Tucson, AZ – Back home after suffering their first loss of ranked Arizona Wildcats set up shop in Tucson tonight conference action.
A perfect 3-0 thus far at home, the Wildcats ran off four straight wins to begin 2011-12, but then last Friday saw the team tangle with Mississippi State during the Coaches vs. Cancer event in New York City and suffering a 67-57 loss to the Bulldogs in the title game.
As for the Aztecs, even dealing with major losses to the roster from last season when they were practically unbeatable, the team is still off to a 5-1 start. Since bowing to nationally-ranked Baylor on the road a little over a week ago, SDSU has responded with back-to-back wins against USC (56-54) and Long Beach State (77-73 OT) in order to strengthen its position as a dominant California-based squad again this year.
After taking into account results that have been vacated due to NCAA infractions, the Wildcats are showing a 20-6 advantage in the all-time series between the two schools dating back to 1946. The most recent meeting took place in 2009 with SDSU capturing a 63-46 decision at home to snap a seven- game slide in the series.
It was a tight squeeze, but the Aztecs managed to come up with the win against Long Beach State nonetheless thanks in large part to Jamaal Franklin, who not only recorded a double-double off the bench with 21 points and 10 rebounds, but he also sank some crucial free throws in the waning moments of overtime to secure the victory at home. Also scoring in double figures for SDSU were James Rahon and Xavier Thames with 20 and 12 points, respectively, as the team survived 4-of-17 shooting behind the three-point line and 17-of-27 at the charity stripe. Franklin, the leading scorer in three games this season, accounts for 18.0 ppg even though he has come off the bench in all five of his appearances. Chase Tapley (16.8 ppg) has been dead on from three-point range (17-of-32) for the Aztecs, yet the team as a whole is making just 31.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Arizona had some trouble matching up with the Bulldogs in New York last week, with the Wildcats being outscored in the paint by a 38-24 margin. Solomon Hill scored a team-best 12 points and pulled down nine rebounds, while Jesse Perry actually completed the double-double with 11 points and 10 boards and still the 'Cats were handled in the paint for the most part. Arizona took great care of the ball with just nine turnovers, but the fact that the team made only 5- of-9 at the free-throw line was also a crucial factor in the outcome. Kyle Fogg is still listed as the leading scorer for the Wildcats with his 12.8 ppg, but coming on strong are Hill and Perry with 11.6 and 10.8 ppg, respectively, the aforementioned duo also combining to pull down 17 rebounds per contest which is a huge chunk of the unit's 36.8 rpg right now. Defensively the team is limiting opponents to 65.0 ppg, thanks to a perimeter presence that has held those foes to just 25.8 percent success behind the three-point line.