Arizona Wildcats vs. UNLV Running Rebels: Three top storylines

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Why are we showing you a picture of Nick Foles? He has something in common with UNLV's starting point guard (Fox Sports video screen shot)

Why are we showing you a picture of Nick Foles? He has something in common with UNLV’s starting point guard (Fox Sports video screen shot)

Top three storylines for tonight’s game:

1. UNLV point guard has ties to Tucson sports figures in more ways than one

Cody Doolin

Cody Doolin

UNLV guard Cody Doolin would not be starting against Arizona tonight if he and former Amphi High School basketball player Tim Derksen did not got into an altercation during a San Francisco practice Nov. 19, 2013.

Doolin’s boxing match with Derksen, after San Francisco coach Rex Walters reportedly gathered the other players around them, was enough to make Doolin walk away from the Dons’ program. Doolin reportedly left the team, which was only four games into the season, and made a trip home to Austin, Texas, to contemplate his next move.

The No. 2 assist man and 1,000-point career scorer in San Francisco history thought about leaving the sport entirely.

Doolin prepped at Austin’s Westlake High School, the same school that produced former Arizona quarterback Nick Foles. When Doolin was a freshman at Westlake in 2007, Foles was a senior. One more Westlake tie with Tucson: Pima College assistant coach Tommy Romano was the varsity co-captain of the Westlake team along with Foles in 2006-07.

Foles was a good enough basketball talent as a forward at Westlake that he thought about walking on Sean Miller’s first team in 2009-10.

Foles stuck with playing only football through his senior season in 2011.

After being enticed by UNLV coach Dave Rice to give basketball another try, Doolin decided to play as a senior with UNLV this year after completing his undergraduate requirements at San Francisco last school year.

“After I decided not to play anymore, Coach Rice was the first person to call me,” Doolin told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “He was just fantastic. He made me feel real comfortable. It seemed like the perfect fit for me.

“He didn’t guarantee me anything. Obviously, there’s a pretty rich history with UNLV basketball. I just know there’s a lot of really good players there, and I want to come in and try to help the team win.”

In his press conference Monday, Miller compared Doolin’s value with UNLV with that of T.J. McConnell at Arizo

“Their point guard Doolin is like a T.J. McConnell,” he said. “I watched their Portland game (when Doolin made a game-winning layup in the overtime game Dec. 17) and he really put the team on their back. Really impressed with him. He passes the ball, he can score, he shoots the ball, runs their team. He’s the engine that makes a lot of their guys go.”

2. No surprise UNLV has struggled despite a 7-3 record.

This is what Rice had to work with when practice started in October: Three transfers from Division I institutions (including Doolin) and six true freshmen.

Rice was forced to mesh a group of players from varied backgrounds and experience levels into one unit. He is less than two months into that process. The Rebels have more players from Maryland — junior guard Daquan Cook, freshman forward Dwayne Morgan and senior Jerome Seagears — than players from Nevada (junior forward Ben Carter and freshman guard Dantley Walker).

NO. 3 ARIZONA (12-0) AT UNLV (7-3)
Tip Time: 8:05 p.m., Tucson time
TV: CBS Sports Network (Carter Blackburn/Doug Gottlieb/Jamie Erdahl)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)

THE SERIES
Overall: UNLV leads, 11-7
In Las Vegas: UNLV leads, 7-1
Current Streak: Arizona won 1
Last Meeting: Arizona won, 63-58, on Dec. 7, 2013
Sean Miller vs. UNLV: 1-1

AnthonySteve.Book

Perfect gift for any Arizona or college hoops fan this holiday season: A complete rundown of the Arizona basketball program as we might not know it put together by longtime Tucson sportswriters Steve Rivera and Anthony Gimino. Please e-mail Rivera, Gimino or ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com for ordering details.

CLICK HERE to read Javier Morales’ review



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HOW ARE THEY DOING?
Present RPI ranking of Arizona’s non-conference opponents. Arizona is No. 11 with a strength-of-schedule ranking of No. 103.

Rank Opponent Rec Result Date
No.8 Gonzaga 10-1 UA/66-63 (OT) 12/6/14
No.28 SDSU 8-3 UA/61-59 11/26/14
No.74 UTEP 7-4 UA/60-55 12/19/14
No.119 Gardner-Webb 3-5 UA/91-65 12/2/14
No.123 K-State 7-4 UA/72-68 11/25/14
No.126 Michigan 5-5 UA/83-50 12/13/14
No.127 Mt.St.Mary's 3-6 UA/78-55 11/14/14
No.147 Missouri 4-6 UA/72-53 11/24/14
No.210 Oakland 3-8 UA/101-63 12/16/14
No.212 UC-Irvine 4-5 UA/71-54 11/19/14
No.271 Utah Valley 3-7 UA/87-56 12/9/14
No.315 CSUN 2-9 UA/86-68 11/16/14

Seagears (Rutgers) and Carter (Oregon) are transfers who must sit this season per NCAA transfer rules.

On top of that, 10 players have transferred out of the UNLV program in Rice’s three-plus years at UNLV, including guard Kendall Smith this season.

UNLV has only nine scholarship players available for the rest of this season.

“I choose to just look at guys and appreciate the contributions they made while they were here,” Rice told the Las Vegas Sun. “It’s a situation where I want guys to be here, I want guys to want to be here for a lot of years and finish their careers here, but when they don’t want to be here I understand it and we wish them the best when they move on.”

