Jan. 31, 2003
Date: Saturday, Feb. 1, 2003
Time: 5 p.m. MST
Location: Olson Court at McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Joe Nehls)
TV: FSN (Barry Tompkins/Dan Belluomini)
Game Data: Top-ranked Arizona (15-2, 7-1 Pac-10) hosts a showdown for first place as it hosts 20th-ranked California (14-3, 7-1 Pac-10) ... The hotly-anticipated match-up of league unbeatens hit a road block Thursday, as both clubs suffered five-point defeats ... The two clubs combined to win 18 consecutive games entering play on Thursday ... Just how important is this game? In the previous five seasons, the team in first place at the halfway point has gone on to win the Pac-10 title ... Six of the last nine series meetings in Tucson have been decided by five points or less.
The Rankings: Arizona remained atop both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls for the second consecutive week after spending Jan. 6-19 in the No. 2 position. The Cats spent the first six weeks of the season as the nation's top-ranked club. UA has been ranked in 263 consecutive AP polls released during the regular season only.
Arizona Head Coach Lute Olson . . . is in his 20th season at Arizona and his 30th overall as a college head coach with a career record of 678-237 (.741) and 486-145 (.770) at Arizona ... He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 27, 2002 ... Olson recorded his 600th career win and his 400th victory at Arizona during the 2000 campaign and has the third most Pac-10 wins (269) in history, trailing UCLA's John Wooden (304, 1949-75) and Oregon State's Slats Gill (276, 1929-64) ... He has the second-best conference winning percentage (.780/269-76) in Pac-10 history (minimum three years), trailing only Wooden (.810/304-74) ... During his 20-year tenure at Arizona, the Wildcats have won one national championship (1997), played in the national championship game (2001), participated in four Final Fours (1988, 1994, 1997, 2001), won nine Pac-10 Conference titles, four Pac-10 Tournament crowns (1988, '89, '90, 2002) and been to the NCAA Tournament for the past 18 years in a row, which is the longest active and second-longest streak in NCAA history (North Carolina, 27)... He also led Iowa to the 1980 Final Four ... Olson has been named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year six times (1986, '88, '89, '93, '94, '98), the Big Ten Coach of the Year twice (1979 & '81) and directed the UA program to the nation's best winning percentage over the past 15 years (401-97/.805) ... In his collegiate career, Olson has produced 45 NBA Draft picks, including 26 at Arizona - 20 alone since 1990 ... He's led UA to 15 consecutive 20-win seasons and has 24 overall in his career, making him one of only five head coaches in NCAA history to record 24 or more 20-win seasons... Under Olson, the Cats are 289-30 (.906) in McKale Center and have won 217 of its last 232 home games ... He is assisted by Jim Rosborough, Rodney Tention and Josh Pastner ... Olson is 32-9 against California, including a 16-3 record in McKale Center.
Last Time Out: Rebounds, turnovers and free throw shooting proved to be the difference as Stanford picked up the 82-77 win Thursday night. Stanford outrebounded UA, 43-39, forced 19 turnovers and benefitted from 14-of-26 Wildcat free throw shooting as the Cardinal won in McKale Center for the third straight season. Stanford built as much as a 14-point lead in the second half before UA went on a 20-3 run and took a 65-62 lead with 7:18 to go. Julius Barnes and Matt Lottich hit treys on the next two possessions to get Stanford back on top for good.
Scouting California: The Golden Bears (14-3, 7-1 Pac-10) enter Saturday's game looking to rebound from Thursday's 75-70 loss at Arizona State. All three of Cal's defeats have come in road or neutral-site games. The Bears shoot 47.3 percent (468-of-989) from the field with that figure jumping to 49.2 percent in conference play, while averaging 75.5 points per game, which is 7.2 points more than the opposition. Cal has had at least one player score 20-plus points in seven straight games. Individually, senior Joe Shipp leads the team (and the Pac-10) with a 21.3 points per game average, while chipping in with a 6.2 rebounds per game mark.
The Series: Today's game marks the 64th meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 40-23 series advantage. Arizona has won 12 of the last 14 games in the series, which dates back to Feb. 1, 1924, including a 90-78 win over the Bears in the semifinals of the 2002 Pac-10 Tournament in Los Angeles. All-time, Arizona is 20-8 in series games played in Tucson, 18-14 in Berkeley and 2-1 in neutral-site games. See page 123 of the UA media guide for more series information.
Last Meeting: Arizona 90, California 78, March 8, 2002: Arizona shot a season-best 57.9 percent from the floor and turned 16 California turnovers into 23 points in defeating the Golden Bears, 90-78. Once again, the duo of Luke Walton and Jason Gardner led the way, combining for 45 points and shot 51.6 percent from the floor (16-of-31). Sparked by the play of Will Bynum, the UA bench outscored Cal 20-8.
A Milestone Game: Saturday's game could shape up to be a memorable one for Luke Walton as he nears two impressive career milestones. He enters the game against California just two points shy of 1,000 career points, which would make him the 32nd player in UA history to accomplish the feat. Walton is also two assists shy of 500 for his career. Only five other players in school history have achieved that lofty plateau.
The Walton Legacy: In each of the last eight seasons, there has been at least one Walton family member active on the college basketball scene. Since the start of the 1995-96 season, Adam, Nate, Luke and Chris have combined to score more than 1,800 points, grab more than 1,100 rebounds and pass out nearly 900 assists (with a 1.6 assist:tunrover ratio). Perhaps most importantly, three of the four already have their college degrees.
