Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats vs. Cal-Irvine: Top three storylines for tonight



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Top three storylines for tonight:

1. Cal-Irvine coach is Mike Montgomery disciple on the rise.

Cal-Irvine coach Russell Turner did not lose at McKale Center in his four years as a Stanford assistant

Cal-Irvine coach Russell Turner did not lose at McKale Center in his four years as a Stanford assistant

Russell Turner is only 44 but he already has six years of coaching experience in the NBA under Montgomery and Don Nelson with Golden State. He joined the Warriors after serving as an assistant under Montgomery at Stanford from 2000-04, when the Cardinal were 74-21 and ranked No. 1 twice.

Stat of the day: When Turner was an assistant at Stanford, the Cardinal were 4-0 at McKale Center.

Nelson kept Turner on his Golden State staff after Montgomery left. He worked closely with players on individual skill development.’s Jon Rothstein recently rated Turner one of the “Ten coaches on the rise in college basketball”. Turner, in his fifth season at Cal-Irvine, has coached the Anteaters to back-to-back 20-win seasons after last year’s 23-win campaign.

“A terrific tactician, Turner brings NBA pedigree to UC Irvine after spending six seasons in the pros and should again have a team that competes for a Big West title,” Rothstein writes. “If the Anteaters go to the NCAA Tournament, expect Turner to be mentioned for any legitimate openings on the West Coast.”

He reportedly has already been considered for jobs at Cal, Rice, Wake Forest and Tulsa.

2. Kaleb Tarczewski vs. 7’6″ center Mamadou Ndiaye worth price of admission.

Tarczewski already has it tough going against fellow 7-footer Dusan Ristic and graduate assistant Joseph Blair in practice. Now comes a challenge under the bright lights.

Playing against Ristic and Blair daily should help Tarczewski against Ndiaye, who set Cal-Irvine and Big West Conference records with 106 blocked shots last season. He has been named to the 2015 Lou Henson Award watch list that features preseason candidate for the Division I Mid-Major Player of the Year award.

Then again, Ndiaye towers above Ristic and Blair by at least six inches. The Anteaters also have 7’2″ center Ioannis Dimakopolous.

In the first two games, wins over Chapman and Pacific, Ndiaye and Dimakopolous have modest numbers combining for 12.5 points and only 5 rebounds per game. Ndiaye recorded three blocked shots in those games. Tarczewski also had three against Mount St. Mary’s and Cal State-Northridge.

Tarczewski can use his mobility and quick reflexes (much improved from his freshman year) to his advantage. He and power forward Brandon Ashley each have four steals, which ranks second on the team behind point guard T.J. McConnell (six).


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Tip Time: 7:05 p.m. MST
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Ted Robinson/Don MacLean)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)

Arizona leads 1-0
Last Meeting: Arizona won, 93-70, on Dec. 14, 1998
Sean Miller vs. UC Irvine: 0-0


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Ndiaye is not a focal point of Cal-Irvine’s offense but when he gets the ball down low he usually converts. He has tried only 10 of the Anteaters’ 102 field goal attempts and made seven.

Reserve power forward John Ryan, who is 6’10”, has made 10 of 14 field goals. The Anteaters made 57.8 percent of their shots against Chapman and Pacific while allowing those teams to shoot only 28.9 percent.

The competition tremendously improves tonight at McKale Center.

3. British invasion hits Tucson.

Cal-Irvine guards Luke Nelson and Alex Young, both from Great Britain, will give Gabe York and McConnell a worthy challenge tonight.

York, who has struggled in the first two games, must be on his game against Nelson, who earned Big West freshman of the year honors last season. Nelson led the Anteaters in scoring with an average of 11.8 points per game and was also the leader in three-pointers made (74) and steals (38). He has a history of playing in international competition with Great Britain in the European U20 Championship in July this year. He has been named England Player of the Year four times in Division I, U18 and U16.

Second Stat of the Day: Despite being only 6’1″, Young leads Cal-Irvine with 5.5 rebounds a game although Ndiaye is on the same team.

Young, also a member of Great Britian’s U20 team this summer, will be active against McConnell, who is Arizona’s bread-and-butter player in terms of setting up the offense and setting the defensive tone against the primary ball=handler.

Young, a junior, ranked third in the Big West in assist/turnover ratio with an average of 2.30 last year. That ranked 58th nationally.


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PP: Productivity Points (Points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, FGs made, FTs made added together and then subtracted by missed FGs, missed FTs, personal fouls and turnovers)
MIN: Minutes played overall
PR: Productivity rating per minute played (Productivity points divided by minutes played)

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[table “” not found /] publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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