One significant change in the UNLV program since the days of Jerry Tarkanian is Rice’s commitment to recruit only high school prospects. He has only one junior college transfer — senior guard Jelan Kendrick (formerly of Mississippi) — but does not expect to sign more any time soon.

That development is ironic inasmuch as Rice, in his fourth year as UNLV’s coach, attended Mt. San Antonio College in California from 1987-89 before playing for Tarkanian.

3. Who’s the better freshman: UNLV’s Rashad Vaughn or Arizona’s Stanley Johnson?

Similar to Johnson, Vaughn, a wing player, was a consensus five-star recruit. He was ranked as the No. 8 player in the 2014 class by Scout (No. 1 at position), No. 8 player by Rivals (No. 2 at position) and No. 19 player by ESPN (No. 4 at position). He was a McDonald’s All-American who played in the 2014 game and helped the West team beat the East 105-102. He scored 14 points, recorded five rebounds and an assist in that game.

Johnson was a teammate of Vaughn’s in the McDonald’s game and registered eight points with four rebounds. He was rated a little higher by the recruiting publications than Vaughn.

Johnson was rated as the No. 3 overall prospect, the No. 1 small forward and the No. 1 player from California in his recruiting class by Rivals. He was tabbed as the No. 3 overall recruit, the top small forward and the top player from California in the recruiting class by Scout.

Vaughn, a teammate of Craig Victor at Henderson (Nev.) Findlay, leads the Rebels with 17.3 points a game. He is given the green light by Rice, attempting a team-high 134 shots. He is shooting only 28.3 percent from three-point range (13 of 46).

Johnson leads the Wildcats with 14.7 points a game. He has also taken the most shots of his team with 113.

The numbers indicate that Johnson is more efficient and in-tune with Miller’s offensive philosophy than Vaughn with Rice at the early stage of their development.

He is shooting 49.6 percent from the field (56 of 113) as compared to Vaughn (57 of 134 for 42.5 percent). Johnson has made 42.9 percent of his three-point attempts (13 of 35) while Vaughn has struggled from beyond the arc.

“Rashad Vaughn can get his own shot,” Miller said. “He’s averaging 17 a game and I don’t think he’s hit his stride shooting yet. But he’s capable of scoring 20 and anytime a perimeter player on the other end they’re very very dangerous.”

Part of Vaughn’s execution problem is having to adapt to Rice’s haphazard system with multiple players coming and going as noted before. Johnson has entered a structured Arizona program in Miller’s sixth season in which the players, to a man, talk about the process daily.

ARIZONA DUNK TALLY

No. Player G Pos. Yr.
19 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 12 SF Soph.
11 Kaleb Tarczewski 12 C Jr.
8 Stanley Johnson 12 SG Fr.
6 Brandon Ashley 12 PF Jr.
2 Craig Victor 5 PF Fr.
2 Gabe York 12 SG Jr.
48 Overall
3 Opponent


WHAT IS PRODUCTIVITY RATING?:
PP: Productivity Points (Points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, FGs made, FTs made added together and then subtracted by missed FGs, missed FTs, personal fouls and turnovers)
MIN: Minutes played overall
PR: Productivity rating per minute played (Productivity points divided by minutes played)

SEASON PRODUCTIVITY RATING

Player Pos G S PP MIN PR
R.Hollis-Jefferson SF 12 0 255 311 .820
Stanley Johnson SF 12 12 258 333 .775
Brandon Ashley PF 12 12 212 351 .604
P.Jackson-Cartwright PG 12 0 76 129 .589
Gabe York SG 12 12 144 264 .545
T.J. McConnell PG 12 12 183 340 .538
Kaleb Tarczewski C 12 12 163 335 .487
Elliott Pitts SG 12 0 52 173 .301
AVG 5-9.9 MIN
Craig Victor PF 7 0 36 52 .692
Dusan Ristic C 12 0 55 99 .556
AVG 1-4.9 MIN
Matt Korcheck PF 5 0 17 17 1.000
Drew Mellon SF 3 0 1 6 .167
Trey Mason SG 4 0 -3 6 -.500
Jacob Hazzard PG 6 0 -5 7 -.714
TOTAL TEAM 12 1444 2425 .695

ARIZONA SCHEDULE/PRODUCTIVITY RESULTS

Date Opponent Results TeamPR Productivity Leader Pos PP MIN PR
Dec. 19 UTEP 60-55 (W) .395 T.J. McConnell PG 23 35 .657
Dec. 16 Oakland 101-64 (W) .835 Craig Victor PF 13 10 1.300
Dec. 13 Michigan 84-50 (W) .640 Stanley Johnson SF 31 27 1.148
Dec. 9 Utah Valley 87-56 (W) .710 Dusan Ristic C 23 18 1.278
Dec. 6 Gonzaga 66-63 OT (W) .435 Brandon Ashley PF 19 38 .500
Dec. 2 Gardner-Webb 91-65 (W) .745 Parker Jackson-Cartwright PG 17 13 1.308
Nov. 26 San Diego State 61-59 (W) .525 Stanley Johnson SG 29 37 .784
Nov. 25 Kansas State 72-68 (W) .540 Stanley Johnson SG 21 25 .840
Nov. 24 Missouri 72-53 (W) .525 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 25 23 1.087
Nov. 19 Cal-Irvine 71-54 (W) .610 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 31 29 1.069
Nov. 16 Cal State-Northridge 86-68 (W) .605 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 26 22 1.182
Nov. 14 Mt. St. Mary's 78-55 (W) .660 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 28 21 1.333

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also has published articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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