No. 15 Arizona Wildcats (20-4, 9-2) at Arizona State (9-14, 1-10)by Javier Morales on Feb. 12, 2011, under Sports
A look at what to expect Sunday as Arizona looks to maintain its lead in the Pac-10 with a win over the last-place, yet dangerous Arizona State Sun Devils (more info to come at our partner site, WILDABOUTAZCATS.COM):
Matchups (Tipoff 7 p.m., Tucson time)
What’s going right: The Sun Devils have one of the best three-guard lineups in the Pac-10 with Jamelle McMillan, Ty Abbott and Trent Lockett but it has been affected by injuries. ASU senior guard Jamelle McMillan has played through a nagging groin injury since December that caused him to miss three games but is averaging 14.7 points in the past three games and is 10-of-14 (.714) from three in those games.
What’s going wrong: Abbott has only 20 points and five rebounds in the last three games. The guard rotation is carrying on too much of a load either by not getting others involved or the other components are just not good enough. In Pac-10 games, McMillan, Abbott and Lockett are averaging 34.3 of ASU’s 63.2 points a game. Lockett and Abbott lead ASU in rebounds (yes, as guards they lead the Sun Devils in this category), assists and scoring in conference games.
What’s going right: Arizona sophomore Lamont “MoMo” Jones has now scored in double figures in six straight games and his 21.0 points per game last week against Stanford and Cal was more than double his season scoring average. The effort boosted Jones’ season per game averages to 9.8 points, 1.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists to go with a 47 percent mark from the field.
What’s going wrong: Arizona junior guard Kyle Fogg leads the Wildcats with 86 three-point attempts, but he is last in the UA’s 10-player rotation with a 30.2 percentage (26 of 86).
Who has the edge? Calling this even. With McMillan playing his best basketball of the season and Abbott and Lockett usually reliable, it’s tough to go against ASU here, even though Jones is playing All-Pac-10 caliber basketball. The Sun Devils’ backcourt is their team in a nutshell. Solomon Hill vs. Lockett is an intriguing matchup of sophomores on the wing. If Hill played at ASU, he would have similar numbers as Lockett because of Herb Sendek’s reliance on Lockett. Hill doing well in Arizona’s balanced attack with 7.5 points and 3.9 rebounds a game and 48.1 field-goal shooting percentage.
What’s going right: Senior wing man Rihards Kuksiks is 47-of-110 (.427) from three-point range in the past 17 games after making 8-of-30 in the first four games. Kuksiks posted his ninth 20-point game of his career with 22 points vs. USC on Jan. 27, and ASU is 6-3 in those games. He now has 265 career three-pointers in his career, second on the ASU career list and eighth on the Pac-10 list.
What’s going wrong: Freshman power forward Kyle Cain (undersized at 6-7, 215) did not start in last month’s 80-69 to Arizona in Tucson and had only four points and two rebounds in 17 minutes. He is shooting 56.8 percent from the field in conference games (21 of 37) but is averaging only 3.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. ASU is getting outrebounded by an average of 36.9 a game by opponents to its mark of 27.9.
What’s going right: Some knowledgeable hoops writers such as Frank Burlison of the Long Beach Press-Telegram have Arizona sophomore Derrick Williams as a first-team All-American. With good reason. Last weekend, Williams notched his 52nd consecutive game in double figures dating back to last season, his 11th game of 20 or more points and his eighth double-double this year. He’s averaging 19.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Arizona’s eight days since the Cal thriller have allowed Williams to rest his sore right pinkie.
What’s going wrong: Arizona junior-college transfer Jesse Perry is still trying to find some consistency. After four consecutive impressive appearances against Washington State, UCLA, USC and Stanford (8.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in those games), Perry produced only four points and three rebounds in 23 minutes against Cal before fouling out.
Who has the edge?: Arizona and it’s not close. Williams’ 19.8 points and 9.2 rebounds a game in Pac-10 games is more than ASU’s frontcourt starters Kuksiks and Cain combined (12.4 points and 5.9 rebounds). The Wildcats will be wise to work the ball inside to Williams and Perry regularly for high-percentage shots, either created by their own or by putbacks.
