Dec. 2, 2002
Date: Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2002 Time: 7 p.m. MST Location: Olson Court at McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz. Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Joe Nehls) TV: FSNA (Dave Sitton/Bob Elliott)
Game Data: Top-ranked Arizona (2-0, 0-0 Pac-10) closes its season-opening three-game homestand Tuesday against Saint Louis (1-2, 0-0 C-USA) ... The Wildcats are 16-13 (.552) all-time against Conference USA foes and the first meeting against the league since an 81-62 win over Tulane on Feb. 9, 1997 ... The game will be a study in contrasts as Arizona averages 104.0 points per game compared to SLU's offensive output of 59.3.
The Rankings: For the fourth consecutive week, Arizona occupies the top spot in the both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls. Arizona has been ranked in 256 consecutive AP polls released during the regular season only. It is the 37th polling period in which the program has been ranked No. 1 in either poll.
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 665-235 (.739) and 473-143 (.768) 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 fourth most Pac-10 wins (262) in history, trailing UCLA's John Wooden (304, 1949-75), Oregon State's Slats Gill (276, 1929-64) and Washington's Hec Edmundson (266, 1921-47) ... He has the second-best conference winning percentage 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 282-29 (.907) in McKale Center and have won 210 of its last 224 home games ... He is assisted by Jim Rosborough, Rodney Tention and Josh Pastner ... Olson is 0-0 against Saint Louis.
Last Time Out: Arizona used a 17-2 run to open the second half en route to a 101-66 win Wednesday over Northern Arizona. UA connected on 23-of-41 (.561) attempts in the second, led by Jason Gardner, who was 6-of-6 in the stanza. Gardner scored 16 of his game-high 24 points after the break as the Cats outscored the 'Jacks, 57-27, in the final 20 minutes and top the 100-point barrier for the second consecutive game. He was one of five UA players to finish in double figures.
Scouting Saint Louis: The Billikens enter tonight's game with a 1-2 record following Saturday's 56-54 win at St. Bonaventure. Defense is the name of the game for SLU, as the Billikens are limiting opponents to .443 (70-of-158) shooting and just 63.0 points per game. Saint Louis is struggling from the field, shooting just .427 (67-of-157) on the year, but topped the 50 percent plateau for the first time this season (.512) at St. Bonaventure. Senior guard Marque Perry leads Saint Louis with averages of 15.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
The Series: It is the second meeting of the two schools with Saint Louis holding a 1-0 series advantage. The Billikens captured the only previous meeting, 40-28, on Jan. 6, 1934, in St. Louis. All time, Arizona is 0-0 in series games played in Tucson, 0-1 in St. Louis and 0-0 in neutral site meetings. Please see page 124 of the UA basketball media guide for more series information.
Taking Charge: In leading Arizona to its second win of the season, Jason Gardner tallied 24 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals in UA's 101-66 win over Northern Arizona. He connected on 9-of-12 field goal attempts, including 5-of-6 from three-point range, in the effort and was a perfect 6-of-6 from the floor in the second half. It was Gardner's 78th career game in double figures and the 26th time he has scored 20 or more points. The Cats also improved to 42-8 (.840) in Gardner's career when his collects at least five assists in a game. On the season, he is averaging 18.0 points, 4.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds, while shooting 66.7 percent from the floor and 63.6 percent from three-point range.
Century Mark: Arizona scored at least 100 points in consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 29-Dec. 2, 2000, when the program defeated Gonzaga (101-87) and Saint Mary's (101-41). It is the 51st time the Cats have reached the century mark under Lute Olson, and the team is undefeated when accomplishing the feat.
Forcing Tempo: Through Arizona's first two games, the team has forced 54 turnovers. In those two games, Arizona has used its press against the opposition on 46 possessions and forced a turnover on 19 of those possessions (41.3 percent). In that same span, UA has collected 30 steals. To put that into perspective, only once last season did Arizona total that many steals in three consecutive games.
Straight Shooters: One thing Arizona has done well this season is shoot the ball. Through two games, UA is shooting 53.4 percent (79-of-148), which is 75 points higher than last season's 45.9 percent accuracy. The Wildcats are also shooting 36 points higher from three-point range with the team's best outside shooter (Salim Stoudamire) yet to see action. It certainly helps the accuracy when 26 of the team's 79 field goals have been either dunks or layups.
Balanced Attack: The balance the UA coaches hoped for prior to the season has been evident through the first two games. Ten of the team's 12 active players are averaging at least 11 minutes per game. In addition, seven players are shooting 50 percent or better from the floor, six are averaging 4.0 rebounds or more, five are averaging at least 10.0 points, and three are averaging at least 2.0 steals per game.
