Dec. 17, 2012
Date: Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012
Time: 7 p.m. MST
Location: Olson Court, McKale Center (14,538), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Joe Nehls) [Sirius/XM: 92/190]
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Kevin Calabro/Matt Muehlebach)
GAME DATA: Fourth-ranked Arizona (8-0, 0-0 Pac-12) returns to McKale Center to host Oral Roberts (5-4, 0-0 Southland) Tuesday night ... In six home games to date, the Wildcats are averaging 78.2 points per game and shooting .495 (148-of-299) from the field, while limiting opponents to 60.8 points and a .408 (129-of-316) field goal percentage ... This is the first visit by a Southland Conference team to McKale Center since Sam Houston State in December 2005.
THE RANKINGS: UA is ranked fourth in the Associated Press poll and fifth in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll. The Cats' No. 4 ranking is the highest for the program under Sean Miller, and the first time UA has been ranked in the top five in both polls since coming in at No. 3 in each on Jan. 5, 2004.
ARIZONA HEAD COACH Joe Pasternack ... Miller is 0-0 vs. Oral Roberts as a head coach.
LAST TIME OUT: Arizona prevailed in just the fourth meeting of two top-10 teams this season by erasing a six-point deficit with 2:35 to play in defeating No. 5 Florida, 65-64, on Saturday. Mark Lyons' lay-up with seven seconds to go capped a 7-0 run that saw Florida miss two field goals and a free throw and turn the ball over three times. The end of halves proved meaningful, as Arizona outscored Florida by a combined 15-0 in the final 2:30 of each period. Solomon Hill led all scorers with 18 points, while Nick Johnson added 15 and Lyons finished with 14. Lyons was named Fiesta Bowl Basketball Classic MVP.
SCOUTING ORAL ROBERTS: The Golden Eagles enter tonight's game with a 5-4 record (0-0 Southland) following an 86-77 win Dec. 5 at Texas State. On the season, ORU averages 69.8 points per game, shoots 45.9 percent from the floor (230-of-501), 38.1 percent (48-of-126) from three-point range and 73.6 percent (120-of-163) from the line. Opponents average 64.1 points, are outrebounded by 7.9 per game and shoot 42.4 percent from the floor (217-of-512). Individually, four Oral Roberts players average in double figures, led by Warren Niles' 20.9 ppg figure. Damen Bell-Holter leads the Golden eagles in rebounding at 8.6 rebounds per game.
THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the first meeting of the two schools on the hardwood. All-time, Arizona is 3-1 against Southland Conference members with the last meeting coming in an 87-51 win over Sam Houston State on Dec. 19, 2005, in the first round of the Fiesta Bowl Classic. For more series information, please see page 51 in the UA media guide.
FOLLOW HIS LEAD: Mark Lyons guided Arizona to victory in its lone game last week, posting 14 points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal against fifth-ranked Florida. The senior guard connected on 62.5 percent of his field goal attempts (5-of-8), including 2-of-5 from three-point range (.400), and dropped in the game-winning lay-up with seven seconds remaining. The win was Arizona's first over a ranked opponent since March 2011, and was the Pac-12's first win over a top-five team during the regular season since December 2008. Lyons got Arizona off to a good start, scoring seven of Arizona's first 15 points in the contest prior to his late-game heroics, as he earned Fiesta Bowl Basketball Classic most-valuable-player honors. On the season, he averages 13.5 points, 1.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game to go with a .471 field goal percentage. He also leads Arizona in free throws made (30) to go with a .882 (30-of-34) percentage.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: With a win over No. 5 Florida under its belt, Arizona moved to 8-0 on the season, which equals the best start for the program since 1998-99. The last time UA started a season 9-0 or better came in 1987-88, and that squad opened the year with 12 consecutive victories.
TIGHT QUARTERS: The Wildcats picked up its first win of the season in games decided by five points or less and did so while trailing at the five-minute mark of the second half by erasing a six-point deficit with 2:35 to play Saturday. Mark Lyons' lay-up with seven seconds to go capped a 7-0 run that saw Florida miss two field goals and a free throw and turn the ball over three times in that span. Arizona's seven wins prior to Saturday had come by an average of 20.4 points.
EVERY SECOND MATTERS: The end of halves loomed large in the UA-UF game, as Arizona outscored Florida by a combined 15-0 in the final 2:30 of each period. In that span, UA connected on 5-of-8 field goals and 3-of-6 free throws, while Florida was a combined 0-of-8 from the floor with five turnovers.
TO OUR ADVANTAGE: Speaking of turnovers, Arizona committed just 10 against the Gators and enjoyed a +4 turnover margin in the contest, which enabled the Cats to post a 16-12 advantage in points off turnovers. The second half was telling, as Arizona forced Florida into nine miscues in the period to just two for the Wildcats. Mark Lyons' performance was emblematic of the Wildcats overall. After committing three turnovers in the first 14:09, the senior point guard regrouped and played the game's final 25:51 without a miscue. On the season, Arizona enjoys an average +5.6 turnover points per contest and ranks second in the Pac-12 Conference with a +1.8 turnover margin.
