Arizona has managed to stay in stride while starting strong for the second straight season.
Fresh off an NIT Season Tip-Off title, the No. 2 Wildcats look to remain undefeated Tuesday night against a visiting Texas Tech team that has not beaten a ranked opponent in exactly four years.After reaching the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament in 2012-13, Arizona (7-0) was expected to be one of the nation's top teams this season. The Wildcats proved their worth during Friday's 72-66 win over then-No. 6 Duke in the Tip-Off championship game at Madison Square Garden."I hope we can go far," said coach Sean Miller, who guided the Wildcats to a 14-0 start last season. "Obviously we're still talking (early in the season). But the seven games that we've played, we've handled ourselves well. We do have versatility."I think we can be special, no question."Tournament MVP Nick Johnson had all but two of his team-leading 15 points in the second half Friday and each Arizona starter scored in double figures. Star freshman Aaron Gordon added 10 with seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks as the Wildcats shot 48.9 percent to overcome a season-high 16 turnovers."We're an all-around team. Really you could see it in the box score," Johnson said. "We're a good team and we can play with anybody."At 17.0 points per game, Johnson leads five Wildcats averaging at least 9.6. The 6-foot-9 Gordon, who averages 12.1 points, is pulling down 9.3 rebounds per game to lead three players averaging at least 6.4.T.J. McConnell's 6.4 assists per game ranks among the best in the country."We do have versatility," Miller said. "We have a really good group of kids."Though Duke was the first team to shoot better than 37.0 percent against the Wildcats, the Blue Devils matched their season low with a 43.1-percent effort. Arizona, outrebounding opponents by an average of 13.6, held a 36-28 edge versus Duke."One of the things to watch is we have to be an elite defensive team," Miller said. "We have to be able to get stops. We have to be able to use our size rebounding, and we just have to continue to develop and improve."Arizona hopes to further progress while trying for a seventh straight win over the Red Raiders (6-2). Johnson had 18 points and the Wildcats shot 56.6 percent during an 85-57 win at Texas Tech last season in the teams' first meeting since December 1994.In their first season under coach Tubby Smith, the Red Raiders look to snap a 30-game losing streak against Top 25 opponents that dates to a 99-92 overtime win over then-No. 12 Washington on Dec. 3, 2009.Senior forward Jaye Crockett averages team highs of 14.5 points and 7.3 rebounds for Texas Tech, which seeks a third consecutive victory following a 76-53 loss to Pittsburgh last Monday at the Legends Classic in Brooklyn.Crockett, who had 17 points and eight boards during a 94-64 win over Texas-San Antonio on Friday, finished with 12 and six against Arizona last season.