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Cats Take on Hilltoppers in Fiesta Finale
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: December 21, 2005
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Game 10:  Arizona (6-3) vs. Western Kentucky (6-3)


Date:  Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2005

Time:  6:30 p.m. MST

Location:  Olson Court, McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.

Radio:  Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Joe Nehls)

TV:  FSNAZ (Dave Sitton/Bob Elliott)

ONLINE: Live video of the consolation game between Central Florida and Sam Houston State at 4 p.m., and delayed video of the championship game between Arizona and Western Kentucky immediately following its conclusion, are available to subscribers to All-Access, Arizona's premium multimedia service. Live audio of the Arizona game is also available to subscribers. Free live stats for both games are available.

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Game Data:  Arizona (6-3, 0-0 Pac-10) hosts Western Kentucky (6-3, 0-0 SBC) Wednesday in championship game of the 21st annual Fiesta Bowl Classic presented by Chase ... The Wildcats enter the contest riding a four-game win streak ... In 20 previous Classics, Arizona has a 40-1 record ... WKU joins Florida International (1998) as the only Sun Belt Conference members to play in the FBC championship game.


The Rankings:  Arizona fell out of both the Associated Press Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll for the first time since the start of the 1987-88 season.  Prior to this week, UA had been ranked in 312 consecutive AP polls released during the regular season only.


Arizona Head Coach Lute Olson . . . is in his 23rd season at Arizona and his 33rd overall as a college head coach with a career record of 747-259 (.743) and 555-167 (.769) at Arizona ... He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 27, 2002 ... Olson became the 16th coach in basketball history to tally 1,000 career victories (covering all levels) on Dec. 11, 2004 ... Olson recorded his 700th collegiate victory on Jan. 3, 2004, and became Arizona’s career victories leader (510) on Jan. 17, 2004 ... He has the most Pac-10 wins (305) of any coach in league history ... Olson has the second-best conference winning percentage (.778/305-87) and second-most league championships won (11) in Pac-10 history (minimum three years), trailing only UCLA’s John Wooden (.810/304-74/16 titles)  ... During his 23-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 11 Pac-10 Conference titles, four Pac-10 Tournament crowns (1988, ?'89, ?'90, 2002) and been to the NCAA Tournament for 21 consecutive seasons, 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 seven times (1986, ?'88, ?'89, ?'93, ?'94, ?'98, 2003), 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 18 years (479-118/.802) ... In his collegiate career, Olson has produced 49 NBA Draft picks, including 30 at Arizona ?- 21 alone since 1990 ... He’s led UA to 18 consecutive 20-win seasons and has 27 overall in his career, making him one of only four head coaches in NCAA history to record 27 or more 20-win seasons... Under Olson, the Cats are 326-33 (.908) in McKale Center and have won 254 of its last 271 home games ... He is assisted by Jim Rosborough, Josh Pastner and Miles Simon ... Olson is 1-0 against Western Kentucky and 40-0 in Fiesta Bowl Classic play.


Last Time Out:  Arizona shot a season-best 52.3 percent from the floor and scored a season-high 87 points in Monday’s 87-51 win over Sam Houston State in the first round of the Fiesta Bowl Classic presented by Chase.  UA jumped out to a double-figure lead less than three minutes into the game and held SHSU at bay by forcing 29 turnovers and allowing a .356 field goal percentage.  Three Wildcats finished in double figures, led by Chris Rodgers’ 19 points.


Scouting Western Kentucky:  The Hilltoppers carry a 6-3 record into tonight’s game following Monday’s 73-68 win over Central Florida.  As a team, WKU shoots 48.0 percent from the field (264-of-550), including 41.9 percent (88-of-210) from three-point range, while averaging 81.6 points per game.  Opponents shoot at a 44.0 percent clip and average 75.2 points per game.  Two ?'Toppers carry the bulk of the scoring load, as Anthony Winchester (20.0 ppg) and Courtney Lee (19.9 ppg) combine to average 39.9 points per game.


The Series:  Tonight’s game is the second meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 1-0 series advantage.  UA captured the only previous meeting, 107-68, in Tucson on Nov. 23, 2002.  All-time, Arizona is 1-0 in series games played in Tucson, 0-0 in Bowling Green, Ky., and 0-0 in neutral-site games.  Please see page 104 in the UA media guide for more series information.


