Game Notes: Jan. 23, 2009

Jan. 23, 2009

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Date: Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009

Time: 4 p.m. MST

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

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

TV: FSNAZ (Dave Sitton/Bob Elliott)

GAME DATA: Arizona (11-8, 2-5 Pac-10) steps out of conference for the final time of the regular season when the Cats host Houston (12-4, 3-1 C-USA) Saturday at McKale Center ... The Wildcats enter the game with a 9-3 record against non-conference foes ... Look for this game to be a more up-tempo affair, as the visiting Cougars average nearly more than 80 points per game (79.1 ppg) ... Arizona averages 70.6 points per game in 10 home games this season and outscores the opposition in those games by 11.8 points per game ... This season, Arizona is 6-1 when scoring 70 or more points, but the Cats haven't reached that figure in eight games.

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Jan. 19 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 11-8 (.579) ... 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: In an intense game that saw both teams combine to shoot a mere 29 percent from the field, a single trey swung momentum with less than two minutes to go as No. 17 Arizona State downed Arizona, 53-47, on Wednesday. Derek Glasser's three-pointer with 1:39 remaining broke a 40-40 tie and sent the Sun Devils to victory. ASU closed the game with a 13-7 run in that span, spurred by 10-of-12 shooting from the line. Arizona outshot and outrebounded the visitors, but couldn't overcome 15 turnovers, including nine in the second half.

SCOUTING HOUSTON: The Cougars enter today's contest with a 12-4 record (3-1 C-USA) following Wednesday's 85-67 home win over East Carolina. On the season, UH shoots 44.1 percent (445-of-1010) from the field, including 35.4 percent (103-of-291) from three-point range, outrebounds the opposition by a +0.7 per game margin, and outscores opponents by 13.7 points per game. Three Cougars average in double figures, led by Kelvin Lewis' 19.8 ppg clip. Marcus Cousin leads the team with a 9.2 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Today's game is the 11th meeting of the two schools with the series deadlocked at five wins apiece.. Arizona has won four of the last five meetings in the series, which dates back to Dec. 22, 1967, including the last meeting, 85-71, on Jan. 12, 2008, in Houston. All-time, Arizona is 3-1 in series games played in Tucson, 2-4 in Houston, and 0-0 in neutral-site games. Please see page 92 in the UA media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Arizona 85, Houston 71, Jan. 12, 2008: Arizona's Jerryd Bayless made his return from injury a dominating one as he controlled this game nearly from the start, finishing with a career-high 33 points, five rebounds and nine assists. He set a UA single-game record with 18 free throws made and equaled another with 20 free throw attempts. Bayless helped the Wildcats shoot 61 percent from the field and hold Houston to just 35.8 percent shooting. Chase Budinger posted his first double-double of the year with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Jordan Hill added 17 points.

AGAINST CONFERENCE USA: Arizona has a 76-42 (.644) record against current Conference USA members. The Wildcats are 0-1 against C-USA opponents in 2008-09, as UAB defeated UA, 72-71, in McKale Center on Nov. 18.

A SLIGHT CONTRAST IN STYLES: Arizona and Houston meet for the fourth consecutive season today in what should be an entertaining contest. The visiting Cougars average 79.1 points and 63 field goal attempts per game, while nearly 25 percent of its offense comes from behind the arc. The Wildcats, on the other hand, average 68.4 points and 53 field goal attempts per game, while 21 percent of the offense comes from three-pointers. Houston has scored 80 or more points seven times in 2008-09, while Arizona has reached the 80-point plateau three times.

A CHANGE IS GOOD: Arizona has routinely used this hole in the Pac-10 schedule to play a non-conference game, and for the most part, that has been a good decision, as the club is 12-5 (.706) since the 1989-90 season in those games. The contests have been rockier of late, as the program is 7-5 in the last 12 games dating back to 1994-95. Opponents have included Houston (last season), North Carolina (twice), Kansas, Connecticut and Texas.

A RARITY: The Wildcats enter today's game having lost its last three games played. In case you were wondering, the last time UA dropped four consecutive games came in the last three games of the 1991-92 season and the first game of 1992-93. Additionally, the last time the Cats lost four straight in the same season came Jan. 5-14, 1984, in what was Lute Olson's first season in Tucson.

CLOSE CALLS: The Wildcats dropped a 53-47 decision Wednesday vs. Arizona State, which was Arizona's fourth loss of the season by less than 10 points. In games decided by less than 10 points, UA has a 3-4 record.

ROMAN NUMERAL L: Arizona tallied a season-low 47 points in Tuesday's loss, marking just the second time in the last 24 seasons that program did not score 50 or more points in a single game. Arizona lost an NCAA Tournament game to close the 1984-85 season, 50-41, to Alabama on March 15. Since then, the only time Arizona failed to hit 50 was in a 48-43 win at Marquette on Dec. 18, 2004.

