and assists (3.4 apg). And it may be his rebounding that has been the most consistent, as the 6-foot-6 junior forward has collected five or more caroms in 12 of 13 games to date, including five with nine or more. He ranks second on the team with two double-doubles to date. Hill is the only player in the Pac-12 Conference (as of Dec. 23) to be ranked in the top 20 in scoring and the top 15 in rebounding and assists.

EFFICIENT DISTRIBUTION: Led by Josiah Turner, who tallied five assists against no turnovers, Arizona passed out a season-high 23 assists on 34 made field goals against a season-low seven turnovers. The last time Arizona passed out more than 20 assists and had fewer than 10 turnovers in a game came on Dec. 2, 2008, in a 84-57 win over Loyola Marymount in which the Wildcats collected 21 assists (on 30 field goals) against just six turnovers - a span of 111 games.

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.

PRESEASON PROGNOSTICATIONS: According to media members who regularly cover the league, Arizona was picked to finish third in this season's Pac-12 Conference race. The Cats received 404 points and 11 first-place votes, trailing UCLA and California. The 404 points earned is the most since 2005-06, the last time UA was predicted to win. UA has been the preseason favorite 11 times in the last 22 years.

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 Thursday, Jan. 5, when UA travels to Anaheim, Calif., to take on UCLA in the John R. Wooden Classic. Tip-off at the Honda Center is scheduled for 8 p.m. PST and can be seen nationally on FOX Sports Net.

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