Last Meeting:  Arizona 107, Western Kentucky 68, Nov. 23, 2002:  Rick Anderson scored 14 first-half points and ignited a 24-2 run over 4:42 of the first half to lead Arizona to the 39-point win.  Anderson hit 6-of-9 shots on the day and scored eight of UA’s first 14 points.  The Cats shot 56.2 percent and were balanced all around, as seven players finished in double figures and five players grabbed at least four boards.  The UA press forced 28 turnovers.


A rarity:  For just the second time this season, Arizona shot better than 50 percent from the field as the team connected on 34-of-65 attempts en route to a season-high 52.3 field goal percentage.  Over the last five seasons, Arizona is 26-8 (.813) when shooting 50 percent or better from the field.


Long Range Plans:  The Wildcats’ .523 field goal percentage Monday was boosted tremendously by its three-point shooting.  Led by Chris Rodgers’ career-best five treys, Arizona hit 11-of-22 (.500) from behind the arc, which was easily a season best.  UA entered Monday’s game shooting 26.4 percent from three-point range and had sunk just nine treys in its previous three games.  Prior to Monday, Arizona hadn’t made more than six treys in any single game this season.


Shouldering the Load:  Over the last five games, Hassan Adams has been the engine that pulls the UA offensive train.  In that span, Adams is averaging 22.2 points and 2.6 assists per game, while shooting 57.5 percent (46-of-80) from the field.  The effort has vaulted Adams into the top spot this week among the Pac-10’s leading scorers (19.4 ppg as of Dec. 12).  For good measure, Adams is also averaging 6.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals in his last five contests.


Locked Down:  It’s already happened five times in nine games ?- Arizona holding an opponent to less than 40 percent shooting.  The Wildcats limited Sam Houston State to 35.6 percent shooting on Monday, including a UA opponent-low 33.3 percent (9-of-27) in the first half.  Something is clicking defensively, as the Cats have held the last three opponents to a combined 36.9 field goal percentage (59-of-160).  The effort leads to success as UA is 5-0 when outshooting the opposition.


Long Shots:  Arizona’s ability to hold opponents to a low field goal percentage is aided by the team’s ability to defend the three-point line.  Through nine games, UA opponents are shooting just 27.5 (41-of-149) percent from behind the arc.  In the last two games, UA opponents are just 4-of-29 (.138) from three-point range.


Cause and Effect:  It’s not surprising that a team that collects a lot of steals would (obviously) also force a lot of turnovers.  So it’s not surprising that Arizona leads all Pac-10 schools with an average of 12.11 steals per game.  UA opponents are turning it over an average of 23 times per game.  All told, Arizona has forced 21 or more turnovers in seven of nine games and collected 10 or more steals in six of nine contests.  On average, Arizona holds a 25.0-13.9 advantage in points off turnovers per game this season.


Another Rung:  With 15 points on Monday, Hassan Adams tied Steve Kerr (1,445 points/1984-88) for 17th place on the UA career scoring list.  At his current season scoring pace, Adams could move into 15th place on Wednesday.  Just ahead of Adams on the list are Bill Warner (1,462/1969-71) and Jason Terry (1,461/1995-99).  In 108 career games, Adams is averaging 13.4 points per game.


The Century Mark:  With his 5-of-8 shooting from behind the arc on Monday, Chris Rodgers knocked down the 100th three-point field goal of his career.  That leaves him 44 treys behind Mike Bibby, who knocked down 144 from 1996-98, for 10th place on the UA career three-point field goals made.


Chucker:  He entered the game as arguably the most efficient player in college basketball (three minutes played, two FG attempts, five points scored), and it took less than the six minutes he played for David Bagga to become ?- in the immortal words of Seinfeld’s George Costanza ?- a chucker.  The 6-foot-4 walk-on hit 1-of-4 field goals, including 0-of-2 from three-point range, to boost his scoring average to 1.8 points per game, while his field goal percentage slipped to a modest .500 (3-of-6).


