GAME NOTES: The second-ranked Arizona Wildcats return home with some new hardware for the trophy case, as they welcome the Texas Tech Red Raiders to the McKale Center for a non-conference showdown on Tuesday evening.
Sean Miller's Wildcats have knocked off each of the seven opponents they have faced this season, including completing a successful run through the NIT Season Tip-Off with a 72-66 victory over powerhouse Duke on Friday in the championship game.
Tubby Smith has won everywhere he has gone and his new team is starting to take shape early on. Smith's first season in Lubbock has seen Texas Tech claim victory in six of its first eight games. The two setbacks have been to Alabama (76-64) and Pittsburgh (76-53), but the Red Raiders enter this game having won two in a row, with wins over Houston (76-64) and most recently, Texas-San Antonio (94-64).
This two teams are old Border Conference rivals. This marks the 52nd all-time meeting, with Texas Tech holding a 28-23 series advantage. However, Arizona has closed the gap with wins in each of the last six meetings.
The Red Raiders are coming off one of their best offensive performances of the season, as they converted 54 percent of their shots from the floor to cruise to a 30-point win over UTSA. Jaye Crockett led four Red Raiders in double figures with 17 points. Randy Onwuasor (15 pts), Aaron Ross (13 pts) and Jordan Tolbert (12 pts) were instrumental in the romp as well.
Texas Tech has not been as productive in terms of the scoreboard on the season, as the team is averaging a modest 74.9 ppg, albeit on an efficient .495 shooting. Crockett has definitely added to the team's strong shooting, hitting 67.5 percent from the floor and pacing the team in both scoring (14.5 ppg) and rebounding (7.3 rpg). Tolbert (13.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg) is also connecting on more than 60 percent of his shots. Robert Turner (11.4 ppg) rounds out the team's top scorers.
Arizona, behind the play of Nick Johnson, won its fourth NIT title with a big win over Duke last weekend. Johnson led the team with 15 points, scoring 13 of those in the second half. The four other starters also notched double digits in the win, as Brandon Ashley tallied 13 points, while Aaron Gordon, Kaleb Tarczewski and T.J. McConnell tacked on 10 points each. Duke was held to just .431 shooting, while Arizona outscored the Blue Devils 21-to-12 at the free- throw line.
The Wildcats have thrived at both ends of the court this season and have been particularly brutal in the paint, outscoring foes by 16.4 ppg inside. Gordon (12.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg) is one of the nation's best freshman and has certainly lived up to the hype surrounding his arrival in Tucson. He is joined up front by Ashley (11.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Tarczewski (9.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg). Johnson, who was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Monday, provides perimeter balance. The junior guard is shooting .534 from the field and leads the team in scoring at 17.0 ppg.
The Wildcats are flying high right now and get to enjoy some home cooking for the next week or so. Tech is playing well under Smith, but not well enough to leave Tucson with a victory.