Thursday, March 28, 2013

UA opens Sweet 16 play tonight

By Arizona Athletics, March 27, 2013

The No. 6 seed Wildcats will play No. 2 seed Ohio State on March 28 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. This will mark the second trip to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 under head coach Sean Miller and Arizona's 15th trip to the regional semifinals in program history. 

The UA's Jordin Mayes (Photo by Patti Ota)
The UA's Jordin Mayes (Photo by Patti Ota)
The No. 6 seed Arizona men's basketball team (27-7, 12-6 Pac-12) will open play in the 2013 NCAA West Regional semifinal against No. 2 seed Ohio State (28-7, 13-5 Big Ten) on March 28 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

This is UA's 30th NCAA Tournament appearance overall (counting two vacated appearances), and the program has an official 48-26 (.649) record in its previous NCAA Tournament action. Nine of Arizona's 15 Sweet 16 appearances have come in the West Regional, and 31 of the program's 48 NCAA Tournament wins have come through the West Region.

The UA is ranked 21st in the Associated Press poll and 20th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll (as of March 18). The Wildcats are one of 11 teams nationally to have been ranked in both polls in every ranking period this season.

The Big Ten Conference postseason tournament champion Buckeyes will enter Thursday's game with a 28-7 record (13-5 Big Ten) following their March 24 78-75 win over Iowa State. As a team, Ohio State shoots 45.6 percent from the field (886-of-1,943), including 35.8 percent (215-of-600) from three-point range, while averaging 70.2 points per game.

Opponents shoot at a 39.5 percent clip and average 58.8 points per game. Two Buckeyes average in double figures, led by Deshaun Thomas' 19.7 ppg figure. Thomas also leads Ohio State with a 6.1 rebounds per game average.

Thursday's game will be the second meeting of the two schools, with Ohio State holding a 1-0 series advantage. Like this one, the previous meeting was a neutral-site game in Los Angeles, as OSU triumphed 90-47 on Dec. 29, 1971, in the opening round of the Bruin Classic. All-time, Arizona is 0-0 in series games played in Tucson, 0-0 in Columbus, Ohio, and 0-1 in neutral-site games.

Arizona has a 33-32 (.508) record against current Big Ten Conference members and is 4-4 against the league over in its last eight meetings, last facing a Big Ten opponent on Nov. 23, 2009, in what was a 65-61 loss to Wisconsin at the Maui Invitational.

This regional appearance marks the 13th time the Cats have road tripped it to California for the NCAA Tournament, and in those 13 appearances, the UA is 13-7 (.650). Two of those appearances were regionals, as the Wildcats lost the 1976 West Regional final to UCLA in Pauley Pavilion and beat Missouri in the 1994 West Regional final at the L.A. Sports Arena en route to the Final Four.

Last week, for the second game in a row, Arizona put its opponent in an early hole and never looked back in cruising to a 74-51 win over Harvard on March 23. The Cats jumped out to a 17-2 lead, forcing the Crimson to miss its first 12 shots and connecting on 58 percent of its own in the half. 

Harvard's 27.6 percent shooting was the lowest for a UA opponent in NCAA Tournament play. Mark Lyons matched a career high with 27 points, Solomon Hill added a double-double and Jordin Mayes added eight key points in the second half. 

By virtue of its 23-point win over Harvard, Arizona earned a berth in its 15th Sweet 16 and the seventh for the program since 2001. In that span, Arizona's seven Sweet 16 appearances rank fourth nationally, trailing only Kansas (10), Duke (10) and Michigan State (8) when it comes to playing into the tournament's second weekend.

Mark Lyons' 63-percent shooting weekend (20-of-32) in Salt Lake City was his best back-to-back effort in efficiency and production all year. He made 12 buckets Saturday against Harvard, a career high. The 25.0 ppg scoring average in the first two games of the tournament boosted his season scoring average to 15.4 ppg. He's the 37th player in school history to score 500 points in a season. 

In his nine seasons as a head coach, Sean Miller has made six NCAA Tournament appearances. The Wildcat mentor has proven to be good at advancing when he gets there, as this is his fourth Sweet 16 appearance in the last six seasons. 

Since 2008, Miller is one of seven coaches nationally to appear in four or more regional semifinals in that span. The list includes Tom Izzo, Michigan State; Mike Krzyzewski, Duke; and Bill Self, Kansas (5 each); and Miller, Xavier and Arizona; John Calipari, Memphis and Kentucky; Roy Williams, North Carolina; and Thad Matta, Ohio State (4 each). 

UP NEXT: A win would move Arizona into the March 30 West Regional final against the Wichita State-LaSalle winner. Game time is TBA.

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