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Arizona basketball: Wildcats continue on against UC-Irvine and Missouri

UA has a stopover in Tucson before heading to Columbia

NCAA Basketball: UC Irvine at Oregon
UCI’s Jaron Martin hits McKale on Tuesday
Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats return from Los Angeles for a one game stop at home before heading out east this week. Here’s a look at this week’s opponents:

University of California Irvine

Arizona welcomes the UC Irvine Anteaters Tuesday night at McKale Center for the second time in three seasons. UA beat UCI 71-54 in 2014 as the Wildcats struggled to get around 7-foot-6 Sengalese center Mamadou N’Diaye. UA was down three at halftime, but eventually tired out the big man and outscored UCI 45-25 in the second half. N’Diaye stayed at UCI for another year, left before his 2016 senior season, and went undrafted.

This year, the ‘Eaters are 4-4 coming off a 58-55 win over fellow Arizona opponent Santa Clara. Senior guard Jaron Martin had an off night with six points, but is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 13.8 points a game. Martin was named the Big West Conference Player of the Week on Nov. 21 after averaging 19.7 points in three games that included a 76-65 overtime loss to Cal.

UCI does have 7-foot-2 senior center Ioannis Dimakopolous, who averages 11.4 points a game. He isn’t a big rebounder, averaging only 3.8 boards a game and has four blocks on the year. Dimakopolous hails from Patra, Greece and his father, Dimitris, is a former player for the Greek National Team.

Previously, a different Ioannis Dimakopolous was an officer in the Greek National Army back in the 1850’s, but it’s unknown if his blood runs through the ‘Eater center.

UCI assistant coach Michael Wilder, who amassed 1,082 points for the ‘Eaters during 2009-13, has a hairdo that rivals Colorado’s Phillip Lindsay.

Missouri

On Saturday, Arizona will hit the road to face the Missouri Tigers. The Tigers are 4-3 after scratching out a 59-56 win over Western Kentucky on Saturday. Mizzou freshman guard Frankie Hughes had 18 points in the much-needed win.

It’s been a tough season for Missouri, who shockingly was upset 62-52 by MEAC foe North Carolina Central at home on Nov. 27. Mizzou head coach Kim Anderson was so disgusted by the performance he held an unconventional practice in lieu of the customary off day following a game and banned all players and coaches from wearing “anything representing the university”.

Hughes is the Tigers’ best offensive weapon and the Cleveland native dropped 23 points in the season opener to tie the school’s freshman debut scoring record. He is currently averaging 14.4 points per game.

Hughes was originally slated to play at Louisville, but his best childhood friend, freshman Willie Jackson, talked him into coming to Columbia. Hughes has his sights set on the NBA but he wants to go into sports journalism if his basketball career doesn’t work out.

Sophomore forward Kevin Puryear is the other Tiger scoring threat averaging 11.5 points per game. He is also the team’s rebounding leader with a 6.1 average. Even though Puryear led Missouri in scoring with an 11.5 average last year, which earned him SEC All-Freshman honors, he dropped 20 pounds in the off-season to become a better all-around player.

Missouri hosts Miami-Ohio at home on Tuesday before hosting the Wildcats on Saturday.