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November 28, 2012

No. 9 Arizona returns from layoff to face NAU

Arizona hopes a long layoff hasn't stunted its early season momentum, but returning from the break to face Northern Arizona should keep that from happening.

The No. 9 Wildcats look to pick up where they left off by beating the Lumberjacks for a 29th consecutive time Wednesday night.

Arizona (3-0) has seen its margin of victory grow with each win, the most recent coming by a 94-72 score over Long Beach State on Nov. 19.

"I think every team in November is on a quest to get better and continually improve," head coach Sean Miller said. "We have a great opportunity now to learn through our game experience and now build."

There hasn't been much game experience lately as the Wildcats have been off for eight days. They appear to have an ideal chance to get back into a routine against Northern Arizona (2-3).

Arizona's 53-39 victory Dec. 3 pushed its winning streak in the series to 28 and its home streak against the Lumberjacks to 26, dating to a loss Dec. 15, 1966.

"If anybody on our team is not ready, that's a real problem," Miller said. "I anticipate that we'll be hungry to play a game.

"We have to make sure we match their intensity. You only have to look around this country one or two nights a week and you'll see that there's teams pushed to the limit. There are teams that get upset and the favorite doesn't always win in college basketball."

This will be the 12th straight meeting in Tucson, and it doesn't seem like those streaks are in much jeopardy with Arizona shooting 49.1 percent from the floor and 42.0 from 3-point range.

Brandon Ashley may get a second consecutive start after going 6 for 6 from the field and 8 of 9 from the free-throw line against the 49ers, finishing with season highs of 20 points and 10 rebounds. One of Arizona's four heralded freshmen big men, he was rewarded with the start for his hard work in practice.

Ashley totaled 21 points and 13 boards in the first two games.

If he's again among the starting five, he'll likely be joined up front by senior Solomon Hill, who's averaging 13.0 points and 5.7 rebounds. Hill had 15 and seven in last season's meeting with Northern Arizona.

The Wildcats haven't been very effective in defending the perimeter this season, allowing opponents to make 39.2 percent of their 3s after Long Beach State hit 14 of 32.

"We're giving up way too many (3-pointers)," Miller said. "We need to fix that."

The Lumberjacks will likely look to capitalize by getting the ball to guards Gabe Rogers and Dewayne Russell, who have combined to make 25 of the team's 34 3-pointers.

Rogers paces Northern Arizona with 16.6 points per game and has averaged 20.7 over the past three. Russell's 15.8 average ranks second.

Each had 13 points to lead Northern Arizona to a 70-62 victory over Campbell in a consolation game of the Global Sports Classic on Saturday.

Rogers has totaled 16 points in two meetings with Arizona, going 2 of 8 from the field and totaling five points in the most recent matchup.

The Lumberjacks have lost 13 in a row to ranked opponents, dropping the most recent such matchup 92-54 to then-No. 18 UNLV on Nov. 12.

"We've already played at Oregon and at UNLV, which are two very good basketball teams this year," NAU head coach Jack Murphy said. "But Arizona presents a problem in terms of their depth.

"You get into the bench at Arizona, you still have 6-9, 6-10 (players) facing at you.

"For us, it's about playing the next possession. We've got to do a good job on the boards. When we rebound the basketball, we're a good offensive team. When we don't, we're not very good."

GOAZCATS.com senior editor Tracy McDannald contributed to this report.



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