Ready to Run: Runs have been evident in each of Arizona's wins this season. The Cats used a 24-2 run over 4:59 of the first half in the win over Western Kentucky on Nov. 23, and a 17-2 run in the first 5:15 of the second half against Northern Arizona. The runs have helped Arizona with both games by a combined 74 points, the highest consecutive game victory margins since Feb. 17-21, 2001, when UA defeated USC (105-61) and Arizona State (88-58).
Finishing Strong: The Wildcats have proven to be a second-half club in the early part of 2002-03, as the Cats are averaging 55.5 points per game in the second half and holding opponents to an average of 35.0 points after the break. UA is shooting 56.6 percent (43-of-76) from the floor after the break. Just for comparison, Arizona is averaging 48.5 points, holding the opposition to an average of 32.0 points and shooting 50.0 percent from the floor (36-of-72) in the first half this season.
Board Work: The Wildcats have a +14 rebound advantage (43.5-29.5) through the first two games, though no UA player has reached double figures. Since the start of last season, Arizona is 18-1 when outrebounding the opposition.
Will the Thrill: Sophomore guard Will Bynum has displayed an improved game in 2002-03. The native of Chicago is averaging 15.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists through the first two games. He's also shooting 47.8 percent from the floor and 44.4 percent from three-point range. Against Northern Arizona, Bynum scored a career-high 18 points on a career-best six treys to go with three rebounds and four assists.
Leading the Way: Freshman guard Hassan Adams continues to establish himself as a presence on both ends of the floor. Not only is he leading the team with a 21.5 points per game scoring average, but he is tied for the team lead with six steals and ranks second with 10 boards. He and fellow freshman Andre Iguodala lead the squad with seven offensive rebounds. For good measure, Adams is shooting 64.3 percent from the floor (18-of-28) and has four assists.
Almost Overlooked: Sophomore Channing Frye has quietly posted solid numbers through UA's first two games. The 6-foot-10 center from Phoenix, Ariz., is averaging 10.0 points and a team-leading 6.5 rebounds to go with three assists, three blocks and two steals. The Pac-10 leader in field goal percentage last season is shooting 76.9 percent (10-of-13) to date this season.
Getting Better: After struggling from three-point range in the season-opening win over Western Kentucky (8-of-23/.348), the Cats rebounded to hit 13-of-28 attempts (.464) from behind the arc in last Wednesday's win over Northern Arizona. Jason Gardner leads the squad with a 63.6 three-point percentage. Combined with Will Bynum (8-of-18/.444), the Arizona guard combo has 15 of the team's 21 treys on the season.
Deficient: Oddly enough, the one glaring deficiency in Arizona's game has been its free throw shooting. Through two games, UA has connected on just 69.0 percent (29-of-42) of its charity tosses. However, UA has still managed to make more free throws (29) than the opposition has attempted (27). The last Arizona team to fail to shoot at least 70 percent from the free throw line was the 1996-97 squad, who shot 65.5 percent (598-of-913) from the line.
Where's Walton?: Senior forward Luke Walton saw just four minutes of action in the win over Northern Arizona, as he left the game with a sprained right ankle. He managed to grab one rebound in the game, marking just the sixth time in his career that he failed to record an assist and the fifth time he didn't take a shot.
Other Contributions: Despite freshman Andre Iguodala's struggles against Northern Arizona (2-of-11 FGs), he managed to find other ways to contribute. The Springfield, Ill., product finished with six points, four rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal in 21 minutes. On the season, he's averaging 8.0 points, ranks second on the squad with 10 rebounds and fourth with six assists.
Rock Steady: Senior Rick Anderson continues to be one of the Wildcats' steadiest performers. Through two games, the forward from Long Beach, Calif., is averaging 12.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and shooting 60.0 percent from the field in just 20 minutes. He has yet to commit a turnover to go along with two blocks and two steals.
Scoring 80: Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 63-7 (.900) 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.
Talent Pool: With the 2002-03 NBA season just underway, no fewer than 10 former Wildcats are on NBA active rosters. Only two schools in the country (North Carolina 14; Kentucky 11) have more of its alumni on active rosters. Here is the list of Arizona players currently playing in the NBA: Gilbert Arenas (G/Golden State/2nd year), Mike Bibby (G/Sacramento/5th year), Michael Dickerson (G/Memphis/5th year), Richard Jefferson (F/New Jersey/2nd year), Steve Kerr (G/San Antonio/15th year), Chris Mills (F/Golden State/10th year), Sean Rooks (C/Los Angeles Clippers/11th year), Damon Stoudamire (G/Portland/8th year), Jason Terry (G/Atlanta/4th year), and Loren Woods (C/Minnesota/2nd year).
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 first time this season, as the squad travels to San Diego, Calif., for a game with San Diego State on Saturday, Dec. 7. The game, which will be televised by ESPN, is scheduled to top-off at 6 p.m. PST.