Nov. 11, 2011
Date: Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011
Time: 4 p.m. MST
Location: Olson Court, McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)
TV: FS Arizona/KWBA (Dave Sitton/Corey Williams)
GAME DATA: No. 16 Arizona (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12) concludes its three-game, season-opening homestand by hosting Ball State (0-0, 0-0 MAC) Sunday in McKale Center ... The work-in-progress Wildcats hope to feed off the comforts of home yet again ... With two games under its belt, UA should have an activity advantage over Ball State, who makes its 2011-12 debut Sunday ... In the last three years, Ball State is 5-10 in non-conference road games.
THE RANKINGS: UA opens the 2011-12 season ranked No. 16 in preseason editions of the Associated Press and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ polls. It is the first time that the Cats open the year with a national ranking since 2007-08. UA closed 2010-11 ranked No. 9 by the coaches.
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 168-70 (.706) and 48-23 (.676) 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. Ball State as a head coach.
LAST TIME OUT: Arizona enjoyed a similar storyline yet again, as the Cats endured a sluggish first half, enjoyed a strong second-half run to take control and held on in the end Wednesday for a 67-59 win over Duquesne in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. And once again, Jordin Mayes was in the middle of things, scoring 14 of his career-high 19 points in the second half, including eight points in a key 13-2 run over 2:47 late in the period. Jesse Perry (11) and Solomon Hill (9) combined for 20 of UA’s 43 boards on the way to a +11 margin on the glass.
SCOUTING BALL STATE: Eight lettermen and four starters return from a club that went 19-13 last year for head coach Billy Taylor. The Cardinals are led by Jarrod Jones, a 6-foot-9 senior forward from Michigan City, Ind., who averaged 14.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in 2010-11. Last season, BSU averaged 67.6 points per game, shot 44.6 percent from the field (724-of-1,623) and outrebounded the opposition by a +0.5 margin. Ball State defeated Taylor, 72-47, in an exhibition game on Nov. 7.
THE SERIES: Today’s game is the first meeting of the two schools. All-time, Arizona has a 4-4 (.500) record against schools that currently reside in the Mid-American Conference. The Wildcats last faced a MAC team on March 16, 1995, in what was a 71-62 loss to Miami, Ohio, in the first round of the 1995 NCAA Tournament in Dayton, Ohio. UA coaches Sean Miller and James Whitford were members of the MU coaching staff that season. For a conference breakdown, see page 51 in the UA media guide.
START HERE: In its two regular season games to date, Arizona has done a good job of making it tough for the opponents to score, limiting Valparaiso (64) and Duquesne (59) to an average of 61.5 points per game. That figure is 6.4 points less than the Cats allowed in 38 games a year ago and is 12.6 points less than the Crusaders and Dukes combined to average in 2011-12. Arizona held 11 opponents to less than 60 points in game last year.
ANOTHER GOOD SIGN: The Wildcats have also been good at contesting shots to date, as witnessed by a .364 (40-of-110) field goal percentage defense figure. Wednesday vs. Duquesne, Arizona limited the Dukes to just 32.8 percent shooting (19-of-58), including a .267 (8-of-30) mark in the first half. A year ago, Arizona limited opponents to a .444 (940-of-2,115) field goal percentage and held opponents to less than 40-percent shooting nine times.
CONTROLLING THE BOARDS: Rebounding was an area of concern heading into the 2011-12 campaign, but early on the Wildcats have controlled the glass relatively well. Led by Jesse Perry, Solomon Hill and Angelo Chol, UA has outrebounded both of its opponents to date, posting a +6.5 rebound margin. Wednesday against Duquesne, Arizona posted a 43-32 rebound advantage and improved to 33-8 (.805) in the Sean Miller era when outrebounding the opposition.
SECOND-HALF CLUB: Arizona has done good things like holding field goal percentages down and winning the rebound battles, but in two games, UA finds itself averaging just 30 points per game in the first half, and was trailing at the half of one of those games. Certainly, 17 turnovers and a .412 (21-of-51) first-half field goal percentage don’t help matters. However, the Cats have rebounded nicely after the break, outscoring opponents by an average of 8.5 points per game and shooting better than 50 percent (21-of-41/.512) from the field.
CASHING IN: With freshman guard Nick Johnson leading the charge, Arizona has attempted 66 free throws in its two regular season games to date. Johnson, the 6-foot-2 native of Gilbert, Ariz., has hoisted a team-leading 19 charity tosses (made 14) so far. He is one of three Cats (Hill/Fogg) to reach double figures through two appearances. While Arizona’s percentage (.697) is 4.9 points lower than last season, the Wildcats have made nearly as many free throws (46) as opponents have attempted (50).
