Game Notes: Nov. 26, 2008

Nov. 26, 2008

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Date: Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008

Time: 2 p.m. MST

Location: Olson Court, McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.

Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)

TV: FSAZ (Dave Sitton/Bob Elliott)

GAME DATA: Arizona (3-1, 0-0 Pac-10) returns home to face Northern Arizona (1-4, 0-0 Big Sky) Sunday in McKale Center ... The contest opens a stretch of the schedule in which the Wildcats will play three games in six days, including its first true road game of the season on Dec. 5 ... Arizona and NAU meet for the sixth time in the last seven seasons, and have met on the hardwood 117 times, the second-most against any opponent in UA history ... Today's game is UA's first of the season to be played on the weekend ... Eight of Arizona's 12 players are shooting 50 percent or better from the field through four games.

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Nov. 24 edition of both polls. UA was out of the polls to start the season for the first time since the 2001-02 season and just the second time since the start of the 1987-88 campaign.

ARIZONA INTERIM HEAD COACH Russ Pennell . . . is in his first season at the University of Arizona and his first overall as a college head coach with a career record of 3-1 (.750) ... He assumed the interim coaching responsibilities on Oct. 24 in the wake of Lute Olson's retirement a day earlier ... Pennell returned to college basketball on May 5, 2008, when he joined the Wildcat staff, ending a two-year stint as the head of the Arizona Premier League in the Phoenix area ... He also provided color commentary for the Arizona State University radio network during the 2007-08 season ... Most recently, Pennell served as an assistant coach for Arizona State for eight seasons from 1998-2006 ... While working for the Sun Devils under coach Rob Evans, the program amassed a 119-120 (.498) record that included one NCAA Tournament berth (2003) and three trips to the N.I.T. ... Prior to his tenure in Tempe, Ariz., Pennell served on Evans' staff at the University of Mississippi for six seasons (1992-98), where the Rebels went 86-81 (.515) and made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 1997 and 1998 ... In those two seasons, Mississippi won the Southeastern Conference West Division championship and won at least 20 games ... It was the first time the program had posted consecutive 20-win seasons in 60 years ... Pennell began his coaching career at Oklahoma State University from 1990-92, helping the Cowboys to a 52-16 (.765) record under coach Eddie Sutton ... During the 1990-91 campaign, the Cowboys shared the Big Eight Conference championship with a 24-8 overall record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament ... The following year, OSU posted a 28-8 record, and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. The Cowboys advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 in both of Pennell's seasons in Stillwater ... Pennell, 47, earned a degree in physical education from Pittsburg State University in 1989 and received his master's in P.E. from PSU in 1990 ... He is assisted by Mike Dunlap, Reggie Geary and Matt Brase.

LAST TIME OUT: Arizona jumped out to a 12-point lead, eventually fell behind by as many as eight, then rallied in the final four minutes for a 69-66 win Tuesday over Santa Clara in the consolation final of the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off in Athens, Ga. Jordan Hill's dunk with 2:09 remaining capped a 20-point night individually and gave UA the lead for good. The Wildcats shot .652 from the field and limited the Broncos to just one point in the final four minutes and were barely able to overcome a 24-9 Santa Clara scoring advantage from three-point range.

SCOUTING NORTHERN ARIZONA: The Lumberjacks enter today's contest with a 1-4 record following Tuesday's 89-82 loss to North Dakota State. Four players finished in double figures for NAU, as the starting backcourt combined to hit 12-of-21 field goal attempts. On the season NAU shoots 48.7 percent (135-of-277) from the field, outrebounds the opposition by an average of 0.2 rebounds per game, but is outscored by 0.8 points. Three of the `Jacks four defeats have been by seven points or less. Three players average in double figures, led by Matt Johnson's 13.2 ppg figure.

