Quick look at Arizona Wildcats vs. Ohio State Buckeyes


Arizona's Sean Miller coaching against Ohio State two years ago in the Sweet 16 (TBS screen shot)

Arizona’s Sean Miller coaching against Ohio State two years ago in the Sweet 16 (TBS screen shot)

Quick notes on Arizona Wildcats’ Round of 32 game with Ohio State, which outlasted VCU 75-72 in a Round of 64 game Thursday at Portland …

— The Wildcats and Buckeyes meet for the second time in three years for the right to advance in the NCAA tournament. Arizona was eliminated by Ohio State 73-70 in the 2013 Sweet 16 in Los Angeles.

Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley are the only remaining Wildcats who played in that game. Ohio State has three players who played in that game: Forward Sam Thompson, center Amir Williams and Shannon Scott.

Thad Matta holds a 2-0 record against his former assistant coach Sean Miller in the NCAA tournament. Other than the win two years ago, Matta’s Buckeyes beat Miller and Xavier (which he coached before leaving to Ohio State) in the second round of the 2007 NCAA tournament. That game went into overtime with Ohio State prevailing 78-71.

— Matta and Miller share a close friendship, rooming together once while coaching together. Matta knows how much on a personal level Miller wants to get to the Final Four. Now, he will try again to prevent him from getting that far.

“Well, you know, Sean and I have — number one, it’s amazing to think back that, I don’t know, 20 years ago, he and I were sharing an office together in Miami of Ohio,” Matta said in the postgame press conference. “The time we spent together working together, we lived like a mile apart from each other for three years in Cincinnati. I’m very happy for Sean and the job and the program that he has built at Arizona.

“I know this: He’s got one of the best teams in college basketball. There’s no question about that. He’s done a tremendous job with these guys. I don’t like coaching against friends. But when you do this long enough, you have to do it. We’ve had a couple of phenomenal battles over the time. I hope we get to that point with him on Saturday, whenever we play.”

— Matta is 1-2 against Arizona. The Wildcats beat Butler, coached by Matta, in the second round when they went to the national championship game in 2001. The programs met earlier that season at McKale Center with Arizona beating Butler.

— Freshman stat comparison: Stanley Johnson has attempted 364 field goals in 35 games while Russell has 496 in 34 games. Both have about the same shooting percentage. Each shoot 45.9 percent from the field.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will get most of the defensive assignment against Russell, a projected NBA draft lottery pick who led Ohio State with 28 points against VCU. He made 10 of 20 shots from the field, including 4 of 7 from three-point range. He leads the nation’s freshmen at 19.3 points a game.

— Matta gives Russell the green light to open up avenues for others. Russell and fellow guard Scott attempted 32 of Ohio State’s 57 shots against VCU. Starting frontcourt players Amir Williams and Jae’Sean Tate were a combined 9-of-13 against the Rams.

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— Williams’ name is familiar in Arizona recruiting circles. Miller had an in-home visit with the post player in 2011 when Williams was a senior at Detroit (Mich.) Country Day School. Williams was coached by Country Day coach Kurt Keener, father of former Arizona student manager Joey Keener.

— An oddity: VCU outrebounded Ohio State 37-32 with the Buckeyes pulling down only eight offensive rebounds. Ohio State, however, outscored the Rams in points in the paint at 40-22. That shows that Ohio State’s production was mostly off penetration to the basket with high-percentage shots. The Buckeyes shot 49.1 percent from the field. That also means that it will be strength vs. strength because Miller and Arizona pride themselves on controlling the paint.

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

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