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December 4, 2012

No. 8 Arizona seeks best start in 13 years



Another new week, another new rank and another undersized opponent.

Arizona, which moved up one spot to No. 8 in both major polls, will host Southern Miss in a nonconference game Tuesday at McKale Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. MST.

The national ranking also is the highest in the Sean Miller era and highest in-season ranking since the program's No. 8 standing in the Jan. 8, 2007 coaches' poll.

The Wildcats will be in search of the program's first 6-0 start since the 1999-2000 season.

UA will attempt to do so against the Golden Eagles (6-1), who are coming off their first loss of the season against a team that was able to impose its size advantage. Southern Miss - whose tallest contributor is 6-8 reserve Daveon Boardingham - dropped a 68-60 decision at New Mexico State on Saturday.

The Golden Eagles were outrebounded, 34-26.

"We really couldn't do much with their big guys," Southern Miss first-year head coach Donnie Tyndall said. "We tried to front the post, but they just kept throwing inside for easy baskets."

That does not bode well for a much tougher trip to Tucson to play the 'Cats, who scored 44 points in the paint Saturday in an 85-57 road win at Texas Tech. UA produced 16 of its points off second chances.

The Wildcats' starting frontcourt of Solomon Hill, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski combined to produce 32 points on 11-of-14 shooting and pull down 20 of the team's 41 rebounds.

Arizona is outrebounding opponents by an average of 12.4 per game - tied for the nation's sixth-best mark.

"Until you go through that 35-game season being small you don't realize how important size is, especially in quality players," Miller said. "How that affects the game in so many ways and right now with this year's team we have that to our advantage."

Where the Golden Eagles will attempt to slow down the Wildcats is at the 3-point line. UA has connected on 43.8 percent from beyond the arc - tied for fifth in the nation - while Southern Miss opponents have shot just 28.4 percent from long range to lead Conference USA.

Regardless, Wildcats sophomore Nick Johnson said the team is "nowhere near where we need to be."

"Every part of our game we can get better in," Johnson added, "and we're just going to keep practicing and get better at that so we can be the best we can be."

But, as of late, Johnson has been playing as well as anyone on the UA roster. The 6-3 combo guard scored a season-high 18 points against the Red Raiders, and his 5.25-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks eighth in the country.

The Golden Eagles are led by seniors and double-figure scorers Dwayne Davis (15.1 points) and Jonathan Mills (10.0 points). Mills also leads the team with 7.6 rebounds and a 59.5 percent shooting percentage.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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