Head coach Sean Miller takes aim at his 200th career win on Sunday, as he and the fourth-ranked Arizona Wildcats try to keep their unblemished record intact when they challenge the Miami-Florida Hurricanes in the semifinals of the 2012 Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Miller, who coached five seasons at Xavier before coming to Arizona, has a career record of 199-82 now thanks to a perfect 10-0 start to the 2012-13 campaign. The Wildcats have won by double digits in three of the last four games and that trend continued on Saturday when they crushed East Tennessee State in a 73-53 final.
As for the Hurricanes, a team that was somehow taken by surprise in a 63-51 loss against Florida Gulf Coast back on Nov. 13, they have a near-perfect record of their own at 8-1 and have won seven straight since that unfortunate setback. The squad has won by double figures in four straight, thanks to a 73-58 thumping of host school Hawaii on Saturday.
Arizona is 2-0 in the all-time series against the 'Canes, winning the most recent meeting by a lopsided score of 83-53 in Tucson around this same time of season back in 1989.
A win on Sunday would put the Wildcats into the title game against either San Diego State or Indiana State on Christmas Day.
The Wildcats began their meeting against ETSU with an 11-0 run and never looked back, holding the Buccaneers to just 31.0 percent shooting from the floor, including 6-of-23 behind the 3-point line. Brandon Ashley was the lone double-digit scorer for Arizona with his 16 points, adding 10 rebounds as well for a program that dominated the glass, 46-27, in order to combat 18 turnovers. While he was held to single digits on Saturday, Mark Lyons continues to be the leading scorer for this group with his 13.3 ppg, while Nick Johnson and Solomon Hill check in with 12.9 and 12.3 ppg, respectively. Between the three of them they've not only handed out a combined 97 assists and made 53 steals, they've also knocked down a total of 51 shots out on the perimeter to help push the program to 40.0 percent accuracy from beyond the arc through 10 games.
The Hurricanes began rather slowly against Hawaii, shooting only 34.5 percent from the field in the first half, including 1-of-10 behind the 3-point line, but halftime adjustments meant the team was set to connect on a sizzling 63.0 percent from the floor and 5-of-8 beyond the arc, not to mention 12-of-13 at the free-throw line in order to secure the win over the Warriors. Julian Gamble responded with a double-double consisting of 16 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, while Durand Scott led all scorers with 20 points and also handed out five assists and made three steals. Shane Larkin and Trey McKinney Jones contributed 12 and 11 points, respectively. A balanced scoring attack shows five players putting up double figures for the 'Canes through nine games, the leader of the pack being Scott with his 16.3 ppg, thanks to his 57.6 percent accuracy from the floor. Unfortunately, the team currently lists Reggie Johnson (12.6 ppg, 10.1 rpg) as being out due to a thumb injury, which means someone else will have to pick up the slack in the paint.