WORTH NOTING: The Wildcats limited Arizona State to an opponent-low 28.6 field goal percentage (16-of-56) on Wednesday to go along with just 16 field goals (also a season low. Included in that effort was ASU's 22.9 percent (8-of-35) in the first half, but that figure wasn't Arizona's best defensive effort in the first half this season. On Nov. 25, UA held Mississippi Valley State to just .219 (7-of-32) shooting in the opening 20 minutes in what became an 86-52 UA win.

OFF THE MARK: Arizona shot just 29.8 percent (14-of-47) from the field Wednesday against the Sun Devils, which was the 10th time in the last 11 games that the squad has failed to shot 50 percent or better from the field. Over the last 11 games, the Wildcats are shooting a combined 253-of-589 (.430) from the field. Incidentally, the Wildcats have shot 50 percent or better from the field seven times in 2008-09 and are 5-2 in those contests. Furthermore, Arizona outshot ASU, .298-.286, but fell to 9-4 this season when posting a better field goal percentage than the opponent.

STANDING TALL: Junior Jordan Hill continues to prove himself to be one of the best big men in the nation, as he collected his 12th double-double of the season with 16 points and 15 rebounds Wednesday against Arizona State. To date, the 6-foot-10 Hill has been in double figures 17 times when it comes to scoring and 13 times in rebounding in his 18 appearances. He currently leads the Pac-10 with those 12 double-doubles and his 11.6 rebounds per game average.

IN CONTROL: In what seems almost commonplace at this point of the season, Jordan Hill snatched a game-high 15 rebounds vs. Arizona State, which was the sixth time this season that the 6-foot-10 native of Atlanta, Ga., has pulled down more than 12 caroms in a contest. Furthermore, it was his 13th double-figure rebounding game of the year and the 27th of his career. Hill leads the Pac-10 with his 11.3 rebounds per game average in conference play.

LEADING THE WAY: Led by Jordan Hill's efforts (see note above), Arizona posted a 40-30 rebound advantage over Arizona State Wednesday, though the Wildcats slipped 8-4 when outrebounding the opposition. Additionally, Arizona's +5.8 rebound margin (+3.0 in Pac-10 play) this season ranks fourth among conference members.

MOVING UP THE LIST: Chase Budinger heads into Saturday's game just nine points shy of 1,400 for his career. Additionally, the 6-foot-7 junior forward is just 19 points shy of taking sole possession of 19th place on the Arizona career scoring list. Presently, Budinger has tallied 1,391 points in 84 games played (16.6 ppg), which ranks 20th on the UA career charts.

DOWN THE STRETCH: Arizona got off to a good start against Arizona State, leading by as many as eight points in the first half, but were unable to close out the victory. Generally speaking such starts are good for the Cats, as the team is 9-4 when leading 10 minutes into the opening period, 7-3 when leading at halftime and 8-3 when leading with five minutes remaining in the second half.

NEED FOR IMPROVEMENT: Arizona turned the ball over 15 times Wednesday against Arizona State, including nine times in the second half, and lost the turnover battle 15-9. That turns out to be a telling statistic, as the Cats are 3-8 season when turning it over more than the opposition. This season, Arizona has a +1.8 turnover margin in its 11 wins and a -6.0 margin in its eight losses.

PUSHING FOR PLAYING TIME: Sophomore guard Zane Johnson started his third game of the season Wednesday, playing a career-best 30 minutes and equaling a career high with five rebounds. He's earned double-figure minutes in each of the last 10 games and 20 or more minutes in the last four. In that span, Johnson is averaging 4.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game to go with a .405 field goal percentage.

40-MINUTE MAN: One thing that was hoped for at the beginning of the year was the ability to keep Jordan Hill on the floor. He's certainly been able to do that as he played 40 minutes Wednesday, which was his third 40-minute game of the year. All told, Arizona has had a player play all 40 minutes 14 times this season (UA has not played an overtime game). In addition to Hill's three, Nic Wise has six and Chase Budinger has five. Each of those players is averaging 34 or more minutes played per game.

THE BIG THREE: Presently, Arizona's three leading scorers - Jordan Hill (17.7 ppg), Chase Budinger (17.1) and Nic Wise (12.6) - have combined to score 68 percent (883 of 1,299) of Arizona's offense. That percentage of productivity from the top three UA scorers is the highest for the program in the last 10-plus seasons. In fact, only in the last three seasons (2007, `08, `09) has that percentage been above 60 percent.

SCORING 80: Arizona scored 84 points Dec. 23 against Kansas, breaking the 80-point barrier for the third time this year. Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 173-19 (.901) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points. Arizona is 3-0 this season when topping the 80-point plateau.

UP NEXT: Arizona returns to conference play on Thursday, Jan. 29, when the Wildcats host Washington. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. MST and will be televised by FS Arizona.



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