Tucson, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - A top-10 matchup is on tap at the McKale Center on Saturday evening, as the third-ranked Arizona Wildcats play host to the ninth-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs.
This represents the first top-10 matchup for the Bulldogs since 2005. Mark Few's squad has lived up to its billing in the early part of this season, as the team has raced out to a 7-0 start. Gonzaga blew out SE Louisiana at home last time out, 76-57, after capturing the NIT Season Tip-Off championship.
Sean Miller's Wildcats are also sporting a flawless 7-0 record to this point. Arizona has its own in-season tournament title in hand, winning the Maui Invitational by defeating Missouri, Kansas State and San Diego State in succession. The 'Cats returned home and routed Gardner-Webbb (91-65) last time out.
Arizona has won four of the five all-time meetings with Gonzaga, including an 84-61 win last year in NCAA Tournament play.
Gonzaga's presence among the nation's elite is certainly justified. The team is getting it done at both ends of the floor this season, and boasts of a +29.4 scoring margin as a result. The team ranks third nationally in field- goal percentage (.545), leading to 88.0 ppg. Meanwhile, opponents have been shut down to the tune of 58.6 ppg on just .360 shooting. Gonzaga has also dominated on the boards, where the Bulldogs outrebound foes by 12.7 caroms per contest. Scoring depth is vast with five players currently sporting double- digit averages. Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer leads the way with his 16.0 ppg. Freshman Domantas Sabonis, son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, comes off the bench, but has made an immediate impact, averaging 12.6 ppg on an unheard of .795 shooting, while also tying for the team-lead in rebounding at 6.4 rpg. Point guard Kevin Pangos is both a capable scorer (12.3 ppg) and distributor (5.9 apg). USC transfer Byron Wesley (11.3 ppg) and Gary Bell Jr. (10.3 ppg) provide even more perimeter punch.
SE Louisiana shot the ball well against Gonzaga, hitting at a 48.9 percent clip, but the Lions were simply unable to match Gonzaga's explosiveness in a 19-point romp. The Bulldogs shot .526 from the floor and were led in the scoring column by Wiltjer, who finished with a game-high 20 points. Sabonis poured in 14 points in 22 minutes of work, while Pangos chipped in with 12.
Arizona has followed a similar blueprint to its 7-0 start, as the team has performed well at both ends of the court, averaging 75.9 ppg, while allowing just 60.3. The Wildcats also have a talented freshman making an immediate impact in the form of forward Stanley Johnson. The 6-foot-7 youngster leads Arizona in both scoring (14.1 ppg) and rebounding (6.4 rpg). Rondae Hollis- Jefferson (13.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg) is a close second in both categories, with Brandon Ashley (11.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg) not far behind him. Point guard T.J. McConnell isn't much of a scorer (7.7 ppg), but he is a great facilitator, (6.4 apg) and superb defender (18th nationally with 2.6 steals per game). Depth is there as well for Arizona, as there is only a 6.4 ppg difference between the team's top scorer (Johnson) and its No.6 scorer (McConnell).
The Wildcats used a 16-0 second-half run to blow by Gardner-Webb earlier in the week and post a 26-point rout. Arizona shot a scorching .563 from the floor, a number bolstered by a 10-of-17 effort from behind the arc. Johnson and Gabe York tied for team-high honors with 18 points apiece. Hollis- Jefferson finished with 11 points, while Kaleb Tarczewski tacked on 10.