Um, excuse me Coach Fitzgerald and the Northwestern University football team,
but your nickname might have to be shared with another Wildcat school
considering the endings of some of their most recent games.
With five of their last seven contests being decided in the waning seconds or overtime, Sean Miller's bunch can certainly lay claim to the moniker "Cardiac Cats".
Thursday night's game in bear territory was no exception, as Arizona held off a furious second-half Oski charge en route to a hair-thinning 78-74 victory. The win made Arizona a very good 3-2 on the road in Pac-12 play. Had the ‘Cats been able to take care of business a little better at home (where they are also 3-2), they could very well be giving Washington a little company at the top of the mountain.
Instead, they head into Maples Pavilion with the same conference record as the Farm Boys in what will be a huge battle for a couple of teams hoping to stay in the Pac-12 title race.
Arizona is going to throw out eight or nine guys at the Cardinal tomorrow, so here are some quick-hitters on each of ‘em:
• Jesse Perry (6'7, 217-lb Senior F) - Probably the toughest guy on team. I'm surprised he's only 217, because dude is pure muscle. He is the third leading scorer on the team at just south of 12 points per game and second on the team with 7.4 rebounds on average. He's not afraid to shoot it from range either, with 33 threes (that's a Canibus song, and a pretty good one if you like pure lyricism in hip-hop) attempted (not too efficient; he has only hit nine of ‘em).
• Solomon Hill (6'6, 226-lb Junior F) - The most complete player on the team, Mr. Hill leads the team in assists, rebounds and is second on the team in scoring. He's just solid, I tell ya, and can beat you in more than one way. At the end of the Washington game when his team desperately needed a bucket, Hill just put his head down and got to the hoop for an And-1. When his team was down three in the waning seconds, he pulled up from deep and tied the game (they would lose thanks to a blocking call on Josiah Turner just seconds later that gave the conference's best free-throw shooter C.J. Wilcox an opportunity to put the Huskies up, which he did). It will be fun watching him do battle against a Dwight Powell or one of the Joshes.
• Josiah Turner (6'3, 192-lb Freshman G) - the No. 3 point guard in his recruiting class has had some hiccups this year, being suspended for the Florida game because of a missed practice and benched for the Ball State game. Word on the street (or the ESPN broadcast of the UW-UA game last Saturday, at least) is that Turner has matured and really learned from the experience. On the court, he is improving, averaging almost nine points per game in his last six and is very good at attacking the rack and finding teammates from there (he had a very nice pass where he wrapped it around a Cal defender Thursday night to Chol for the easy dunk). His three still needs work, having hit only six of 24 attempts all year.
• Nick Johnson (6'2, 198-lb Freshman G) - another one of Miller's prized recruits from the 2011 recruiting class, Johnson has been pretty solid for the ‘Cats all year. He had a very nice game against Cal, scoring 11 points and dishing out five assists. He knows how to finish near the basket on non-layups with a defender in his grill, so he is one to certainly keep an eye out for.
• Kyle Fogg (6'3, 188-lb Senior G) - I had no idea (until I read it) that Kyle Fogg was the active leading scorer in the Pac-12 with more than 1,100 points scored for his career. When he came into this league three years ago, he was in there for defense and any offensive production he gave the ‘Cats was found money. Now? He's Arizona's leading scorer at 12.4 points per game (I guess it helps to assume that role when Chase Budinger and Derrick Williams are no longer on your team). He was THE reason Arizona was able to hold off Cal on Thursday by hitting two huge threes down the stretch during Cal's comeback, the last three being the one that put Arizona up for good. Twenty-three points last night for Fogg in the win.
• Jordin Mayes (6'2, 196-lb Sophomore G) - A nice, steady hand as the team's back-up point guard. He won't make the flashy passes and get highlight-reel dimes, but he won't turn it over, either. In fact, when compared with the 12 guys in the Pac-12 who average three assists per game or better, Mayes' turnover-to-minutes played ratio is only bested by Jerime Anderson.
• Angelo Chol (6'9, 217-lb Freshman F) - He looked very good against Cal, finishing strong at the hoop with a couple of dunks and also showing off a nice lefty baby-hook. He's only averaging a couple of points and a couple of rebounds, but in a couple of years, this guy can be really scary; perhaps even next year.
• Brendon Lavender (6'5, 212-lb Senior G) - the third of three seniors that get significant minutes, Lavender will give the ‘Cats good perimeter defense and a three or two (as in a couple of threes). Get a hand up on this guy - he averages 54 percent from beyond the arc, which leads the Pac-12.
• Kyryl Natyazhko (6'11, 275-lb Junior C) - He doesn't get as much burn as he used to, but he's a big body and has a pretty nice mid-range game for his size.
• Joe Pasternack (assistant coach) - In my opinion, he kicked at Jorge Gutierrez. I've watched it over and over again, and I still see that right leg motioning toward Jorge after he had somewhat gained his balance. I'd also expect an assistant coach to not mean-mug a player like that. I know I wasn't there on that Arizona bench, and I've been trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I can't side with Pasternack on this one. Judge for yourself - The Battle in Berekeley
The Wildcats as a team are very proficient from beyond the arc on both sides of the court- they are thousandths of a percent below Cal for the highest three-point field goal percentage in the conference at 38.5 percent, while holding opponents to just under 27 percent three-point shooting on the defensive end, which leads the conference by a mile (or more accurately, five percentage points).
The Cardinal have sure had their struggles at times from downtown, going 13-67 behind the line in that three-game road skid. But the friendly confines of Maples Pavilion have been just that - friendly - as Stanford shot 36 percent from three in the win over Arizona State Thursday night. If the Farm Boys can hold their own in the battle of the long bombs, they will give themselves a good chance to win.
Can the Cardinal stop a five-game losing skid to Arizona on Saturday afternoon?
Streaks are eventually broken, right?
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