Sports

Wildcats collide with Cardinal in key Pac-12 tilt

Palo Alto, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Two teams jockeying for position atop the Pac-12 standings collide at Maples Pavilion on Thursday night, as the seventh- ranked Arizona Wildcats come calling on the Stanford Cardinal.

Sean Miller's Wildcats have won two straight and four of their last five games and currently sit at 16-2 overall and 4-1 in the Pac-12. Arizona played host to Colorado (68-54) and Utah (69-51) last week and recorded a pair of decisive victories.

Johnny Dawkins has his Cardinal on a similar path. Stanford is 13-4 overall and 4-1 in league play thanks to three straight victories. The team took a break from conference action last weekend and destroyed defending national champion Connecticut, 72-59.

Arizona holds a 57-29 advantage in the all-time series with Stanford thanks in part to the Wildcats' current nine-game win streak against the Cardinal.

It was a showdown of top-10 teams in Tucson this past weekend and the hometown Wildcats made a statement with a rout of Utah. Arizona shot a solid .491 from the floor against a strong defensive squad, while limiting the Utes to just .390 efficiency. The ream difference came on the boards, where Arizona simply abused Utah, outrebounding the visitors 40-19. Stanley Johnson was held scoreless in the first half but scored all 18 of his points after the break to lead all scorers in the game. T.J. McConnell poured in 16 points and dished out six assists, while Brandon Ashley finished up with 14 points and eight rebounds.

Arizona has shown the ability to win games at both ends of the court this season and sports a +15.6 scoring margin as a result. The team is shooting a highly efficient .489 from the field and posting 74.3 ppg, while limiting foes to just 58.8 ppg and .395 shooting. The team also lives comfortably in terms of rebounding (+7.8) and turnover (+2.8) margins. Johnson is just a freshman, but leads the Wildcats in both scoring (14.6 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg). Ashley (11.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (10.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg) provide plenty of frontcourt depth. McConnell (9.1 ppg, 5.9 apg) is one of the nation's top distributors.

Stanford is shooting a modest .439 from the field this season, but that number is a bit deceiving, since the team possesses several high-end scorers, led by senior guard Chasson Randle, who ranks first in the Pac-12 with 19.8 ppg. Randle gets plenty of help in the scoring column by senior swingman Anthony Brown (eighth in the league at 15.4 ppg) and senior center Stefan Nastic (14th in the league at 13.9 ppg).

The Cardinal had a 16-point lead in the second half against UConn and despite not shooting the ball particularly well (.407), they were able to earn the 13- point victory over the Huskies. Where Stanford did excel was on the boards, where they doubled up the Huskies in terms of rebounding (48-24). Randle was once again the driving force offensively, finishing with 23 points and five assists. Brown just missed a double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds, but Nastic did complete the feat, finishing with 13 points and 12 boards. Rosco Allen had a big role on the glass as well, grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds.