Cats, Owls Meet for First Time Thursday

Nov. 17, 2009

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Date: Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009

Time: 8:30 p.m. MST

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

Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)

TV: FSAZ (Dave Sitton/Corey Williams)

GAME DATA: Arizona (1-0, 0-0 Pac-10) caps this brief, two-game homestand Thursday night against Rice (3-0, 0-0 C-USA) in McKale Center ... Arizona and Rice meet for the first time on the court, and in fact it will be the first meeting of the two schools in either football, baseball or basketball since 1931 (a 32-0 Rice win on the gridiron) ... Sean Miller, a winner in his UA debut, hopes to avoid the fate of his three immediate predecessors, who won their first game as the Wildcat head coach and dropped the second ... Arizona's 87 points in Sunday's win was it's second-highest point total in a season opener since 2004-05.

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in both polls after opening the season unranked for just the third time in the last 23 seasons. The Cats closed the 2008-09 campaign ranked No. 24 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

ARIZONA HEAD COACH Sean Miller . . . is in his first season at the University of Arizona and his sixth overall as a college head coach with a record of 121-47 (.720) and 1-0 (1.000) at Arizona ... 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 last 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 its conference games, including an .813 winning percentage (39-9) in his last three seasons ... Miller has made 14 trips to the postseason in his 17 seasons as a head, assistant or associate head coach (8 NCAA/6NIT) and has a 6-4 (.600) 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, all 16 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 and was a member of his alma mater's all-centennial team in 2005 ... Miller, 40, earned a degree in communications from Pitt in 1992 ... He is assisted by Archie Miller, Emanuel Richardson and James Whitford ... Sean Miller is 0-0 against Rice as a head coach.

LAST TIME OUT: This contest was won in the first half, as Arizona shot 58 percent, forced eight Northern Arizona turnovers and limited the visitors to just 38 percent shooting in the opening period in what became an 87-70 UA win Sunday in McKale Center. Eight different Wildcats scored in the first half, as Arizona built as much as a 23-point lead early on. Solomon Hill led the Cats with 17 points in his collegiate debut and Jamelle Horne posted a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

SCOUTING RICE: The Owls (3-0) won three games in three days last weekend to capture the Rice Basketball Challenge, downing Sacramento State (81-51), South Alabama (71-69) and Houston Baptist (60-46). Rice averaged nearly eight treys per game in the tournament sweep and saw nearly one-third of its offense generated behind the arc. The Owls limited the opposition to a .352 field goal percentage, including .232 from three-point range, and 55.3 points per game. Individually, two Rice players average in double figures, led by Connor Frizzelle's 14.7 points per game figure. Lucas Kuipers leads the team with a 6.3 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the first meeting of the two schools. Arizona has a 77-42 (.647) record against current Conference USA members. The Wildcats last faced a C-USA foe on Jan. 24, 2009, defeating Houston, 96-90 (ot), in McKale Center.

YOUTH MOVEMENT: Solomon Hill led Arizona to a win in its season opener by tallying a team-high 17 points to go with eight boards and two assists in a 17-point win over Northern Arizona. The freshman forward connected on 55.6 percent of his field goals (5-of-9) and 77.8 percent of his free throws (7-of-9) in 25 minutes of action in his collegiate debut. Not only did Hill help Arizona to a win in Coach Sean Miller's debut game at Arizona, but he became the first true freshman to lead the Wildcats in scoring in his first collegiate game since Hassan Adams scored 22 points in November 2002. Additionally, Hill's point total was the third-best mark for a UA frosh debut in that span.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Arizona earned a 17-point win in the season opener against Northern Arizona in what was also the first game for Sean Miller as the Wildcat head coach. Of the eight Arizona coaches to occupy the position since the 1925-26 season, Miller is the sixth mentor to win his debut (see complete list below). Not that one game is a trend, but the UA coaches to win their first game went on to amass 1,305 victories at Arizona, claim 23 conference championships and make 26 NCAA Tournament appearances.

BIG WIN: Arizona's 87-70 win over Northern Arizona not only gave Sean Miller his first win at Arizona, but also gave him the biggest win in a UA head coach debut in the last 84 seasons. Miller's win topped the 13-point triumph by Russ Pennell last year. Here is a quick look at how Wildcat coaches have fared in their debuts since 1925-26:

Fred A. Enke:  W, 34-30, vs. Arizona State, Jan. 13, 1926Bruce Larson:  L, 72-61, vs. Utah, Dec. 1, 1961Fred Snowden:  W, 94-87, vs. Cal State-Bakersfield, Nov. 29, 1972Ben Lindsey:  L, 104-63, at Houston, Nov. 26, 1982Lute Olson:  W, 72-65, vs. Northern Arizona, Nov. 25, 1983Kevin O'Neill:  W, 76-69, vs. Northern Arizona, Nov. 13, 2007Russ Pennell:  W, 75-62, vs. Florida Atlantic, Nov. 17, 2008Sean Miller:  W, 87-70, vs. Northern Arizona, Nov. 15, 2009

IN NOVEMBER: Fast starts have become the norm for the Wildcats. Over the last 25-plus seasons, Arizona is 65-18 (.783) in the month of November. The numbers are even more impressive considering the quality of competition, as 27 of 83 opponents (32.5 percent) were nationally ranked. In those contests, Arizona is 18-9 (.667). UA will play four more times in November this season.

