No. 1 Wildcats expect tough time in Ann Arbor
Arizona didn’t have too much trouble winning its first game in 11 seasons as the nation’s No. 1 team. It doesn’t expect the next one to be as easy.
The Wildcats look to remain undefeated Saturday against previously ranked Michigan in their first visit to Crisler Arena.
Arizona (10-0) needed a little time to find its rhythm against the variety of defensive looks used by New Mexico State on Wednesday in its first game as the AP’s top-ranked team since March 2003. Once the Wildcats did, they rolled to a 74-48 victory behind a 51.8-percent shooting effort.
“We just go out there and play like we’re playing a Duke every night,” point guard T.J. McConnell said. “We wanted to be underdogs at No. 1, and just go out and play hard.”
Even with impressive victories over those Blue Devils and at current-No. 25 San Diego State on its resume, Arizona won’t get too caught up in the early success or its ranking considering the task that awaits this weekend.
The Wildcats have won a Pac-12-best 25 true road games since the start of the 2009-10 season but have never played in front of a raucous, sold-out crowd in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines (6-3) have won 37 of 39 at home, including 20 straight against non-conference foes dating to a 67-60 overtime loss to then-No. 3 Kansas on Jan. 9, 2011.
Though Michigan dropped out of the Top 25 after losing 79-69 at then-No. 10 Duke last week, the four opponents to play at Crisler Arena this season lost by an average of 39.2 points.
“We’re getting ready to play one of our biggest games on our schedule at Michigan,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “We’re going to have to be at our very best in that type of arena against that type of competition.”
The Wildcats are 6-2 against the Wolverines. The last two meetings went to overtime, and Arizona won the only one from the past 15 years – 61-60 in New York on Nov. 24, 2004.
Michigan is 2-23 all-time versus No. 1 teams, including 1-7 at home with three straight losses since beating Duke 81-73 on Dec. 13, 1997. The Wildcats are the first No. 1 squad to visit Crisler Arena since Ohio State won 65-61 on March 3, 2007.
The last seven times a top-five team visited, the games have been decided by an average of 2.2 points.
“It’s going to be a challenge for us, but it’s going to be a great event,” Michigan coach John Beilein told the school’s official website. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to get a quality win. And I know Crisler will be jacked up on Saturday.”
Beilein’s team bounced back from the loss to the Blue Devils by shooting a season-high 64.3 percent in a 107-53 rout of Houston Baptist last Saturday. Nik Stauskas, held to four points at Duke, went 6 of 9 from 3-point range to finish with 25 points – the fifth time in six games he’s had at least 20. Teammate Mitch McGary added 12 with nine rebounds, six assists and four steals.
Stauskas averages 18.9 points and has hit half of his 48 3-point attempts, but faces an Arizona team holding opponents to 27.2 percent from beyond the arc and 58.0 points per contest.
The 6-foot-10 McGary has totaled 27 points and 23 rebounds in the last two games. However, the Wildcats rank second in the nation in rebounding margin at plus-14.3 and are holding opponents to an average of 9.2 offensive boards.
Arizona star freshman Aaron Gordon averages a team-leading 8.5 rebounds and 11.9 points. Seven-footer Kaleb Tarczewski has totaled 26 points in the last two contests.
Nick Johnson has scored 20 in that span but averages a team-leading 15.7 points.