As a Top-Ranked Club: Since Arizona first achieved the Associated Press' No. 1 ranking on Dec. 21, 1987, the Wildcats have held that position for 23 polling periods. In that span, UA has amassed a cumulative 31-7 record (.817) as the nation's top-ranked team, including a 13-1 (.929) mark at McKale Center. The only home loss as the nation's No. 1 club came in Thursday's game with Stanford.
On the Rebound: Prior to Thursday, rebounding had been a key to the Wildcats' success, as the team had outrebounded 10 consecutive opponents and every Pac-10 team. That changed Thursday as Stanford won the battle on the glass, 43-39. Arizona still posts a +8.6 rebound margin on the season and is 14-0 when accomplishing the feat and 1-2 when outrebounded.
Needing a Better Defensive Effort: Over its last two games, Arizona opponents have combined to shoot 45.5 percent (61-of-134), a figure that is 4.3 percent higher than Arizona's season FG defense figure (.412). No Pac-10 team shot better than Stanford's 43.5 percent effort (30-of-69) Thursday, and that catapulted the Cardinal to 82 points, the high-water mark for a UA opponent this season.
Losing Two at Home: The Wildcats enter play on Saturday looking to avoid being swept at home for the first time in 19 seasons. Not since the 1983-84 season has Arizona dropped both ends of a league weekend doubleheader. The Washington schools turned the trick on Jan. 12 (Washington, 55-53) and Jan. 14 (Washington State, 51-49), 1984.
Picking Up the Pace: Don't be fooled by the fact that Jason Gardner's points per game average is currently 5.6 points less than last season (20.4 ppg). He still ranks as the most productive Cat. Not only does his current 14.8 points per game mark lead the Wildcats, but over the last three games the senior from Indianapolis has picked up his scoring as well by averaging 21.3 points to go with 6.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists. Gardner's 22-point effort Thursday was his second consecutive and fourth of the season. He's topped 20 points 29 times in his career.
Notice Served: Luke Walton's 20-point, nine-rebound effort in 36 minutes Thursday should serve notice that his ankle troubles are behind him. His 20 points scored and 36 minutes played were season highs. An added bonus came when he connected on 3-of-4 attempts from behind the arc. Since his return to the lineup on Jan. 9, Walton is averaging 11.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists in seven games.
Shuffling the Deck: One could say that Lute Olson is quite the card player with as many times as the UA mentor has shuffled his lineup. In 17 games this season, Arizona has used 12 different starting lineups. Only one lineup, Rick Anderson, Luke Walton, Channing Frye, Salim Stoudamire and Jason Gardner, has been used more than twice. That quintet is 5-0 when it takes to the court for the center jump.
Against the Best: Two of the nation's best teams meet Saturday, as No. 20 California visits McKale Center. To date, Arizona is 4-0 this season against ranked opponents, including 2-0 at home. Over the last three seasons, Arizona is 22-12 (.647) against nationally-ranked opponents.
Help off the Bench: Freshman guard Chris Rodgers provided some much-needed help off the bench on Thursday, as he tallied three points, two assists and a steal in 11 minutes. In addition to his solid defense, Rodgers knocked down his second career trey against the Cardinal. On the season, Rodgers is averaging 2.9 points and 1.2 assists on the season. Rodgers also has a solid 1.55 assist:turnover ratio.
A Break from the Norm: Channing Frye's nine points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots weren't too far off his season averages, but his shooting was. Entering the game shooting 62.7 percent from the field (32-of-51) in conference play, Frye hit just 4-of-10 field goal attempts. He still ranks second on the club with a 56.4 field goal percentage through 17 games.
More Like it: After not logging 40 minutes through the first 15 games of the season, Jason Gardner has done just that in the last two. He hasn't left the floor since Jan. 22. Thursday's game marked the 28th time in Gardner's 121-game career that he has played 40 or more minutes. He is the Arizona career leader in minutes played per game at 35.3 minutes.
A Struggle at Home: One would think that Arizona would enjoy the comforts of home...but not that the free throw line. In the last five games, Arizona has shot just 59.1 percent (78-of-132) from the charity stripe, including a 14-of-26 (.538) effort on Thursday. Remarkably, that's not all that much better than its 46.9 percent shooting from the field (142-of-303) when the opponents actually get to play defense.
Under the Radar: Judging by his slender 6-foot-9, 225-pound frame, it might be hard to imagine senior Rick Anderson being one of the league's better rebounders. Somehow the Long Beach, Calif., native slips in and grabs an average of 5.9 rebounds per game, a figure that ranks second on the squad. Thirty-three of his 94 rebounds have come on the offensive glass this season.
Scoring 80: Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 73-7 (.913) since the start of the 1998-99 season when scoring at least 80 points. The Cats were 16-4 last season when scoring at least 80 points.
Early Signees: Coach Olson and his staff signed three student-athletes to National-Letters-of-Intent during the November early signing period. Ndudi Ebi (F, 6-8, 192) from Houston, Texas, Westbury Christian High School, Mustafa Shakur (G, 6-3, 175) from Wynnewood, Pa., Friends Central High School and Kirk Walters (C, 6-10, 210) from Grand Rapids, Mich., South Christian High School will join the squad next fall.
Up Next: The Wildcats hit the road for the Pacific Northwest with two games in the state of Washington. Arizona takes on Washington in Seattle on Thursday, Feb. 6, at 7:30 p.m. PST. That game can be seen nationally on Fox Sports Net. UA takes on Washington State on Saturday, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. PST. That game will be carried on Fox Sports Net Arizona.