Wildcats set sights on Dragons in NIT Season Tip-Off

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Updated: 11/27/2013 10:51 am

New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The fourth-ranked Arizona Wildcats and Drexel Dragons will open up semifinal round action of the NIT Season Tip-Off as the two squads collide on the floor at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday evening.

Bruiser Flint's Dragons have started the season with three wins in their first four games. Drexel's lone loss came in the season-opener at nationally-ranked UCLA (72-67), but the team hasn't lost since, including wins in regional action of this event, topping both Elon (71-64) and Rutgers (70-59) in Piscataway.

Sean Miller's Wildcats are ranked in the top five and have certainly looked the part of the national powerhouse early on, with five wins in as many games. Arizona hosted a region in the NIT this season and posted a pair of lopsided victories over Fairleigh Dickinson (100-50) and Rhode Island (87-59).

This is the first-ever meeting between these two teams. The winner will take on either Duke or Alabama for the tournament title on Friday.

It was a strong defensive game for Drexel in its victory over Rutgers, as the Dragons held the Scarlet Knights to a mere 59 points on just .396 shooting. By comparison, Drexel was able to convert 45.1 percent from the field, with four players reaching double figures. Leading the charge was Tavon Allen, who poured in a game-high 21 points. Damion Lee was next in line with 15, while Frantz Mannesat and Chris Fouch added 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Those four players are accounting for most of Drexel's scoring this season. Fouch paces the team with 17.3 ppg. Lee (14.8 ppg) and Mannesat (12.3 ppg) complete Drexel's three-guard starting set. Allen (13.3 ppg) has been a huge asset coming off the bench. Drexel has played solid defense this season in addition to its balance on the offensive end. The Dragons are limiting foes to just 66.2 ppg and contest everything along the perimeter, with opponents converting just 16 times behind the arc in four games.

Arizona represents Drexel's toughest challenge to date at both ends of the floor. The Wildcats are currently boasting of a +26.4 scoring margin, averaging 84.0 ppg on .544 shooting, while holding the opposition to just 57.6 ppg on .333 efficiency. Five players are averaging double figures for Arizona's balanced attack, led by junior guard Nick Johnson's 16.8 ppg. Freshman forward Aaron Gordon (13.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg) has made an immediate impact up front, getting plenty of help from sophomore forward Brandon Ashley (12.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg). Gabe York (11.6 ppg) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (10.0 ppg) have done the majority of their work coming off the bench.

In the team's rout of Rhode Island, Arizona was once again lethal in its shooting, converting 57.9 percent from the floor. Johnson led the way with a huge stat line consisting of 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Ashley added 16 points, while Hollis-Jefferson and Gordon chipped in with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

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