Arizona Basketball

Oakland Golden Grizzlies vs. Arizona Wildcats: Three top storylines

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T.J. McConnell is not shooting as well as he would like from the perimeter but he believes that will work its way out (YouTube video screen shot)

T.J. McConnell is not shooting as well as he would like from the perimeter but he believes that will work its way out (YouTube video screen shot)

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Top three storylines for tonight’s game:

ARIZONA SENIOR POINT GUARDS
SINCE LUTE OLSON ERA

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1. T.J. McConnell’s shooting struggles masked by other facets of game.

The senior point guard enters tonight’s game shooting only 37 percent from the field (37 of 70) and 28 percent (7 of 25) from three-point range. He is also off from the free-throw line, making only 64.7 percent of his attempts (11 of 17).

All three of those percentages rank last among Arizona senior starting point guards beginning with Steve Kerr in the Lute Olson era.

McConnell’s role with an abundance of talent around him is similar to that of Kenny Lofton (with Sean Elliott and Anthony Cook in 1988-89) and Matt Othick (with Chris Mills and Khalid Reeves in 1991-92). Lofton and Othick coincidentally are the only senior point guards to shoot less than 70 percent from the free-throw line.

The most significant contributing factor to that stat is the minimal times they went to the foul line, indicative of others as the focal point of the offense and them backing away.

Lofton attempted only 36 free throws and made 25 (for 69.4 percent) in 1988-89. Othick was a deft shooter from three-point range making 44.9 percent of his 158 attempts, trailing only Kerr (unbeatable 61.1 percent) and Damon Stoudamire (46.5 percent) in their senior seasons. Othick went to the foul line only 74 times and made only 49 for a percentage of 66.2 percent.

McConnell is on pace to attempt only 52 free throws in the regular season. Mark Lyons attempted 146 (making 125) two years ago as the senior point guard.

McConnell does not lack for confidence or efficiency (57 assists with only 20 turnovers). He is a pass-first point guard so his numbers will not reflect that of his assistant coach, Stoudamire, who attempted 466 shots as a senior in 1994-95. Jason Terry is the only other senior point guard with more at 472 in 1998-99. McConnell is on pace to attempt less than half that with 226 shots, but he does not need to take more than 400 shots with Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson around him.

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OAKLAND AT ARIZONA
Tip Time: 7:05 p.m. MST
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Roxy Bernstein/Bill Walton)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
THE SERIES
Overall: Arizona leads, 1-0
In Tucson: Arizona leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: Arizona won, 85-73, on Dec. 20, 2011
Sean Miller vs. Oakland: 3-0

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Don’t forget to vote. Championship matchup of the Arizona Wildcats Best Play Bracket:

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HOW ARE THEY DOING?
Present RPI ranking of Arizona’s non-conference opponents. Arizona is No. 11 with a strength of schedule rating of No. 79. Oakland has an RPI of No. 219.
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“He’s our team’s heart and soul,” Miller said. “Especially defensively, it’s not just what he does on the ball and it’s the number of great plays, important plays, that he’s made off the ball — big steals, hustle plays, being in the right place at the right time. He’s one of the many tone-setters on our team where other guys follow his lead and his intensity.”

2. Oakland a barometer for Arizona against other Power 5 teams.

The Golden Grizzlies, who annually play a load of Power 5 conference teams, have already lost to Iowa State (93-82) and Michigan State (87-61). After tonight, they travel to Pittsburgh on Saturday, Clemson next Monday and Maryland the following Saturday.

Oakland is 7-72 all-time versus Power 5 opponents under veteran coach Greg Kampe, who is in his 31st season with the Golden Grizzlies.

“(The Michigan State) game and the Arizona game will make us better when we go to Pitt and when we go to Clemson,” Kampe is quoted as saying by Sports Illustrated. “These games will make us ready to compete out there. I’m excited that we have a lot of talent.”

Senior reserve guard Dante Williams finished with a team-high 15 points off the bench against Michigan State on Sunday, while senior center Corey Petros — whom Miller raves about — contributed 13 points with 10 rebounds. Petros, the team’s leading scorer, has averaged 18.3 points over his last four games.

Petros was a freshman who started but did not score in Oakland’s only trip to Tucson in December 2011. The Grizzlies trailed by four points at the half before losing 85-73.

Oakland has lost its last 10 games versus ranked opponents since a win at No. 7 Tennessee in December 2010.

3. Petros gives Arizona a different look than Michigan.

Corey Petros

Corey Petros

Oakland’s offensive flow goes through the post with Petros, a 6’10” and 239 player who draws defenders, opening Oakland’s perimeter game. Michigan lacked an inside presence in the Wildcats’ 83-50 rout on Saturday. The Golden Grizzlies will give Arizona a different look because of Petros.

“He’s a high-major guy so we’re going to have our hands full,” Stoudamire, who scouted Oakland, told Bruce Pascoe of The Arizona Daily Star. “His inside play allows them to make threes and if you don’t guard him with the respect he deserves, he’s going to light you up.”

Petros will be a good challenge for Tarczweski and backup Dusan Ristic. Against NBA prospect Georges Niang of Iowa State, Petros scored 25 points on 8 of 10 shooting from the field.

He ranks 10th in the NCAA this season in FG% (64.2) and 12th in double-doubles (five).

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ARIZONA DUNK TALLY
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WHAT IS PRODUCTIVITY RATING?:
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)

SEASON PRODUCTIVITY RATING
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ARIZONA SCHEDULE/PRODUCTIVITY RESULTS
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also has published articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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