Lucky Seven:  Junior Mustafa Shakur posted a nice stat line in Monday’s win with seven points, seven assists, two steals and no turnovers in only 17 minutes.  Arizona is 31-6 (.816) during Shakur’s career when he passes out five or more assists.  It also marked Shakur’s third career game with five or more assists and zero turnovers.


Feast or Famine:  Through nine games, a trend has developed regarding Wildcat results.  It turns out to be either a big win or a close defeat.  In UA’s six wins, the margin of victory is 21.5 points.  That figure drops to 5.3 points in UA’s three defeats.


Stepping Up:  Freshman Marcus Williams continues to see his game flourish on the collegiate level as he is averaging 14.0 points and 3.7 assists per game, while shooting 56.4 percent (22-of-39) from the field, over his last four games.  Monday against Sam Houston State, Williams hit 8-of-9 field goal attempts, including both three-point field goal attempts and finished with a season-high 18 points.


Coming Along:  Freshman J.P. Prince put forth a nice all-around effort against the Bearkats, finishing with season-high totals of six points and five rebounds to go with four assists and two blocked shots.  Six of his eight points came courtesy of his first two collegiate treys.  The 6-foot-6 Prince, who leads the Pac-10 Conference with a 3.11 assist:turnover ratio ranks second on the club with 28 assists.


Getting After it:  Forward Mohamed Tangara enjoyed his most productive game, posting career-high totals of six points and five rebounds against Sam Houston State.  Three of his five boards were on the offensive glass and the 6-fooot-9 freshman from Bamako, Mali, added a steal for good measure.


Balanced Attack:  The Wildcats featured a balanced attack Monday vs. Sam Houston as 11 of the 12 players to see action scored at least two points.  All told, the starters shot 17-of-34 (.500) from the floor and scored 46 of the team’s 87 points, while the reserves shot 17-of-31 (.548) from the floor and tallied the remaining 41 points.


Finding Positives:  Despite the fact that Arizona currently holds a 6-3 record, the Wildcats have shown the ability to post large scoring runs in each game to date:

29-1 run over 10:43 vs. Virginia, Nov. 27 (UVa went 0-of-12 with seven turnovers during the run)

33-15 run over 10:26 vs. Sam Houston State, Dec. 19 (UA 13-of-20 in run)

21-6 run over 7:12 vs. Michigan State, Nov. 23 (no MSU field goals in last 5:44 of regulation)

20-4 run over 9:10 vs. Kansas, Nov. 21 (KU hits 3-of-first-12 FG attempts with nine TO)

21-5 run over 7:57 at Houston, Dec. 3 (two UH FGs in last eight minutes of first half)

21-9 run over 12:23 vs. Connecticut, Nov. 22 (UA hits 7-of-11 FG in run)

26-13 run over 13:04 vs. Saint Mary’s, Dec. 10 (nine SMC turnovers during run)


Scoring 80:  Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 144-18 (.888) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points.  Arizona is 2-0 this season when scoring 80 or more points.


Tops in the Pac-10:  In the annual poll of media members who regularly cover the Pac-10 Conference, Arizona was selected as the team to beat for the league title for the fourth year in a row and 11th time in the last 16 seasons.  The Cats received 23 of a possible 34 first place votes and 325 points overall.  Stanford (294), UCLA (263) and Washington (238) rounded out the top four spots.  It is the 11th time in the last 16 seasons that Arizona has been tabbed the preseason Pac-10 favorite.  Arizona has gone on to win the league title eight times in that span.


Early Signees:  Coach Olson and his staff signed three student-athletes to National-Letters-of-Intent during the November early signing period.  Chase Budinger (F, 6-7, 190) from Carlsbad, Calif., LaCosta High School; Jordan Hill (F, 6-8, 210) from Atlanta, Ga., The Patterson (N.C.) School;  and Nic Wise (G, 5-10, 180) from Kingwood, Texas., Kingwood High School, will join the squad next fall.


Up Next:  Following tonight’s game, Arizona opens the Pac-10 schedule next week as the Wildcats travel to the State of Washington.  UA plays Washington State on Thursday, Dec. 29, in Spokane, Wash.  The game tip-off at 7 p.m. PST on Fox Sports Net Arizona.

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