Northern Arizona first-year head coach Jack Murphy will lead his Lumberjacks against the ninth-ranked Arizona Wildcats at 8 p.m. tonight. The game can be seen on the Pac-12 Network and heard on the Lumberjack Radio Network on 105.1 The Big Talker.
"They are a very well coached team and Coach Miller does a great job," Murphy said. "Their size is going to be a challenge for us. They have one of the bigger front lines that we will face all season."
Arizona (3-0) is ranked ninth in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' polls this week. The Cats' No 9 ranking is the highest for the program under Sean Miller during the regular season, and the first time UA has been ranked as high in-season since coming in at No. 8 in the Jan. 8, 2007, coaches' poll.
"We are expecting to see a lot of athleticism," senior guard Michael Dunn said. "They like to get up and down the court. They have a lot of good athletes and they have been shooting the three-pointer really well this year. We will need to get out on the shooters."
Murphy returns to Arizona, where he served on the staff from 1998-06 in a variety of roles under head coach Lute Olson. Murphy worked for three seasons under former Wildcat player and coach Josh Pastnor at Memphis before being hired at NAU this past April.
"I am excited about it," Murphy said. "I have not given it much thought in relation to my life because I am focused on the players on our team and the players on Sean Miller's team. It will be fun to be back in McKale Center because I spent a lot of time working in those offices. I'll see a lot of friendly faces but when the ball is tipped I'll know it is game time."
NAU travels to Tucson to face Arizona for the eighth consecutive season and 10th in the last 11 overall (2004-05). NAU and Arizona will be meeting for the 122nd time in school history, with Arizona leading the all-time series 94-27. Arizona has won the last 28 meetings between the schools. It is the second-most games against any opponent for the Lumberjacks behind Arizona State.
"It will be a good challenge for us dealing with the McKale crowd," Murphy said.
The Lumberjacks' last win over UA came in 1968-69 season. The two schools played regularly when both were members of the Border Conference often matching up to four times each season. NAU lost 53-39 last season in Tucson.
"We have been through it already before at UNLV and Oregon," said Dunn about dealing with the crowd. "The guys are used to playing on the road and it is just another game."
Following the Wildcats, Murphy will coach his first regular season home game Saturday in the return to the Walkup Skydome against Sam Houston State. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:37 p.m.
The game will be the first collegiate contest back in the Skydome since the $26 million renovation. The Skydome will feature all-new lower level chair back seating and a new court. The first 150 fans will receive the official "I Back Jack" T-shirts, in honor of Murphy's first home game as the head coach of the Lumberjacks.
Senior guard Amy Patton, who tied the Big Sky record with 41 points Saturday against Bradley, has been named the conference's Co-Player of the Week, sharing the award with Idaho State junior Cydney Horton. Patton leads all of NCAA Division-I women's basketball with 150 points this season and is tied for second in the country in averaging 25.0 points per game.
Patton's 41 points against Bradley was the highest scoring game in NCAA Division-I this season while she also broke the NAU record with 10 steals against the Braves. She shot 14 of 29 form the field, 5 of 8 from three-point range and 8 of 9 from the free-throw line for the second 40-point game in program history while becoming the first player in program history to record double-digit steals in a game. She also added seven rebounds and two assists while playing all 40 minutes against Bradley.
That performance came after Patton led the team with 20 points while adding seven rebounds, three assists, and a steal against Western Michigan on Friday. For the week Patton shot 47 percent from both the field and from beyond the three-point arc while making 10 of 11 free throws and totaling 14 rebounds, 11 steals and five assists. She averaged 30.5 point per game for the week and has scored 18 or more points in five of six games this season.
Patton leads the Big Sky in both scoring and steals (4.2 per game), is second in playing 37.5 minutes per game, and is third with 2.5 three-pointers per game. She is also now just 90 points away from breaking Alyssa Wahl's NAU career scoring record.