More than five years after leaving the UA for an NFL career, Earl Mitchell returns to campus...
Men's Basketball to Close Road Swing at ASU on Saturday
Game 17: No. 7 Arizona (15-1, 3-1) at Arizona State (14-3, 3-1)
The No. 7 Arizona men's basketball team (15-1, 3-1 Pac-12) will close a three game road swing on Jan. 19 at intrastate rival Arizona State University (14-3, 3-1 Pac-12) in a nationally televised game on FOX Sports Net.
The Wildcats and Sun Devils will meet on the hardwood for the 223rd time. Three of the last six series meetings at Wells Fargo Arena have been decided by seven points or less with the teams splitting those results. The UA has a 3-1 record in true road games this year, carrying a +11.4 scoring margin in those games.
The Sun Devils will enter the game with a 14-3 record (3-1 Pac-12) following their 68-65 loss at Oregon. On the season, Arizona State averages 72.6 points per game, shoots 46.1 percent from the floor (440-of-955), 34.0 percent (122-of-359) from three-point range and 61.5 percent (233-of-379) from the line.
Opponents average 63.5 points, are outrebounded by 1.2 per game and shoot 38.4 percent from the floor (401-of-1044). Individually, three ASU players average in double figures, led by Jahi Carson's 17.1 ppg figure. Carrick Felix leads the Sun Devils in rebounding at 8.1 rebounds per game.
The UA is ranked seventh in both the Associated Press poll and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll. The Wildcats have been ranked in the top 10 in both polls for nine consecutive weeks.
Last week, the Cats sandwiched a 15-4 burst around halftime that pushed their lead to 12 points en route to what became an 80-70 win at Oregon State University. The UA's lead never dipped below double figures in the last 17 minutes as the UA limited OSU to 39 percent shooting and outrebounded the Beavers by six.
Arizona sank 10 treys and shot 47.5 percent from the floor in earning its first conference road win of the season. Four Cats finished in double figures, and Grant Jerrett added eight points, five boards and six blocked shots.
Mark Lyons helped Arizona to a split last week by averaging 18.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, while shooting 44.8 percent (13-of-29) from the field and 80 percent (8-of-10) from the line. He opened the week with 21 points, his third 20-point game of the season, two rebounds and four assists on at Oregon, and followed that up with 16 points, a season-high five rebounds, five assists and a pair of steals in the win at Oregon State.
Lyons has now passed out four or more assists in a game eight times this season, including the last three consecutive. On the year, he averages 14.6 points, 1.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game to go with a .429 field goal percentage.
Led by its starting forwards who combined to make 11-of-18 (.611), the Wildcats connected on 47.5 percent (28-of-59) of field goal attempts at Oregon State, which was the team's highest field goal percentage in five games. On the year, Arizona shoots .463 (408-of-882) from the field, but connected on just .416 (121-of-291) of its shots in the five games prior to its visit to Corvallis.
Despite suffering its first loss of the season, Arizona outrebounded both Oregon (32-28) and Oregon State (43-37) by +5 margin and have outrebounded 13 of 16 opponents to date this season. The Wildcats have outrebounded its last four opponents and seven of the last eight, and 10 of those 13 positive rebounding efforts this year have been by 10 or more. To date, Arizona holds a +9.6 rebound margin, a figure that leads the Pac-12 Conference.
The Cats held Oregon State to 39.3 percent shooting (24-of-61), marking the ninth time this season – and first in Pac-12 play – that Arizona has held an opponent to less than 40-percent shooting. The in-conference defensive effort was much needed, as the UA's league opponents are currently outshooting Arizona, .443-.427. Now past the halfway point of the regular season, Arizona opponents are shooting a cumulative .403 (353-of-877) from the field.
Another welcome sight in Saturday's win was a spirited attack from three-point range. Led by Solomon Hill, who knocked down a career-best five treys in Corvallis, Arizona knocked down 10 treys (in 25 attempts/.400), marking just the third time this season, and first since the UA's sank 12 vs. Northern Arizona on Nov. 28, that Arizona has made 10 or more treys in a game. On the season, Arizona shoots .386 (130-of-337) from behind the arc.
The Wildcat starting backcourt of Lyons and Nick Johnson combined for 30 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals at Oregon State. Both Lyons (5) and Johnson (6) equaled season highs in rebounding, while the duo turned it over just three times in 68 minutes played.
It's worth noting that Arizona averaged six blocked shots per game on the Oregon road trip, a figure that is a bit above the UA's season-long four blocks per game average. Included in the effort was a season-high nine blocks at Oregon State, fueled mostly by the effort of freshman forward Jerrett, who tallied a UA season-high six blocks of his own. Jerrett's total was the highest individual total for a Wildcat since Jamelle Horne blocked seven shots vs. Colorado on Nov. 24, 2009.
Hill continues to play like the senior leader he is, as he averaged 16.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in Oregon. That continues a solid run for the 6-foot-7 native of Los Angeles, who is averaging 17.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game over his last five outings to go with a .538 field goal percentage (28-of-52), including .571 (12-of-21) from three-point range. On the year, Hill is averaging 13.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game to go with a .458 (66-of-144) field goal percentage.
Arizona's freshmen big men – Brandon Ashley, Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski – combined to score 25 points, grab 17 rebounds and block six shots in the 80-70 win at Oregon State. The trio connected on 10-of-16 shots (.625). For the weekend, their collective efforts helped the UA outscore the Oregon schools 66-58 when it came to points in the paint. On the season, Ashley, Jerrett and Tarczewski have combined for 11 games with 10 or more points and 26 games with five or more rebounds, including five games with 10 or more boards.
Lyons certainly has been a strong addition for the Wildcats, as he currently leads the team in scoring (14.6 ppg), free throw percentage (.861) and assists (3.3 apg). Over the last eight games, he's been even better, averaging 15.8 points and 4.1 assists per game in that span to go with a team-leading 1.4:1 assist:turnover ratio.
Not only has Tarczewski proven to be a solid rebounder – currently he leads the team with a 5.9 rpg average – but he has been especially good at collecting offensive rebounds. His 39 offensive rebounds currently lead the Wildcats and no player in this game (averaging more than 11 minutes per game) has a higher percentage of his rebounds on the offensive boards than Tarczewski's 41.5 percent (39 of 94). Over the course of the season, Arizona averages 3.2 more offensive rebounds than the opposition. In Pac-12 Play, that figure is +5.5.
Arizona scored 80 points at Oregon State, topping the 80-point plateau for the seventh time this year (7-0). Perhaps no statistic is more telling of the UA's success, as the squad is 213-20 (.914) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points. In the Sean Miller era, Arizona is 33-1 when scoring 80 or more points.
UP NEXT: Following the ASU game, the Wildcats next will be in action on Jan. 24, when the squad hosts No. 24 UCLA. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST and can be seen on ESPN2.