Wildcats look to bounce back

Arizona will look to get back to winning on Wednesday night when it takes on San Diego State. Read on for the preview of Wednesday's game.

After a second place finish in the 2K Sports Classic, Arizona returns to McKale Center to take on the San Diego State Aztecs in a 6:30MST tipoff. Steve Fisher is in his 13th season at the helm for SDSU, and he has the tough task of following up his team from last year that went 34-3 and reached the Sweet 16. Complicating matters further, Fisher is forced to replace the top four scorers from that team and is left with only one starter in 2011-12.

Although the Aztecs are reigning Mountain West champions, the media did not foresee a repeat performance in store this season and voted Fisher's team as the third best team in the conference behind New Mexico and UNLV.

San Diego State is off to a fast start this season and has won five of its six games, including victories over USC and mid-major darling Long Beach State. SDSU's lone loss came last week on the road to number 12 Baylor, and they'll be looking for another quality win against a Pac-12 foe.

Senior Chase Tapley is the team's lone returning starter from last season, and his role has dramatically increased thus far in 2011-12. After averaging 8.6 points as a junior, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound guard has nearly doubled his production to 16.5 points in 32 minutes per game this season.

Tapley has been lights out shooting the basketball through six games, hitting on 47.8 of his field goal attempts and an astounding 53.1 percent of his three-point tries. Arizona will have to stay in front of Tapley to keep him from getting in the lane and keep a hand in his face to prevent him from lighting it up from behind the arc.

James Rahon was the team's sixth man a season ago, but as a junior he's worked his way into the starting lineup. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound guard missed the team's first three games with an ankle injury, but has since come back as the squad's third leading scorer at 12 points per game.

Despite shooting just 9.1 percent from three-point range this season and 26.3 percent overall, Arizona can not let Rahon get into rhythm offensively. He's a very dangerous shooter when he gets going, and it's only a matter of time before he gets back on track. With Rahon and Tapley on the floor, UA will have to guard the three-point line very effectively on Wednesday night.

Fisher will be counting on a newcomer to the program to make an impact in 2011-12, as 6-foot-3, 185-pound sophomore Xavier Thames is eligible for the Aztecs after sitting out a year following his transfer from Washington State. Before the season, Thames was selected as the Mountain West Newcomer of the Year, and so far he's living up to the billing.

He's the team's fourth leading scorer at 10.8 points per contest, and also its leading assist man with 5.3 in 32.8 minutes per game. While he'll look to set up Rahon and Tapley for open looks, he also has the ability to knock down shots inside the three-point line himself and is a player Arizona can ill afford to ignore.

The frontcourt is anchored by LSU transfer Garrett Green, who is eligible immediately after graduating in three years and averaging 6.3 points in 18 minutes as a junior. The 6-foot-11, 230-pound senior is the team's leading rebounder with 6.8 boards in 23.3 minutes per game; and his 7.4 point scoring average is good for fourth on the team.

He's not likely to take over the game offensively, but he is the type of player on the interior that compliments the strong guard play that SDSU has with Tapley, Rahon, and Thames in the starting lineup.

Tim Shelton is the fifth and final starter for the Aztecs, but in reality, he isn't asked to do much. In 22.2 minutes per game, the 6-foot-7, 245-pound senior is averaging just three points on 29.2 percent shooting and just 3.6 rebounds. Shelton has had a tough career with knee injuries, and all of the setbacks have taken away considerably from his game.

The Aztecs have the rare luxury of having their top scorer come from the sixth man position, as 6-foot-5, 185-pound sophomore Jamaal Franklin has really adjusted nicely to a more involved role in SDSU's scheme to the tune of 18 points per game. In 29.8 minutes per game, Franklin is also the team's third leading rebounder with five per outing.

The four guards of Franklin, Thames, Rahon, and Tapley allow Fisher to run three-guard sets that don't miss a beat regardless of who's on the floor. Expect to see a lot of shots from Tapley and Franklin, as they've emerged as San Diego State's most reliable scorers in the young season.

In relief of Green and Shelton, 6-foot-8, 215-pound junior Deshawn Stephens will see about 24 minutes of playing time. He's the team's second leading rebounder with 5.8 boards, and while he averages 5.5 points per game, he's only scored 2.7 points in the team's last three contests.

Alec Williams, a 6-foot-6, 245-pound junior, and 6-foot-2, 170-pound sophomore LaBradford Franklin are each averaging 14 minutes per game, but neither is much of a threat offensively. While Franklin averages 5.3 points in his limited playing time, Williams is held to 3.4 points and 2.6 rebounds.

San Diego State is certainly not the powerhouse that it was a year ago, but that doesn't mean they don't have the talent to compete with Arizona. Its four guard rotation is as good as any UA will see this season, and the Wildcats are really going to have to defend well on the perimeter and keep the SDSU guards out of the lane to prevent them from having big games.

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