THE SERIES: Today's game is the 118th meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 90-27 series advantage. Counting this meeting, UA and NAU have met in six of the last seven seasons. Arizona has won 24 straight games in the series and 39 of the last 42, including last season's 76-69 win in Tucson on Nov. 13, 2007. All-time, Arizona is 60-5 in series games played in Tucson, 29-21 in Flagstaff, and 0-1 in neutral-site games. See page 93 in the Arizona basketball media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Arizona 76, Northern Arizona 69, Nov. 13, 2007: Chase Budinger and Jawann McClellan combined to hit 17-of-17 free throw attempts and Arizona needed every one in the seven-point win. Outrebounded (39-31) and hampered by poor shooting (38.3 %), the Cats' 24-12 free throw advantage provided the difference. Jerryd Bayless added 18 points and five assists as UA collected more blocked shots (7) than turnovers (5).

FIGHTING BACK: Trailing by eight points with just over four minutes remaining Tuesday vs. Santa Clara, Arizona managed to come back and win. In that span, the Wildcats connected on all five field goal attempts, while forcing the Broncos to miss all four field goals and commit three turnovers in what turned out to be a 12-1 run. All told, UA trailed by eight points five times in the second half. It was Arizona's first win this year when trailing with five minutes remaining in the second half. By comparison, Arizona was just 3-11 in that situation last season.

GEORGIA ON MY MIND: If statistics mean anything, there certainly was something to the Wildcats liking in Athens, Ga. The Cats connected on 60-of-94 (.638) field goal attempts, including 9-of-17 (.529) from three-point range, hit 26-of-35 (.743) free throws, posted a +11.0 rebound margin and a +18.5 scoring margin in the two NIT Season Tip-Off consolation games. Individually, Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill combined to hit 34-of-42 (.810) field goal attempts in Georgia's Stegeman Coliseum.

FINDING THE RANGE: Credit some hot shooting for Tuesday's win, as the Wildcats shot a season-best 65.2 percent (30-of-46) from the field. Included in the effort was 14-of-19 (.737) accuracy in the second half. In the end, the 65.2 percent figure was the best single-game performance for the Wildcats since a 65.3 percent figure (32-of-49) at Washington on Jan. 4, 2007, in a 96-87 UA win.

HALFWAY THERE: Through four games this season, Arizona is shooting a cumulative 54.0 percent (114-of-211) from the field. When breaking that down per half, UA has shot better than 50 percent from the floor in five of eight halves - and two of those halves have been 60 percent or better.

50 PERCENT IS BEST: Look no further than field goal percentage as a key to victory. This season, Arizona is 3-0 when shooting 50 percent or better from the floor. Over the last two seasons, the Cats are 16-0 when topping the 50-percent barrier. Additionally, UA was just good enough defensively to continue a similar trend. Over the last two years, Arizona is 18-0 when shooting better than the opposition. Against Santa Clara, the Wildcats outshot them, .652-.532.

STEAL AWAY: Led by Nic Wise, who tallied a season-high four, and Jordan Hill, who tallied a career-high three, Arizona posted a season-best nine steals in Tuesday's win over Santa Clara. Six of those nine steals came in the second half. On the season, Arizona is averaging 6.0 steals per game.

ON THE GLASS: Rebounding was a concern for the Wildcats entering the season, but the team's boardwork has been solid early in the season. To date, Arizona is outrebounding the opposition by a +7.7 margin per game. Twice this season, Arizona has outrebounded its opponent by 16 or more.

IN THE PAINT: Arizona has held a scoring advantage in each game when it comes to points in the paint. Through four games, the Wildcats have outscored its opponents 122-72 in the paint this year.

A NEED FOR IMPROVEMENT: For all the good that Arizona has done as far as putting the ball in the basket, the Cats could stand to improve its turnover margin. Currently, Arizona is averaging 13.5 miscues per game, but that figure is 1.5 turnovers per game higher than the opposition. In fact, Arizona has committed more turnovers than its opponent in three of four games in 2008-09.

