Tucson, AZ – The 16th-ranked Arizona Wildcats conclude their regional play in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer, as they play host to the Duquesne Dukes at the McKale Center this evening.
Sean Miller's third season in Tucson has gotten off to a strong start, with a nine-point win over a tough Valparaiso squad in the season-opener on Monday (73-64). The Wildcats lost All-American Derrick Williams to the NBA, but should once again be a factor in the new-look Pac-12 after winning the Pac-10 a year ago and advancing to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight.
Ron Everhart is in his sixth season at the helm of Duquesne. The Duke are also coming off a successful 2010-11, as they finished 19-13 overall and a fourth- place finish in the Atlantic 10, the best result since 1994.
Duquesne has won three of the four previous meetings. The last matchup took place in the 1987 Great Alaska Shootout, a 133-87 rout by Arizona.
Last season, the Dukes finished just under the 20-win mark, but with the loss of a couple of marquee players, expectations are tempered a bit heading into this year. Still, three starters return, none more important that sophomore T.J. McConnell. The 2011 A-10 Rookie of the Year led the conference in steals as a freshman, setting a school single-season record with 91, and his average of 2.8 spg ranked fourth nationally. The Pittsburgh native averaged 10.8 ppg, 3.8 and a team-best 4.4 apg. McConnell will need players like 6-5 swingman B.J. Monteiro (11.4 ppg), 6-2 guard Sean Johnson (9.8 ppg) and 5-11 guard Mike Talley (6.9 ppg) to step up in 2011-12. The Dukes led the nation in three statistical categories last season (17.8 assists per game, 9.9 steals per game and a +6.7 turnover margin). That kind of team play will be needed again for Duquesne to remain successful.
The departure of Williams leaves a huge void at both ends of the floor for Arizona. Others will certainly need to step up to keep Arizona relevant both in the Pac-12 and nationally. Senior guard Kyle Fogg will be the player relied on the most. Fogg scored 8.1 ppg last season and will need to shoot the ball better (.373 field goal efficiency). He did just that in the opener, hitting 5-of-7 shots and finishing with a team-high 16 points. Senior forward Jesse Perry opened with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds, while freshman guard Nick Johnson had a strong debut with 14 points and six assists off the bench. While Arizona delivered on 47.9 percent from the floor in the opener, the Wildcats limited the Crusaders to a mere 40.4 percent, while forcing 18 turnovers and recording 10 steals.