No. 15 Arizona looks to get back on track following its first loss of the season when it hosts Texas Southern on Wednesday. It’s a rematch of a first-round contest in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, which the Wildcats won 93-72.
The Wildcats are in action for the first time since Friday’s 69-65 loss to Butler in the finale of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. Arizona will be happy to get back home, where it has won 58 of its last 59 games - including 36 straight against non-conference opponents. Playing in tough road gyms is nothing new for Texas Southern, which hasn’t had a non-conference home game since 2014. The Tigers are beginning a grueling stretch during which they also will play at Southern Illinois, Louisville, Cincinnati, LSU, TCU and Baylor, with each contest taking place before Christmas.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Arizona
ABOUT TEXAS SOUTHERN (4-2): The Tigers have been in the NCAA Tournament two of the last three seasons, and coach Mike Davis hopes to build an impressive resume by playing a tough road slate. After missing the Tournament last campaign, Davis reloaded with transfers, adding the backcourt duo of Zach Lofton (20.5 points) from Illinois State and Dulani Robinson (14.5 points, 5.2 assists) from Pacific to complement sophomore big man Derrick Griffin (12.2 points, 8.8 rebounds). Despite hitting a paltry 29.2 percent from 3-point range, the Tigers aren’t shy about shooting from the outside, averaging 25.7 3-point attempts per contest.
ABOUT ARIZONA (5-1): The Wildcats will be a matchup nightmare in the post for most teams, as they start a pair of 7-footers in freshman Lauri Markkanen (18.2 points, 7.8 rebounds) and Dusan Ristic (7.8, 5.8) and bring the 6-11 Chance Comanche (6.8, 4.2) off the bench. Markkanen leads a trio of double-digit scorers – all of whom are freshmen – along with swingman Rawle Alkins (10.3 points) and reserve Kobi Simmons (12.7). The Wildcats have used their size inside to outrebound opponents by an average of 5.7 boards per game but have not been great on the offensive glass, managing only 12 second-chance points over their last three contests.
1. Markkanen has scored in double figures in each of his first six collegiate games, which ties the fifth-longest streak by an Arizona freshman behind Michael Wright (10), Jerryd Bayless (nine), Aaron Gordon (eight), and Chase Budinger (seven).
2. Arizona’s opponents are shooting 57.9 percent from the free-throw line in three games at McKale Center this season.
3. Griffin is the only player who has scored in double figures in every game for Texas Southern, and he has recorded three double-doubles - including two straight.
PREDICTION: Arizona 80, Texas Southern 62