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December 3, 2013

No. 2 Arizona seeks 8th straight win

The voters have spoken and Arizona is now the nation's second-best team.

Three days removed from a win over Duke, the Wildcats (7-0) were moved up to No. 2 in both the Associated Press and coaches' polls. UA was ranked Nos. 4 and 3, respectively, last week.

UA head coach Sean Miller isn't one to put much stock into early-season polls, but he said his team is "off to a good start."

"I'd rather be ranked No. 2 than not ranked, or lower," Miller said. "If we're ranked No. 2 in late February, I think it's much, much more meaningful."

Michigan State retained the top spot in both polls, earning all but one of the 32 coaches' votes and 63 of 65 first-place AP votes. Arizona received the remaining first-place votes in both polls.

The ranking is the highest in Miller's five seasons in Tucson, as well as the highest for the program since 2002-03. That season, the Wildcats spent the majority of the time between the Nos. 1 and 2 spots.

Looking back on the NIT Season Tip-Off championship won last week in New York City, Miller said his players overcame bouts of adversity - including a 19-point deficit against Drexel and foul trouble against Duke.

"Reflecting back on our NIT experience - all four games, not just our last one - I'm very, very proud of our team," Miller said. "I think we showed some resiliency and character away from home."

Now, tournament most valuable player Nick Johnson and the Wildcats will look to continue the momentum Tuesday, in a quick turnaround against Texas Tech (6-2). Tipoff at McKale Center is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Johnson, who was named Pac-12 Conference player of the week, scored all but two of his 15 points in the second half of the 72-66 win over the Blue Devils. In the two victories, the junior averaged 17.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists to go with a 14-of-17 performance from the free-throw line.

Last season against the Red Raiders, Johnson netted 18 points and the Wildcats shot 56.6. percent in an 85-57 road win in Lubbock.

This year, Texas Tech is in its first season under head coach Tubby Smith. The Red Raiders, who are seeking a third consecutive victory, are led by senior forward Jaye Crockett.

Crockett had 17 points and eight rebounds in a 94-64 win over UTSA last Friday. He finished with 12 points and six boards in last season's meeting with the Wildcats.

Ranked opponents have been a struggle for Texas Tech, which has lost 30 consecutive games against the Top 25.

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Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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