QUITE A STREAK: In hitting a season-best 10 field goals Tuesday against Santa Clara, junior forward Chase Budinger finished the contest with a team-high 22 points. Dating back to last season, the 6-foot-7 forward has posted five consecutive games of 20 points or more, which is the longest streak of his career. Additionally, Budinger moved into 30th place on the UA career scoring list with 1,161 points.

PITCHING IN: Even though hampered by foul trouble for most of the game, forward Jamelle Horne managed to make some key contributions late in Tuesday's win. The 6-foot-6 sophomore scored four points, including the final bucket that pushed the margin to three, and added two boards and two assists in the second half. He saw action in just 15 minutes, 13 fewer than his season average of 28.0 minutes per game.

IT'S GOOD TO BE HOME: Atlanta, Ga., native Jordan Hill definitely made the most of his two-game visit to his home state. The 6-foot-10 forward connected on 14-of-16 FG attempts and 11-of-12 free throw tries en route to averages of 19.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in the wins over Mississippi Valley State and Santa Clara. The 20 points he notched vs. Santa Clara was a season high.

STEADYING INFLUENCE: Junior Nic Wise continues to be a steadying influence for the Cats. Against Santa Clara, the Houston, Texas, native posted nine points, seven assists and a season-best four steals. On the season Wise is averaging 12.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game to go with an assist:turnover ratio of better than 3:1. He also leads the Cats with a 2.0 steals per game average.

IN THE LEAGUE: With the 2008-09 National Basketball Association regular season underway, no fewer than nine former Arizona Wildcats were on the opening day NBA rosters. That figure ranks sixth nationally. Here is the complete list: Hassan Adams, Toronto Raptors; Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards; Jerryd Bayless, Portland TrailBlazers; Mike Bibby, Atlanta Hawks; Channing Frye, Portland TrailBlazers; Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers; Richard Jefferson, Milwaukee Bucks; Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks; and Luke Walton, Los Angeles Lakers. There have been at least eight former Wildcats in the NBA in each of the last nine seasons with 10 or more in six of those campaigns. Furthermore, four former Cats are on NBA D-League rosters.

MORE UA CONNECTIONS TO THE NBA: Arizona's nine former players in the Association helped the Pac-10 Conference tally 46 active NBA players, a figure that ranked third nationally. The Pac-10 was one of only three conferences (Big East and Big 12) to have each member school produce at least one NBA player. Additionally, the Pac-10's average of 4.6 alums per institution was second only to the Atlantic Coast Conference (4.8). Here is a look at the breakdown by conference: 1. Atlantic Coast, 58; 2. Big East, 49; 3. Pac-10, 46; 4. Big 12, 41; 5. Southeastern, 38; 6. Big Ten, 37.

IN NOVEMBER: Fast starts have become the norm for the Cats. Over the last 26 years, Arizona is 61-17 (.792) in the month of November. The numbers are even more impressive considering the quality of competition. Thirty-three percent (26-of-78) of Arizona's games in November have come against nationally ranked opponents. In those contests, Arizona is 18-8 (.692). To date, UA is 3-1 in November this season.

COVERING ALL BASES: It's been an entertaining opening week for the Wildcats. In jumping out to a 3-1 record, UA has seen a little bit of everything - the squad has cruised to victory (86-52 over Mississippi Valley State), won comfortably (75-62 over Florida Atlantic), come from behind to win a close one (69-66 over Santa Clara) and even dropped at the buzzer (71-72 to UAB).

SCORING 80: Arizona scored a season-best 86 points Monday vs. Mississippi Valley State and broke the 80-point barrier for the first time. Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 171-19 (.900) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points. Obviously, Arizona is 1-0 this season when topping the 80-point plateau.

UP NEXT: Following today's contest, the Wildcats will host Loyola Marymount on Tuesday, Dec. 2. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST and will be televised by FS Arizona.

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