IT’S BEEN A WHILE: Senior forward Jesse Perry has been all over the boards for Arizona through two games, as he’s pulled down a combined 21 rebounds against Valpo and Duquesne. He’s been so good, in fact, that he’s posted the first two double-doubles of his career (14-10 vs. VU/11-11 vs. DU), making him the first Wildcat since Jordan Hill in 2008-09 to collect double-doubles in the first two games of a season. In fact, the only other Cat to accomplish the feat in this millennium is Michael Wright, who did so in 1999-2000 and 2000-01. Wright and Hill went on to lead the team in rebounding in each of those years.
IN SMALL DOSES: Arizona is averaging 5.0 made three-point field goals per game through its first two games, a figure which is significantly less than in the recent past. In the first two years of the Sean Miller era, UA averaged 7.1 made treys per game.
A-MAYES-ING: Jordin Mayes finds himself in the middle of a lot of good things for the Wildcats right now, as he tallied a career-high 19 points to go with two rebounds and an assist vs. Duquesne in what was his first career start. The 6-foot-2, sophomore guard from Los Angeles, Calif., connected on 6-of-10 field goals, including 4-of-7 from three-point range in the effort. Fourteen of his career-high 19 points came in the second half against the Dukes, including eight points in a key 13-2 run over 2:47 late in the period that pushed UA’s lead to 12 points.
ALL-AROUND EFFORT: While junior Solomon Hill has connected on just 22.2 percent of his field goal attempts (2-of-9) to open the season, he certainly has found other ways to contribute. Currently, he is tied for the team lead with seven assists, is tied for second with a 6.5 rebounds per game average and has made 11-of-14 (.786) free throw attempts on the year. Wednesday vs. Duquesne, the 6-foot-6 forward tallied seven points (7-of-10 FT), nine rebounds, four assists and two steals in 27 minutes. He’s averaging 7.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game through two appearances.
ADD HIM TO THE LIST SOON: Jordin Mayes has made 6-of-11 (.545) three-point field goals in the two games played and those 11 attempts leave him three long-range attempts shy of qualifying for the UA career three-point field goal percentage list. Currently, Mayes has connected on 45-of-97 (.464) of his career attempts from behind the arc, a figure that would place him second in UA annals trailing only Steve Kerr, who made 57.3 percent (114-of-199) of his career three-point attempts.
STEPPING IN: Brendon Lavender enjoyed a productive 14 minutes Wednesday, posting seven points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal. The 6-foot-5 senior guard from Mesa, Ariz., hit 3-of-5 field goal attempts and equaled a career high with those four rebounds. On the season, he is averaging 3.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.
CENTER OF ATTENTION: Freshman Angelo Chol continues to represented himself well in the post after totaling six points, seven rebounds, an assist and a block in 21 minutes against Duquesne. The 6-foot-9 native of San Diego, Calif., has made 6-of-10 shots from the floor to date and is tied for second on the club with a 6.5 rebounds per game average.
REAPING THE BENEFITS: One concern of the UA coaching staff entering the season was could Arizona get to the free throw line as regularly as it did last season. En route to a Pac-10 regular season championship, Arizona averaged 23.7 free throw attempts per game as a team. Through two games this season, the Wildcats have paraded to the charity stripe an average of 33.0 times per game. Interestingly, UA’s leading free throw shooters (in terms of attempts) – Nick Johnson and Solomon Hill – have more attempts from the line than from the field in the first two games this year.
INTERESTING: UA has committed 35 turnovers in its firs two games and faces a -3.5 turnover margin. To date, opponents have converted those miscues into +8.5 advantage per game in turnover points. Further, almost one-third of the opposition’s point total (40-of-123) comes from directly converting those UA turnovers into points.
IN NOVEMBER: Fast starts have become a regular occurrence for the Wildcats. The program is a cumulative 74-21 (.779) 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 95) were nationally ranked at the time of the game. In those contests, Arizona is 18-11 (.621).
MADE THE LIST: Josiah Turner was included on the Wayman Tisdale Award preseason watch list, the United States Basketball Writers Association announced Oct. 20. Turner, a 6-foot-3, 192-pound guard from Sacramento, Calif., was one of 12 first-year players in contention for national freshman-of-the-year honors. Also, Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn named Turner the No. 5 “Freshman of Instant Impact” among 16 first-year players nationally.
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: Arizona heads to New York City, N.Y., Nov. 17-18, for the finals of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. The Wildcats meet St. John’s in Thursday’s semifinal, scheduled to be televised nationally on ESPN2 at approximately 9:30 p.m. EST.