A GOOD START: Freshman forward Solomon Hill led all Arizona players with 17 points in his first collegiate game. He is the first UA freshman to lead his team in scoring in his college debut since Hassan Adams scored 22 points in November 2002. Additionally, Hill's 17 points tied for the eighth most by an Arizona freshman in his collegiate debut in the era of freshman eligibility (since 1972-73). Here is the list:

1.)	Eric Money, 37 points, vs. Cal State Bakersfield, Nov. 29, 19722.)	Frank Smith, 25 points, at Houston, Nov. 30, 19793.)	Bob Elliott, 22 points, vs. Illinois, Nov. 30, 1973	Mike Bibby, 22 points, vs. North Carolina, Nov. 22, 1996	Hassan Adams, 22 points, vs. Western Kentucky, Nov. 23, 20026.)	Herman Harris, 20 points, vs. Illinois, Nov. 30, 19737.)	Jerryd Bayless, 18 points, vs. Northern Arizona, Nov. 13, 20078.)	Gilbert Myles, 17 points, vs. Northern Illinois, Nov. 29, 1974	Ivan Radenovic, 17 points, vs. Liberty, Dec. 28, 2003	Chase Budinger, 17 points, at Virginia, Nov. 12, 2006	Solomon Hill, 17 points, vs. Northern Arizona, Nov. 15, 2009

DOUBLE DOWN: Jamelle Horne, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound, junior forward from San Diego, Calif., notched his second career double-double in the season opener with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. It is a bit of a continuation for Horne this season, who averaged 17.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in UA's two exhibition games. Horne's only other double-double came in a 19-point, 13-rebound effort on Dec. 23, 2008, in an 84-67 win over Kansas.

IN CONTROL: Forward Jamelle Horne's 11 rebounds led an effort that saw Arizona outrebound Northern Arizona 40-32 for the game (22-16 in the second half). In addition to Horne (11), Solomon Hill (8) and Kyryl Natyazhko (7) combining for 26 of Arizona's 40 rebounds, here is an interesting take on Coach Miller's swarming approach to the glass: each of the 10 Wildcats to see action Sunday grabbed at least one rebound and seven of those 10 managed an offensive rebound.

A TALE OF TWO HALVES: Arizona definitely got off to a good start Sunday, connecting on 18-of-31 field goal attempts (.581) in the first half and building as much as a 23-point lead. It wasn't as good in the second half, as an over-reliance on the trey (1-of-11) dropped UA's second half FG percentage to 38.7 percent (12-of-31). Arizona managed to shoot 48.4 percent for the game and outshot the opposition (.484-.429).

A NOTICEABLE JUMP: Led by three freshmen, Arizona showed marked improvement from the free throw line, connecting on 22-of-29 (.759) against Northern Arizona. Solomon Hill (7-of-9), Derrick Williams (6-of-9) and Kyryl Natyazhko (5-of-6) combined to drop in 18-of-24 (.750) charity tosses. UA's 75.9 percent marksmanship was a nice leap from the .660 figure (31-of-47) in the preseason.

STEPPING UP: Brendon Lavender's stat line from Sunday's game might not raise eyebrows until it's compared to what he did last season. The 6-foot-5 sophomore guard from Mesa, Ariz., posted new career highs with eight points and 28 minutes played, as well as his field goal and three-point FG numbers (3-of-7 and 2-of-5, respectively). The point total was nearly half of what he scored last season (18), while the field goals halved (6) and the treys (1) doubled his 2008-09 output. Last season, the most playing time he received in any single game was 15 vs. Loyola Marymount on Dec. 2.

MORE OF THE SAME: Senior guard Nic Wise opened his senior season with 15 points (7-of-12 FG), two rebounds and four assists, and that's what we've come to expect from the point guard from Houston, Texas. Since taking over as the starter in 2007-08 (63 games), Wise is averaging 12.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, while shooting 45.4 percent from the field. Incidentally, Wise also knocked down a trey vs. NAU, which extended his streak to 17 consecutive games with at least one three-point field goal.

SHARING THE LOAD: During the decisive first-half run that pushed the lead from 12 to 23 points Sunday, three guys were largely responsible for the end results. Brendon Lavender (6) and Kyle Fogg (5) combined for 11 points, while Solomon Hill added three points and two assists that ignited the run. All told, UA outscored NAU 16-5 in 4:01.

JUST LIKE YOU DRAW IT UP: Fifteen of Arizona's 30 field goals in the opener were either dunks or lay-ups, according to the shot chart.

AN INTERESTING NOTE: No UA player logged more than 28 minutes Sunday vs. NAU. Last season, there was only one game in which no Wildcat played more than 30 minutes: Nov. 24 vs. Mississippi Valley State.

PAC-10 PROGNOSTICATIONS: According to media members who regularly cover the Pacific-10 Conference, Arizona was picked to finish fourth in this season's Pac-10 race. The Wildcats received 221 points (see chart at left), trailing California, Washington and UCLA. It's the third consecutive year that UA has been tabbed fourth. On a historical note, Arizona has been the preseason favorite 11 times in the last 20 years.

SCORING 80: Arizona scored 87 points in the season opener, breaking the 80-point barrier for the first time this year. Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 181-19 (.905) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points. Arizona is 1-0 this season when topping the 80-point plateau.

EARLY SIGNEE: The Arizona coaching staff signed one student-athlete to a National-Letter-of-Intent during the November early signing period. Daniel Bejarano (G, 6-5, 200) from Phoenix, Ariz., North High School. According to Bob Gibbons' All-Star Sports Top 250, he is No. 40 overall prospect in the country.

UP NEXT: The Wildcats head to Maui to participate in the EA Sports Maui Invitational. Arizona opens the event on Monday, Nov. 23, against Wisconsin. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. HST and can be seen nationally on ESPN2.

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