What’s going right: ASU 7-2 freshman center Jordan Bachynksi, who had six points and four blocked shots in 11 minutes at Tucson last month, is one of the more consistent Sun Devils off the bench. In the six games since the UA game, he’s averaged 5.3 points and 3.2 rebounds, which is actually good compared to the other ASU reserves. In the 16 games before playing in Tucson, Bachynski only had 14 points overall (0.9 average).
What’s going wrong: Rivals.com Five-Star recruit Keala King has only one game in which he scored in double-figures (13 against Houston Baptist in the third game of the season). Sophomore wing Carrick Felix was impressive in Tucson with 11 points in a starting role, but since then he only has 17 points and five rebounds in five games (he missed the game at Washington State with a stomach virus).
What’s going right: Super sub Kevin Parrom is averaging 8.8 points and 3.6 rebounds while playing roughly half the game (20.1-minute average) in Pac-10 games. That means over a 40-minute span, Parrom is on mark to average roughly 17.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, which would certainly be worthy of all-conference status.
What’s going wrong: Phoenix-area products Brendon Lavender of Mesa Mountain View and Daniel Bejarano of Phoenix North keep a positive frame of mind, but they’ve had their struggles as they return home for this game. Bejarano has not played in a game since the UA opened the Pac-10 season at Oregon on Dec. 30. Lavender has not scored in double figures since the season-opener against Idaho State.
Who has the edge?: Arizona. The Wildcats not only potentially have the Pac-10′s best reserve in Parrom, they have received production from senior Jamelle Horne (5.4 points and 4.3 rebounds a game and 52 percent three-pointers) and decent play from freshman Jordin Mayes (making 42.1 percent of his threes in Pac-10 games, 9 of 21).
Arizona coach Sean Miller is in his seventh season of coaching overall and he’s never experienced a losing season despite changing programs and taking over an Arizona team in transition. His mentor, Sendek, is mired in last place in the Pac-10 and will likely suffer his second losing season in his fifth year in Tempe. Sendek, the Pac-10 coach of the year a season ago, is struggling this year despite senior leadership from McMillan, Abbott and Kuksiks. Untimely injuries and newcomers failing to find their niche such as King and center Ruslan Pateev have given Sendek headaches the most. ASU has failed to build upon three straight 20-win seasons. Advantage: Miller.
ASU’s guard play is essential to make up for the Sun Devils’ lack of a consistent inside presence. Arizona outrebounded the Sun Devils 35-21 last month and ASU has been outrebounded in every Pac-10 game. For ASU to win, Lockett, Abbott, McMillan and Kuksiks must have a hot hand and the Sun Devils’ bench must produce. In ASU’s lone Pac-10 win at Oregon (60-55), the Sun Devils’ current reserves accounted for 48 points. That’s very much an anomaly. If Arizona is able to routinely feed Williams and Perry inside, and Jones, Hill and Fogg get open looks off penetration, this should be a workmanlike win for Arizona. Defensively, the Wildcats must prevent ASU’s perimeter shooters from deciding the outcome. Pac-10 opponents are shooting only 24.9 percent from three-point range against Arizona (47 of 189). The UA is within its last 10 games with a half-game lead in the Pac-10. Any slip now — against a team it should beat — will adversely affect the UA’s season in the end. Arizona 82, ASU 74.
WildAboutAZCats.com and another partner — SteveRiveraVentures.com — have a promotion this season with Tino’s Pizza in Tucson. During any UA men’s hoops game, order any large pizza (dine-in or carryout) get a discount of $2. Tino’s Pizza was voted as the Best Eastside Pizzeria by the Tucson Weekly last year. If you take advantage of this opportunity at Tino’s save your receipt and mail it to: TINO’S PIZZA / WILDABOUTAZCATS.COM CHALLENGE, c/o Javier Morales, P.O. Box 531418, Henderson, NV 89053 (include your full name, address and phone number). The person who spends the most during this promotion over the UA’s 18-game Pac-10 schedule wins a free Lute Olson-autographed “UA Basketball Vault” book (valued at $50)