Dec. 5, 2011
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011
Time: 7 p.m. EST
Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center (12,000), Gainesville, Fla.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)
TV: ESPN (Mark Jones/Jimmy Dykes)
GAME DATA: Arizona (6-2, 0-0 Pac-12) hits the road for Gainesville, Fla., and its toughest test of the season to date Wednesday at 12th-ranked Florida (5-2, 0-0 SEC) ... Tonight’s game is Arizona’s first of the season against a nationally ranked opponent ... UA leaves the comforts of McKale Center for the third time this year to play the Gators, and has covered 8,130 roundtrip miles to date ... Field goal percentage is always a leading indicator of success for the Cats, as the team is 4-0 this year and 35-3 (.921) in the Sean Miller era when outshooting the opposition ... This is UA’s first trip to the state of Florida since the 2009 NCAA Tournament’s first/second rounds in Miami.
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 172-72 (.705) and 52-25 (.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 0-0 vs. Florida as a head coach.
LAST TIME OUT: Kyle Fogg hit three treys in the first 2:24 of the second half to spur a 10-2 burst that essentially put the game out of reach, as Arizona downed Northern Arizona, 53-39, on Saturday. Both teams struggled from the floor, but Arizona’s long-range touch proved to be the difference as six of the Cats’ 10 second-half field goal came from behind the arc. UA outrebounded NAU, 29-26, collected 15 assists and had a season-low seven turnovers. Solomon Hill led all scorers with 15 points, while Fogg finished with 11.
SCOUTING FLORIDA: The Gators enter tonight’s game with a 5-2 record (0-0 SEC) following Friday’s 72-68 loss at No. 4 Syracuse. On the season, Florida averages 87.6 points, shoots 48.4 percent from the floor (216-of-446), 41.8 percent (81-of-194) from three-point range and 62.1 percent (100-of-161) from the line. Opponents average 66.3 points, are outrebounded by 8.0 boards per game and shoot 39.9 percent from the floor (158-of-396). Individually, five UF players averages in double-figures, led by Kenny Boynton’s 19.0 ppg average. Patric Young leads Florida with a 7.3 rebounds per game average.
THE SERIES: Tonight’s game is the third meeting of the two schools with the teams split at one win apiece. Arizona won the first meeting, 75-71, on Nov. 9, 2001, in New York City and Florida captured the next, 78-77, on Nov. 28, 2003, in Springfield, Mass. All-time, Arizona is 0-0 in series games played in Tucson, 0-0 in Gainesville, Fla., and 1-1 in neutral-site games. For more series information, please see page 47 in the UA media guide.
LAST MEETING: Florida 78, Arizona 77, Nov. 28, 2003: Bonell Colas’ lay-up with seven seconds remaining gave Florida a one-point win at the MassMutual Classic. It was the Gators’ only lead in the final 11:00. Arizona held a 54-43 rebound edge, but shot just 38.3 percent from the floor to go with 16 turnovers. Chris Rodgers led the Cats with a career-high 17 points, while Channing Frye added 15 points and 13 rebounds.
AGAINST THE SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE: All-time, Arizona is 13-23 (.361) all-time against teams that currently reside in the Southeastern Conference, and is 5-6 in its last 11 games against the league dating back to the start of the 1999-2000 season. Arizona last faced an SEC foe on Nov. 18, dropping a 67-57 decision to Mississippi State in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer in New York City. For more information on series vs. the conference, please see page 51 of the UA media guide.
FOLLOW THAT GUY: Solomon Hill earned Pac-12 Player-of-the-Week honors by averaging 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists in a pair of games last week. The junior forward connected on 57.9 percent of his field goals (11-of-19), including 43 percent (3-of-7) from behind the arc, to go with a blocked shot. During the week, Hill extended his double-figure scoring streak to a career-long six games and set a new career high with seven assists. He collected 12 points (5-of-8 FG), six boards and those seven assists in a road win at New Mexico State and added 15 points, seven boards and a steal Saturday vs. Northern Arizona. Hill leads UA in scoring, FG percentage and assists and ranks second in rebounding. On the season, he averages 12.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game to go with a 48.4 field goal percentage.
ENOUGH TO WIN: Arizona managed to win a game Saturday despite scoring a season-low 53 points. It marked the first time in the Sean Miller era that the Wildcats have won a game when scoring less than 60 points (six occurrences). Additionally, the 39 points allowed by UA Saturday was the fewest by an opponent since the start of the 2009-10 season and was two points shy of the McKale Center record for the fewest points scored by any team, topped by a 37-point effort by Northern Arizona in an 84-37 loss to Arizona on Dec. 6, 1989. That was also the last time a UA opponent failed to score 40 points in a contest, a span of 734 games played.
