Hot-shooting Stanford hopes to spoil McKale's 40th birthday celebration.
By STEVE RIVERAFS Arizona
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Such is life in the Pac-12 Conference. One week you’re thanking a team for doing you a major favor, and the next you’re designing your game plan to make sure they don’t pull off a second upset.
That’s the case when seventh-ranked Arizona (19-2) faces
Stanford in what is the first of two Wednesday night games in McKale Center this month.
The meeting comes on McKale Center’s 40th birthday. Will it be time to celebrate and stay atop the conference race?
Arizona will be looking to get win No. 517 in the building.
“Our tradition is second to none,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said in reflecting on the significance of the game. “It seems like every historic basketball program has that one Hall of Fame coach, which we certainly have (Lute Olson); has great teams and players and a rabid fan base. The home court seems to be part of its legacy … When you think of Kentucky, you think of Rupp Arena. When you think of Duke you think of Cameron Indoor Stadium. There are very few you put in that category and you know the name of their arena. Here at the University of Arizona, life at McKale Center hasn’t been very fun for opponents over the long 40-year period.”
Overall, Arizona is 516-101 at McKale. Stanford is 13-32 in the Wildcats' home. But that doesn't mean Miller or the Wildcats are taking them lightly.
Miller’s biggest concern, among many, is Stanford’s ability to hit the 3-pointer. The Cardinal have shot 57 percent over the last three games, including last week's victory over conference leader Oregon to help Arizona move into a first-place tie in the Pac-12.
Stanford (14-8, 5-4) leads the conference in 3-point percentage at 45 percent. John Gage is making 3s at a 65.4 percent clip (17 of 26) in Pac-12 play, and Chasson Randle is at 50 percent (18 of 36).
“They bring an unprecedented percentage from three (point range),” Miller said. “Anytime you shoot the ball at that level from three and do it for nine games, you’re not only a dangerous team but an excellent team.”
Miller said Stanford is playing with a “tremendous amount of confidence.”
“We have to be able to take that away or at least do a very good job of dealing with their percentage,” Miller said. “They are No. 1 by a landslide (in 3-point shots) and points production from the 3-point arc.”
The Wildcats have improved their 3-point defense as the season goes on, but Miller describes Stanford as the “biggest challenge we’ve had all season long.”
Senior Kevin Parrom, who was ejected from Saturday's victory at Washington State, will be part of the defensive effort.
Miller, while pointing to Parrom's “unrelenting competitive spirit”, said Parrom's situation will be dealt with "internally. Parrom was ejected after back-handing Washington State's DaVonte Lacy in the face while attempting to get into position
for a rebound.
Miller said he hopes it’s the last incident Parrom will have to deal with when it comes to being physical, something he’s been known for through his career.
“Kevin is a great kid,” Miller said. “He’s certainly not a malicious guy. But you have to be able to play through contact, not put your team in jeopardy.
“He’s a senior. He’s someone who is a long, long way from the learning curve.”
Arizona is also dealing with a slight injury to freshman forward Grant Jerrett, who was held out of practice because of foot pain. He is expected to play against Stanford.
“We don’t look at it as anything big but you know, with stress reactions and stress fractures (among) guys who are tall, you have to be careful with that initial foot pain,” Miller said.
"We sat him out in practice and are just making sure he’s progressing. What we don’t want to do is lose him a couple of weeks from now because we weren’t preventative initially. I think we caught it at a good time."