ACCEPTING CHARITY: Despite being outrebounded by a 33-22 margin Saturday and allowing Florida to connect on 10-of-18 three-point attempts (.556), Arizona managed to win by what was presented to them...largely an 18-6 free throw advantage. The Cats knocked down 18-of-21 (.857) free throws Saturday, while limiting UF to just eight total attempts. Arizona averages 19.1 points per game from the stripe, more than double that of the opposition (9.3 ppg). Over its last five games, Arizona is shooting 78.0 percent from the free throw line (92-of-118).
EBB AND FLOW: Through the first five games of the season, Arizona was averaging 85.2 points per game, and while UA has averaged 64.7 ppg in the last three games, the Wildcats have limited the opposition to just 57.7 points in that span. Arizona scored 65 points on a Florida team that entered the game allowing just 48.3 points per game and held the Gators 9.6 points below its scoring offense figure through its first seven games. No matter the circumstance, the Wildcats remain a spotless 8-0 on the season.
REBOUNDING NICELY: Forward Solomon Hill posted a game-high 18 points against Florida, rebounding nicely from a 2-of-16 shooting effort last week at Clemson. The 6-foot-7 senior hit 5-of-9 shots, including a pair of treys, and all six free throws in a season-high 37 minutes. Twelve of Hill's 18 points came in the second half against the Gators. Hill, who averages 13.0 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, ranks second on the team with 25 assists and nine steals.
WARMING UP: Over the last five games, Mark Lyons is averaging 14.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game to go with a .488 (21-of-43) field goal percentage. The 6-foot-1 senior guard has been even better in the last two games, connecting on 12-of-21 FG attempts (.571), while averaging 17.0 points, 3.5 boards and 3.0 assists in leading the Cats to wins at Clemson and vs. Florida. Currently, he ranks second on the team with a 13.5 ppg average.
HE DELIVERS: Sophomore Nick Johnson continues to consistently put up solid numbers for the Wildcats. Saturday against Florida, the 6-foot-3 guard connected on 4-of-7 field goals, including a career-high three treys, on the way to 15 points, while also chipping in three boards, three assists and four steals. Additionally, he has 13 steals in the last three games and leads the team with 23 on the season. By comparison, Johnson collected 26 steals in 35 games last season. Through eight games, Johnson is averaging 13.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game to go with a .551 field goal percentage.
IN KEY MOMENTS: While his statistics - five points, three rebounds and a block - may not have leaped out of the boxscore Saturday, Grant Jerrett's contributions certainly were meaningful. The 6-foot-10 freshman from Chino Hills, Calif., logged 12 of his 19 minutes in the second half, including much of the last 5:27, tallying all five points in the second half. On the season, Jerrett is averaging 5.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
DOWN THE STRETCH: On the way to seven points, four rebounds (three offensive) and three assists against Florida, Kevin Parrom registered five of those points, two rebounds and all three assists in the second half. The 6-foot-6 swingman is averaging 8.4 points, and 4.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 51.2 percent (22-of-43) from the floor and 41.7 percent (10-of-24) from three-point range. He ranks fourth on the team with 19 assists and has missed just one free throw (13-of-14) this season.
CONQUERING HEROES: Arizona's win over Florida was its first against a nationally ranked opponent (AP poll) since defeating No. 3 Duke, 93-77, in the NCAA West Regional semifinal on March 24, 2011. Further, it is the first win for the Wildcats over a top-five opponent during the regular season since defeating No. 4 Gonzaga, 69-64, on Dec. 14, 2008. All time, Arizona has 29 wins against teams ranked in the AP top five at the time of tip-off (47 loses/.382). It is the Pac-12 Conference's first win over a top-10 non-conference opponent during the regular season since Dec. 19, 2009, when USC defeated No. 9 Tennessee, 77-55. Aside from the Wildcat win over Gonzaga mentioned above, the last time a Pac-12 opponent other than Arizona defeated a top-five-ranked, non-conference opponent came on Dec. 6, 2003, when No. 21 Stanford defeated No. 1 Kansas, 64-58.
SCORING 80: Arizona scored 85 points Dec. 1 at Texas Tech, topping the 80-point plateau for the fourth time this year (4-0). Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 210-20 (.913) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points.
RECRUITING CLASS: The Arizona coaching staff signed two student-athletes to National-Letters-of-Intent as part of the November early signing period. Rondae Jefferson (F, 6-7, 215) from Chester, Pa., who preps at Chester H.S.; and Elliott Pitts (G, 6-5, 180) from Dublin, Calif., who preps at De La Salle H.S.; make up a class that is ranked No. 18 nationally by espn.com.
UP NEXT: Following tonight's game, Arizona heads to the Big Island for the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, Dec. 22, 23 and 25, in Honolulu. The Wildcats open the tournament against East Tennessee State on Dec. 22. The contest tips-off at 5:30 p.m. HST and can be seen on ESPNU.