A LITTLE BREATHING ROOM: The Wildcats’ 14-point win over Northern Arizona marked its first game this season – positively or negatively – that had been decided by more than 10 points. Prior to Saturday, each of UA’s games had been decided by a range from four to 10 points. On the season, Arizona holds a +5.4 scoring margin (68.0-62.6). UA’s scoring defense figure currently ranks fourth among Pac-12 teams.
THAT’S MORE LIKE IT: Sean Miller’s switch to a small lineup last week didn’t hurt too much on the glass, as the Cats remained even in terms of rebound margin for the week, and outrebounded NAU Saturday, 29-26, to improve to 5-1 this season when outrebounding the opposition. UA is 36-9 (.800) when outrebounding its opposition in the Sean Miller era.
BEARING DOWN: In its two victories last week Arizona limited New Mexico State and Northern Arizona to an average of 57.5 points per game. The two squads combined to shoot 37.9 percent from the floor (44-of-116). Additionally, UA held those two clubs to less than 40 percent shooting in three of four halves this week. Only NMSU’s .417 percentage (15-of-36) in the first half Tuesday topped the 40-percent plateau. Interestingly, the Cats held NMSU and NAU to a combined .367 field goal percentage (22-of-60) in the second half alone.
LONG-RANGE DEFENSE: One of the keys to Arizona’s field goal percentage defense efforts last week (see above) was its ability to limit the opposition from behind the arc. In the games this week, Arizona limited the opposition to just .257 shooting (9-of-35) from three-point range, a marked improvement over the season-long .292 success rate (42-of-144) from long range. The Wildcats, who ranked fifth nationally in this category last season, currently lead the Pac-12 Conference in three-point field goal percentage defense. Opponents have made more than five treys in a game just twice this season against the Wildcat defense.
ON THE RIGHT FOOT: Slow starts have hindered the Wildcats through eight games this season, causing Sean Miller to quip in Saturday’s postgame press conference, “I would love to be winning one time at the first media time out.” To date, Arizona is 3-0 when leading at the 10-minute mark of the first half and 2-2 when tied or trailing. Further, UA is 4-0 this season when leading at halftime and carried a lead into the break in both games last week. Incidentally, Arizona’s six-point halftime lead Saturday was its largest of the season.
THAT’S MORE LIKE IT: Arizona committed a season-low seven turnovers in Saturday’s win, continuing a stretch that has seen the club cut its turnovers dramatically. In the last five games, Arizona is averaging 10.2 miscues per contest, a figure that is nearly six turnovers fewer than in the first three games of the season (16.0 to/g). Look no further than the UA backcourt to protect the ball, as the six Wildcat guards to see action Saturday combined for just two assists (with 11 assists) in 119 combined minutes played. Arizona also posted a positive assist:turnover ratio in both games this week (19:11 at NMSU/15:7 vs. NAU) to mark the first time this season that the Cats had a positive ratio in back-to-back games.
MAKE ‘EM COUNT: Kyle Fogg hit three treys in the first 2:24 of the second half Saturday to spur a 10-2 burst that allowed Arizona to build a double-digit lead – a margin the Cats held for all but 4:17 of the second half. The 6-foot-3 senior from Brea, Calif., ended the game with 11 points, his fourth this season in double figures. Fogg ranks second on the club with 12 treys and a .414 three-point FG percentage (12-of-29). He averages 11.0 points and 2.6 rebounds per game this year.
GETTING THERE: Freshman guard Josiah Turner logged 24 minutes without a turnover in Saturday’s win, tallying five points and five rebounds as well. It marked the second time this season that he has played 20 or more minutes without a miscue. For the week, the 6-foot-3 native of Sacramento, Calif., averaged 8.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, and no Cat got to the line as often as Turner did, making 12 trips to the charity stripe.
STEADY AS HE GOES: One UA reserve who put forth a steadying effort last week was Brendon Lavender. The 6-foot-5 guard from Mesa, Ariz., played 26 minutes in the wins over New Mexico State and Northern Arizona, averaging 3.0 points, 1.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists. This season, Lavender has knocked down 5-of-10 (.500) three-point attempts and averages 2.8 points per game.
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 will next be in action on Saturday, Dec. 10, when UA hosts Clemson in McKale Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. MST and can be seen nationally on FOX Sports Net.