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December 25, 2012

Matching 11-game winning streaks on the line in Hawaii

One thing is guaranteed on Christmas Night when No. 3-ranked Arizona faces No. 17 San Diego State in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu: An 11-game winning streak will come to an end.

The teams - both of whom moved up in the major polls Monday - have combined to win 22 consecutive games, but it's the Wildcats (11-0) who will look to snap a personal two-game skid in the head-to-head series at 4:30 p.m. HST/7:30 p.m. MST.

The Aztecs (11-1) won last year's meeting, 61-57, in Tucson as part of a home-and-home series that will conclude in the 2013-14 season.

But for the seniors on this year's 'Cats, there will be no next year against an opponent they have yet to defeat. To do so, UA will have to beat an SDSU team that has plowed through a similar path aside from the one season-opening blemish against No. 9 Syracuse.

Sunday's victory over East Tennessee State was just the third under double digits for the Aztecs this season, equaling the Wildcats' total in such games. Also, neither team has allowed opponents to average more than 58.5 points per game nor shoot better than 39 percent on the year.

Unlike the previous meetings, the Aztecs will now have to deal with Mark Lyons. The Xavier transfer scored a game-high 19 points to help deliver Sean Miller's 200th career coaching victory in Sunday's semifinal against Miami.

"We're jelling real well together," Lyons said.

But turnovers continue to be an issue. Despite still being one of five remaining unbeaten teams in the nation, UA bumped its average to 15.1 with a combined 34 in the first two tournament games.

"We're trying to be a team that can do some special things and I think that we want to be hard on ourselves," Miller said. "There's always things that we can do better."

Like the Wildcats, the Aztecs have three double-figure scorers this season. But they do their damage with a three-guard lineup led by reigning Mountain West Conference player of the year Jamaal Franklin, who is averaging team highs of 17.9 points and 9.9 rebounds.

Last season, it was Chase Tapley who was the thorn in UA's side with a game-high 17 points in the victory. Tapley opened the Diamond Head Classic with a career-best 33 points in an 80-58 rout over San Francisco.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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