Rhode Island-Arizona Preview

The Associated Press

Aaron Gordon deservedly has received plenty of headlines for Arizona, but junior Nick Johnson is proving to be a pretty solid sidekick.

The fifth-ranked Wildcats look to book a trip to New York for the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals as they host Rhode Island on Tuesday night.

Gordon has mainly lived up to the hype as one of the nation's top freshmen, averaging 13.3 points and 9.5 rebounds. Though he had another highlight-reel dunk in Monday's 100-50 thrashing of Fairleigh Dickinson, he hit only 3 of 11 from the field and finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Johnson stepped up again for Arizona (4-0), hitting 5 of 7 shots - including 3 of 4 from 3-point range - and finishing with 16 points. The 6-foot-3 guard, who also added three blocks, is averaging a team-best 16.0 points while shooting 59.0 percent from the field.

He's committed seven turnovers in four games, and the Wildcats finished with five Monday after committing 11 in each of their first three.

"To play a game with only five turnovers is outstanding," said coach Sean Miller, who won his 100th game at Arizona. "We made great decisions. That's a great sign early in the year."

Gabe York scored a career-high 20 points off the bench while hitting 8 of 11 field-goal attempts.

"The way our team is this year, we have to go full throttle every step of the way," said York, who was 4 of 6 from 3-point range. "Every second of every game, we have to go 100 percent."

Freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson came off the bench and scored 13 points, and Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell had nine assists. Arizona held a 55-24 rebounding edge and has a plus-67 margin on the season.

Arizona had 20 offensive boards Monday and shot 54.4 percent.

"It's great to play when you've got it going on, your teammates are pushing it for fast-break dunks, transition 3s," Hollis-Jefferson said. "All those plays are great; you want to have plays like that. It's great to see us playing like that."

With a win over Rhode Island, the Wildcats would advance to play at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 27 in the tournament semifinals against either Rutgers or Drexel, which meet Tuesday.

Arizona will look to keep rolling against the seemingly overmatched Rams, who needed three late free throws from Xavier Munford to beat Metro State 66-63 on Monday.

Rhode Island (3-1), which plays in the Atlantic 10 Conference, trailed by 10 at halftime against the top-ranked Division II school located in Denver before making a comeback behind 16 points and seven rebounds apiece from Munford and E.C. Matthews.

The Rams have lost 25 straight games to Top 25 opponents since beating No. 21 Utah on Dec. 2, 1998. They have dropped 13 consecutive road games to ranked teams since knocking off No. 18 Massachusetts on Feb. 18, 1998.

Arizona has won 24 of its last 26 home games versus unranked, non-conference opponents.

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