Dec. 1, 2011
Date: Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011
Time: 4:30 p.m. MST
Location: Olson Court, McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach) [Sirius/XM: 94/197]
TV: FS Arizona/KWBA-TV (Dave Sitton/Corey Williams)
GAME DATA: Fresh off its first true road win of the season, Arizona (5-2, 0-0 Pac-12) returns home Saturday to host Northern Arizona (2-5, 0-0 Big Sky) ... Cats and `Jacks meet for the sixth consecutive season and eighth in the last nine ... UA and NAU have met 120 times on the hardwood, second most of any opponent in school history ... Four Wildcats are averaging 11.0 points per game or more this season ... Arizona connected on 51.7 percent (30-of-58) of its field goal attempts Tuesday at New Mexico State, marking the first time the team has accomplished the feat this season.
THE RANKINGS: UA slipped from the national rankings following last Wednesday's loss. The Cats were ranked 16th in both 2011-12 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 171-72 (.704) and 51-25 (.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 2-0 vs. Northern Arizona as a head coach.
LAST TIME OUT: Arizona used a 14-2 run late in the second half to take control then held on for a hard-fought and much-needed road win Tuesday, 83-76, at New Mexico State. Kyle Fogg, whose trey gave UA the lead for good at the 10:27 mark and Nick Johnson each had five points in the run as the Cats won in Las Cruces for the first time since 1963. Arizona started three guards for the first time this season and shot better than 50 percent from the field for the first time this year and posted season-high totals of 83 points and 19 assists.
SCOUTING NORTHERN ARIZONA: The Lumberjacks enter today's game with a 2-5 record (0-0 Big Sky) following Wednesday's 87-52 loss to Brigham Young. On the season, Northern Arizona averages 67.1 points, shoots 42.1 percent from the floor (177-of-420), 35.3 percent (47-of-133) from three-point range and 69.0 percent (69-of-100) from the line. Opponents average 68.7 points, are outrebounded by 4.0 boards per game and shoot 48.2 percent from the floor (180-of-373). Individually, one NAU player averages in double-figures, James Douglas' 12.6 ppg average. Norman Durrell leads NAU with a 6.0 rebounds per game average.
THE SERIES: Today's game is the 121st meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 93-27 series advantage. Arizona has won 27 straight games in the series and 42 of the last 45, including last season's 63-58 win in Tucson on Dec. 16 in the Fiesta Bowl Classic. All-time, Arizona is 64-5 in series games played in Tucson, 29-21 in Flagstaff, and 0-1 in neutral-site games. For more series information, please see page 47 in the UA media guide.
LAST MEETING: Arizona 63, Northern Arizona 58, Dec. 16, 2010: Kevin Parrom's bucket and free throw with 51 seconds remaining broke a 58-58 tie and Brendon Lavender's steal and dunk 34 seconds later sealed Arizona's come-from-behind five-point win. UA trailed by a 20-8 count 10 minutes into the contest and slowly worked its way back by taking care of the ball (season-low eight turnovers) and with solid shooting from behind the arc (10-of-22/.455). Parrom earned Fiesta Bowl Classic Most-Valuable-Player honors with a career-high 14 points to go with five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
SMALL CHANGES, BIG DIFFERENCE: UA head coach Sean Miller tweaked the starting lineup Tuesday and got some immediate results. The Cats went "small," meaning that Arizona started three guards and two forwards at New Mexico State and the quartet led Arizona to season-high totals in points, field goal percentage and assists, and saw three of the five players finish in double figures en route to its first true road win of the season. All told, it was third different starting lineup that Miller has used through seven games this year.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Guard Nick Johnson proved to be a difference maker Tuesday in what was the first start of his career. The 6-foot-2 freshman from Gilbert, Ariz., responded with a team-high 19 points, two assists and zero turnovers in 34 minutes of action. Johnson connected on 8-of-14 field goal attempts, including 2-of-4 from three-point range in what was a season-high point total for him and equaled the second-highest, single-game point total by a Wildcat this season. On the year, Johnson averages 11.0 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, while ranking second on the club with 15 assists and 11 treys.
IT'S AMAZING WHAT MADE SHOTS CAN DO: It only took seven games to do it, but Arizona finally shot better than 50 percent from the field in Tuesday's win, knocking down 30-of-58 (.517) attempts. It's not surprising that the Wildcats sank a season-high 30 field goals in the contest and finished with a season-high 83 points. UA's starting five certainly ignited the effort, as Perry, Hill, Johnson, Fogg and Mayes combined to shoot .535 (23-of-43) from the floor. The 50-percent plateau looms large in UA basketball trends, as the team is 20-1 (.952) in the Sean Miller era when shooting 50 percent or better from the floor.
