Northern Arizona (3-7) at (1) Arizona (12-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, December 23, 10 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McKale Center (14,545) -- Tucson, Arizona. Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: NAU 2-1, Arizona 8-0. Away Record: NAU 1-4, Arizona 2-0. Neutral Record: NAU 0-2, Arizona 2-0. Conference Record: NAU 0-0, Arizona 0-0. Series Record: Arizona leads, 95-27.
GAME NOTES: The top-ranked Arizona Wildcats set their sights on a perfect non- conference slate, as they take on the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks on Monday evening at the McKale Center.
Sean Miller's Wildcats have ascended the national rankings with impressive play on both ends of the floor. Arizona is a perfect 12-0 on the season and ran its current win streak to 26 straight regular-season non-conference wins with last week's 69-43 rout of Southern. This game will close out the 2013 calendar year for Arizona, which will open up Pac-12 play on Jan. 2 against Washington State.
Jack Murphy's Lumberjacks are fighting an uphill battle in this one. Northern Arizona has just three wins in 10 games this season, but one of those victories came last time out, a 63-61 decision over Grand Canyon last weekend. The win brought an end to a four-game losing streak for NAU.
The Wildcats have dominated this series with their instate rival. Arizona has won 29 consecutive meetings and hold a 95-27 edge all-time. NAU is 0-21 all- time at the McKale Center and hasn't beaten Arizona in Tucson since 1966.
Northern Arizona trailed Grand Canyon by two points at halftime (35-33), but turned the tables in the second frame, in earning a narrow victory. The Lumberjacks struggled offensively, hitting on just 39.2 percent from the floor. Three players finished in double figures in the win, led by Aaseem Dixon's 17 points. Quinton Upshur and Max Jacobsen finished things off with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Consistency at the offensive end has not been something that NAU has been accustomed to this season. The Lumberjacks are averaging a mere 66.8 ppg on a modest .419 shooting and are currently saddled with a -4.4 scoring margin. One player that hasn't struggled with efficiency is Jacobsen, who is shooting just under 60 percent from the floor (.594), while leading the team in scoring at 14.8 ppg. Upshur (14.7 ppg) and Dixon (11.7 ppg) are both in double figures, but they are only shooting just over 36 percent from the floor each.
The Wildcats weren't sharp for a full 40 minutes, but they didn't need to be in posting a lopsided win over Southern last week. Aaron Gordon led the way with 21 points, followed closely by Nick Johnson's 17, as the Wildcats took a 15-point lead into intermission and cruised to the win. Brandon Ashley also had a strong game, recording a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Arizona has dominated play in just about every facet of the game. The team holds a +18.5 scoring margin to go with an equally impressive +13.5 rebounding edge. The Wildcats utilize a balanced attack that generates 76.2 ppg thanks to a healthy .493 shooting. Johnson headlines a quartet of double-digit scorers with 15.7 ppg. Gordon is one of the nation's top freshman and has made an immediate impact in the frontcourt, with 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Ashley (12.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Kaleb Tarczewski (10.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg) complete a strong frontline. Tarczewski however, did not play in the team's last game and is questionable for this contest with a sprained ankle.
The Wildcats may be without Tarczewski for this one and it may be in his best interest for Miller to keep him shelved so he can get healthy when the conference slate gets started after the holidays. With or without their starting center, the Wildcats will once again roll.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arizona 81, Northern Arizona 53
12/23 10:33:21 ET