Tucson, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - The second-ranked Arizona Wildcats close out a three-game homestand to begin the 2014-15 season, as they welcome the UC Irvine Anteaters to the McKale Center on Wednesday evening.
Sean Miller earned his 250th career win in Arizona's season-opener against Mount St. Mary's (78-55) and the team followed that up with Sunday's 86-68 win over Cal State Northridge in regional action of the Maui Invitational. The Wildcats will leave the mainland after this contest to pick up play in the Maui Invitational next week.
Russell Turner's Anteaters are off to a strong start as well. UC Irvine, one of the favorites to win the Big East Conference, have opened with a pair of lopsided home wins against Chapman (87-36) and most recently, Pacific (68-50).
This is just the second all-time meeting between these two programs. Arizona won the only other bout, a 93-70 rout in 1998.
The Anteaters have started the season on fire. Offensively, the team has shot a scorching .578 from the floor, a number that includes a healthy .419 from behind the arc. It has been a complete team-effort as well, as no single player is throwing up gaudy scoring numbers. Luke Nelson leads the way with 12.5 ppg. John Ryan has been strong off the bench with 12.0 ppg, while Alex Young (10.5 ppg), Will Davis II (9.0 ppg) and Mamadou Ndiaye (8.5 ppg) have contributed as well.
In the win over Pacific, UCI shot 51.9 percent from the floor in the first half to take an 11-point lead into the break (33-22). The Anteaters turned up the defensive intensity after intermission, holding Pacific to a mere eight field goals over the final 20 minutes of action. Young led the team with 13 points and five assists. Davis added 12 points, while Ryan chipped in 10 points in 15 minutes of work off the bench.
The Wildcats got off to a fast start against CS-Northridge and opened up a huge lead before putting it into cruise control the rest of the way on Sunday. Freshman Stanley Johnson led the team with 17 points in the win, shooting 7- of-10 from the floor. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson poured in 14 points off the bench, while Brandon Ashley and Elliot Pitts tacked on 13 and 10 points, respectively. T.J. McConnell finished with seven points and eight assists for Arizona, which won its 23rd straight home game.
Ashley is off to a fast start, a good sign after returning from last year's broken foot. The 6-foot-9 junior is shooting a ridiculous .813 from the floor over the first two games (13-of-16) and paces the team with 17.0 ppg. Hollis- Jefferson is netting 14.5 ppg through two outings, while Johnson has made an immediate impact with 12.5 ppg.