PERHAPS HOME IS TOO COMFORTABLE: It's generally a safe assumption that teams will perform better at home. However, when it comes to field goal percentages, Arizona has put forth two of its best shooting efforts while on the road: Tuesday's 30-of-58 effort in Las Cruces and the Nov. 17 long range display at Madison Square Garden, where the team hit 14-of-29 (.483) from three-point range.
THAT'S MORE LIKE IT: Arizona did a good job Tuesday of making it difficult for the homestanding Aggies to score...at least on primary opportunities. UA limited NMSU to just 38.4 percent (28-of-73) shooting for the game, including a .351 figure (13-of-37) in the second half, which was a 2011-12 UA opponent low for the stanza. It marked the second time this season that Arizona has held an opponent to less than 40 percent shooting.
A NOBLE EFFORT: The statistics say that Arizona lost the rebound battle Tuesday, 41-38. However, a look beneath the surface shows that the Cats more than held their own, especially when it mattered most. In the second half, Arizona outrebounded NMSU, 23-20, in the period and controlled the NMSU side of the glass: 17 defensive boards compared with nine NMSU offensive rebounds. That may not seem like much, but in the first half NMSU held a 21-15 rebound edge and was nearly equal (10 NMSU offensive boards to 13 UA defensive rebounds, which led to a 15-2 NMSU second-chance point advantage at the break. More simply, Arizona needed to rebound to win and did a better job of that in the second half en route to victory. Jesse Perry (8) and Josiah Turner (4) combined for 12 of UA's 23 second-half rebounds.
THE IRON UNKIND: Arizona made a name for itself by being one of the best teams nationally in terms of three-point field goal percentage defense. A similar kind of effort has followed this season, as Arizona currently leads the Pac-12 Conference in that category, limiting opponents to just a .285 success rate (37-of-130) from behind the arc. Tuesday at NMSU, Arizona limited the Aggies to just 19.0 percent (4-of-21) shooting from three-point range, including 1-of-12 (.083) in the second half.
SHARING THE BALL: Led by Solomon Hill's career high seven, Arizona passed out a season-high 19 assists in Tuesday's win, collecting a helper on 63 percent of the team's field goals, the third-highest percentage of the season. On the year, Arizona averages 12.7 assists per game, while Hill holds the individual lead at 3.1 assists per contest.
A DOUBLE-DOUBLE MACHINE: The biggest surprise of the season to date just might be the consistent productivity of senior forward Jesse Perry. The 6-foot-7 native of St. Louis, Mo., has collected double-doubles in five of Arizona's seven games, including a 15-point, career-high 12-rebound effort Tuesday at New Mexico State. He hit 6-of-11 shots from the floor, including a trey, and added a pair of assists in a career-best 34 minutes of action. Perry's five double-doubles lead the Pac-12 Conference, while his 9.7 rebounds per game average currently ranks second in the league.
ALL-AROUND EFFORT: Forward Solomon Hill continues to enjoy his more productive season across the board, as witnessed by his 12 points, six rebounds and career-high seven assists Tuesday at New Mexico State. He leads the Cats in scoring (12.0 ppg), assists (3.1 apg) and free throws made (29), while ranking second in rebounding (7.9 rpg). Hill, who is also riding a career-long string of five straight games in double figures, also leads the UA regulars with a .472 (25-of-53) FG percentage.
ANOTHER STEP: Freshman Josiah Turner posted another productive outing Tuesday, totaling 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals in Las Cruces. The 6-foot-3 guard was a factor in the second half, seven points (5-of-6 FT), four boards and two steals in 11 minutes. On the season, Turner averages 7.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.
QUICK HITS: Center Kyryl Natyazhko hit 2-of-3 FGs in eight minutes Tuesday ... UA's starting five posted 15 assists against five turnovers in 143 combined minutes action at NMSU ... UA is 3-0 this year when leading at the 10-minute mark of the first half.
SCORING 80: Arizona scored a season-high 83 points on Nov. 29 at New Mexico State, topping the 80-point plateau for the second time this year (2-0). Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 202-19 (.914) 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 Wildcats 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. Historically speaking, Arizona 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: Arizona will next be in action on Wednesday, Dec. 7, when the Wildcats travel to Gainesville, Fla., to take on 10th-ranked Florida. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST and can be seen nationally on ESPN.