LAHAINA, Maui —
A look at Tuesday night’s game between No. 17 SDSU and No. 14 Arizona in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational:
Site/time: Lahaina Civic Center, Maui/7:30 p.m. PST
On the air: ESPN; 760-AM
Records: Both teams are 4-0
Series history: Arizona leads 24-7 and has won four straight, but they’ve all been close games – 61-59 in the final of the 2014 Maui Invitational, 70-64 in the 2014 Sweet 16, 69-60 at Viejas Arena in 2013, and 68-67 in the final of the 2012 Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. The last SDSU win was 61-57 at Tucson in 2011.
Aztecs update: We’ll see what happens when elite defense meets elite offense. The game matches the Kenpom metric’s No. 9 defense vs. No. 4 offense. The Aztecs held an Ohio State team just outside the top 25 to 42.4 percent shooting and 7 of 22 behind the arc in Monday’s 88-77 win. But the big difference was bench scoring, 41-27. That depth figures to be a factor in an event with three games in three days. Other than Lamont Butler’s 31 minutes, coach Brian Dutcher everyone else in his nine-man rotation between 17 and 23. That included Matt Bradley, who was limited to 18 minutes by foul trouble but still managed 18 points. “Dutcher, he’s got it going down there,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “They have a distinct style of play that they are recruiting to and they’re developing. They do a really good job of getting veteran players bought in to play a hard hat-type system. So we know it’s going to be a physical battle. But listen, we welcome that challenge because those are the type of teams you have to play in the NCAA tournament.” Aguek Arop has struggled in the past to play back-to-back games but said his recovery this year is a “night and day” difference after spending the summer strengthing areas around his bad hip. He played an effective 17 minutes against Ohio State (six points, four rebounds, two assists), and the Aztecs were plus-24 points with him on the floor. SDSU is now No. 15 in Kenpom, three spots below Arizona. Kenpom predicts an 81-80 Wildcats victory.
Wildcats update: They lead Div. I in scoring at 104.2 points and are second in quickest average possession length at 13.8 seconds. “We want to play north-south,” Lloyd says. The other end of the floor isn’t their forte, ranking just 56th in Kenpom in defensive efficiency, but the idea is to push the tempo and simply outscore everybody. Lloyd was a longtime assistant and chief overseas recruiter under Mark Few at Gonzaga, and his Arizona roster is quickly taking on that complexion. He has eight foreign players, two each from Lithuania and Estonia, and one from France, Sweden, Serbia and Mali. Also like Gonzaga, the Wildcats have size, with a 6-11 and three 7-footers. The Wildcats lost four starters from last season’s team that was a No. 1 seed but was upended in the Sweet 16 by Houston. The lone returning starter is Estonian point guard Kerr Kriisa. But Azuolas Tubelis, a 6-11 forward from Lithuania, had 30 points and 12 rebounds in Monday’s 101-93 win against Cincinnati; Oumar Ballo, a 7-0 center from Mali who followed Lloyd to Arizona from Gonzaga, had 21 and 10; and Texas transfer Courtney Ramey had 17 points on just nine shots in his first game after serving a three-game NCAA suspension for participating in the Portsmouth Invitational last spring for players turning pro. The Wildcats struggled early against Cincinnati, then caught fire and shot a staggering 79.3 percent (23 of 29) in the second half. Cincinnati, however, actually outscored the Wildcats in a frenetic second half, 63-61, thanks to 13 3s. The Wildcats aren’t incredibly deep, with only one bench player getting more than 15 minutes Monday.
Next up: The winner plays in the championship game Wednesday vs. No. 9 Arkansas or No. 10 Creighton (2 p.m. PST, ESPN). The loser plays for third place (7 p.m., ESPN2).