Published November 20, 2014
As one of only a handful of undefeated teams still left in college basketball, the fourth-ranked Arizona Wildcats take their act to the South Pacific as they encounter the East Tennessee State Buccaneers in the opening round of the annual Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.
The Wildcats, who have done the majority of their damage at home so far this season with a total of seven victories, are heading to Hawaii for the first time since 2009 when they took part in that year's Maui Invitational. Arizona has defeated Texas Tech and Clemson on the road thus far by a combined 40 points and was just in action on Tuesday when it topped Oral Roberts in Tucson by a convincing 89-64 score.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers have not been nearly as successful in the early going, sporting a total of just two wins in nine chances. The team has victories over Tennessee Tech and Milligan College, but is currently riding a four-game slide after bowing to Charleston Southern earlier this week, 72-51, at home.
Arizona, which is 17-9 all-time in games played in Hawaii, has earned a split in the first two games in the series with the Buccaneers. The Wildcats captured an 88-79 win versus ETSU in the 1991 Preseason NIT back in 1991, but a year later were taken out by the Bucs in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Atlanta, 87-80.
Both teams will be back in action again on Sunday, suiting up against Miami- Florida and Hawaii, with the matchups depending the outcome of action on Saturday.
Shooting 63 percent in the first half and then posting an 11-0 run after the break on Tuesday, the Wildcats easily picked up yet another win as they crushed Oral Roberts. Dominating the paint, Arizona outscored the visitors by a 42-18 margin in the key and also held a 37-27 rebounding edge as well. Five players scored in double figures for the hosts, led by Mark Lyons with 17 points to go along with seven assists. Grant Herrett tallied 15 points off the bench, Brandon Ashley chipped in 14, followed by Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson with 12 points apiece. Lyons has been a huge addition to the team this season, shooting 41.5 percent from 3-point range as he leads the group in scoring with 13.9 ppg. Head coach Sean Miller has been getting a balanced attack on offense for most of the campaign as Johnson and Hill account for 13.6 and 12.9 ppg, respectively, for a group that is generating close to 79 ppg and at the same time holding foes to just 60.0 ppg.
At home in Johnson City, even the familiar surroundings could not help the Bucs as they suffered a 21-point loss to Charleston Southern on Tuesday. ETSU was beaten soundly on the glass, 42-28, outscored at the free-throw line, 13-3, and shot just 6-of-29 beyond the arc in the meeting. Lester Wilson managed to deliver 16 points and six boards to lead the team in both categories, followed by Jarvis Jones who added 13 points and five rebounds, but was also guilty of six of the unit's 14 miscues. A team seemingly in disarray, the Buccaneers have had only one player start every game thus far, that being Hunter Harris who is averaging a team-best 6.9 rpg but just 7.9 ppg. At the top of the scoring list is Wilson with his 17.9 ppg, responsible for 29 of the team's 59 conversions out on the perimeter. As a group, ETSU is shooting just 37.5 percent from the floor and is one of the lowest-scoring teams in the country with 57.9 ppg.