Bay Area battle
The No. 1-ranked Arizona men’s basketball team is off to its best start in Pac-12 Conference play in more than a decade, and will look to extend its school records tonight at 7 p.m. when the Wildcats face Stanford at Maples Pavilion.
Stanford hasn’t beaten the UA since 2009, but it features a veteran lineup.
Head coach Sean Miller said that sometimes you forget how much experience players like Cardinal starters Josh Huestis, Dwight Powell and Chasson Randle have.
“These are guys who have been through multiple seasons of the Pac-12,” Miller said. “We’re playing against a veteran team, a talented [one] and [one] that has as much experience as anyone. I think this is a big opportunity for both teams here on Wednesday.”
Brandon Ashley guards Colorado's Wesley Gordon during Arizona's win over the Buffaloes last Thursday at the McKale Center.
Miller explained that on the road, the whole atmosphere in the arena is strikingly different for a visiting team.
“The crowd is completely against you,” Miller said, “so not only do you have the crowd against you, but also you’ve lost the crowd that’s [there] for you [at home] — in our case, a great crowd. You only have each other and really do rely a lot on your togetherness and cooperation.”
Miller said the Wildcats will have to work even harder on their staple: Defense.
“Defense isn’t nearly as easy because you have everything working against you,” Miller said. “In my mind, you have to play even harder on the road defensively, and many times, that’s why you win. That’s going to be a great challenge for us this week. Can our defense hold steady in those types of environments away from home?”
Arizona enjoys an all-time 55-29 game advantage over Stanford, and the Wildcats have won the last seven against the Cardinal. Last season, in Arizona’s sole matchup against Stanford in Tucson, the Wildcats earned a 73-66 victory. The Cardinal’s most recent victory over Arizona came with a 76-60 win in Palo Alto on Jan. 4, 2009.
The game will be aired on ESPN2.
Who to watch out for:
Josh Huestis — senior forward — #24
6-foot-7; 230 pounds
Huestis is averaging 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game.
Stanford’s leading rebounder is a frontrunner for the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. He is striking close to averaging a double-double per game and is on a quest to become the first Stanford player to do so since the 2001-02 season. Over his collegiate career, Huestis stands as one of three players in program history to have compiled at least 500 points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocks. He currently ranks second in school history with 157 blocks.
In previous contests against Arizona, Huestis totaled more rebounds (21) than points (20) on 7-21 (33.3 percent) shooting.
Chasson Randle — junior guard — #5
6-foot-2; 185 pounds
Randle is averaging 19.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He will represent the most dangerous scoring threat when Stanford attempts to pierce Arizona’s suffocating defense. He is shooting with 49.4 percent accuracy from the field and 78.2 percent from the stripe. This season, Randle has scored double digits 17 times and has reached his career high of 33 points twice.
However, in the two times that Randle has faced the Wildcats, he has been limited to a combined 21 points and is shooting 7-for-27 (25.9 percent) from the field.
Fun Fact — Stanford’s Marcus Allen and Malcolm Allen are identical twin freshmen playing for the Cardinal. They are the fourth set of twins to play for Stanford’s basketball team and join Don Clemetson and Doug Clemetson (1960-1962), Jason Collins and Jarron Collins (1997-2001) and current NBA players Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez (2006-2008).
Prediction —No. 1 Arizona defeats Stanford 72-68
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17