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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 4 Arizona MBB opens up Hall of Fame series against Alabama

Mason Kumet
Keshad Johnson makes his way through the Zona Zoo after No. 1 Arizona men’s basketball’s win against the No. 23 University of Wisconsin in McKale Center on Saturday, Dec. 9.

The No. 4 Arizona men’s basketball team is set to take on the University of Alabama on Wednesday, Dec. 20, at 9 p.m. in the Footprint Center in Phoenix. Arizona sits at (8-1) for the season, after a disappointing loss to Purdue University on Saturday, Dec. 16, as the Wildcats lost 92-84 on the road in Indianapolis. Arizona finds itself holding a 3-1 series record when competing against Alabama. This will be the fifth matchup between the Wildcats and the Crimson Tide as they look to get back in the winning column. 

History against Alabama:

Arizona trails a few wins behind Alabama. The history began on March 15, 1985, when the two schools first met, resulting in a 50-41 loss for Arizona. In the latest matchups, on Dec. 9, 2018, Arizona came up short, losing 76-73. Exactly a year prior, on Dec. 9, 2017, the Wildcats secured their first victory against the Crimson Tide with a score of 88-82. 

Alabama players to watch:

Under head coach Nate Oats, Alabama holds a (6-4) record for the season, following its recent game against Creighton University, resulting in an 85-82 defeat. Notably, four players achieved double-digit scores, with senior guard Mark Sears leading the pack with 19 points. In addition to his scoring, forward Nick Pringle contributed significantly as well, securing 15 points and seven rebounds as the second-highest scorer for the Crimson Tide. 

Sears is the current leading scorer in points and assists for Alabama, averaging 21.2 points per game and 3.6 assists. In a recent game against Purdue on Dec. 9, Sears contributed significantly with 35 points, yet Alabama ultimately faced a 92-86 loss against the Boilermakers.

Behind Sears, guard Aaron Estrada, a recent transfer from Hofstra University, has swiftly become the second-leading scorer on the team, averaging 14.2 points per game. Estrada, a key player for Alabama, brings valuable experience to the team, having played for four teams in the last five years, enhancing their potential for success. Senior Grant Nelson, another transfer from North Dakota State, initially declared for the 2023 NBA draft but later entered the transfer portal, leading him to Alabama. Nelson, a 6-foot-11 forward, significantly contributes to Alabama’s defensive prowess, leading in rebounds with an average of 6.2 per game. Additionally, he holds the third spot in scoring, averaging 13.6 points.

Wildcats to watch:

Coming off the first loss of the season to Purdue, Arizona maintains a strong team dynamic.  Despite the loss, in the game against the Boilermakers, Caleb Love and Keshad Johnson combined for an impressive 53 points.

Love has been one of the main contributors for Arizona, continuing to lead in points with 15.8 points per game and 4.3 assists. The senior guard recently achieved a season-high of 29 points against Purdue and also leads with 1.7 steals per game.

Besides Love, Johnson put up an impressive stat line in the game against Purdue, recording 24 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Leading in rebounds with seven per game, Johnson is the second-leading scorer, averaging 13.9 points, and remains a force for Arizona, exerting his efforts across the floor. Notably, he has scored in double figures throughout the entire season.

Oumar Ballo stands as a reliable source for Arizona, impacting the game inside the paint with an average of 6.2 rebounds per game. The 7-foot senior has consistently scored in double figures in every game for Arizona this season, along with Johnson.

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