Men's Basketball Game Notes: Nov. 14, 2008

Nov. 14, 2008

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Date: Monday, Nov. 17, 2008

Time: 9 p.m. MST

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

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

TV: ESPNU (Dave Pasch/Len Elmore)

GAME DATA: Arizona (0-0, 0-0 Pac-10) opens the 2008-09 season against Florida Atlantic (0-0, 0-0 SBC) Monday in McKale Center in the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off ... UAB and Santa Clara make up the rest of the field here in the West Region ... It marks the sixth time that Arizona has opened the season by playing in the Preseason N.I.T. (1986, `90, `95, `99, 2004) ... All-time, the Wildcats are 15-2 in Preseason N.I.T action, and, interestingly, sandwiched 15 consecutive victories around losses in 1986 and 2004.

THE RANKINGS: Arizona is unranked in both 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. The Wildcats are receiving votes in both polls: 11 (T41st) in the Associated Press Top 25 and 18 (34th) in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 Coaches' Poll.

ARIZONA INTERIM HEAD COACH Russ Pennell . . . begins his first season at the University of Arizona and his first overall as a college head coach tonight ... 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: Jordan Hill and Nic Wise combined for 46 points to lead Arizona to a 78-54 exhibition victory over Sonoma State on Thursday. Hill anchored the first half, tallying 21 of his 30 points to open the game, while Wise scored 14 of his 16 points in the second. All told, Arizona shot 54.7 percent from the field, held the Seawolves to 35.6 percent shooting and forced 18 SSU turnovers. A 16-5 UA run over 3:27 of the second half pushed the game out of reach.

SCOUTING FLORIDA ATLANTIC: First-year head coach Mike Jarvis leads three senior starters into the 2008-09 campaign for the Owls, who finished with a 15-18 mark a year ago. FAU, which hosts Monmouth in its season opener on Friday, defeated Lynn University (73-69) and Rollins College (61-56) in two exhibitions. The Owls are led by senior Carlos Monroe, a 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward, who averaged 15.4 points and 9.5 rebounds last season and was named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year.

THE SERIES: This is the first meeting of the two schools. Arizona has a 13-4 (.765) record against current Sun Belt Conference members. The last time UA faced a SBC member was Dec. 21, 2005, in an 86-81 (ot) Wildcat win in over Western Kentucky in the championship game of the Fiesta Bowl Classic.

FOR OPENERS: Arizona has a record of 80-21 (.792) in season openers (results are unavailable for four seasons), including a 21-4 (.840) mark in the last 25 seasons. All-time, the Wildcats are 61-12 at home, 10-9 on the road and 9-0 in neutral-site games.

IN NOVEMBER: Fast starts have become the norm for the Cats. Over the last 25 seasons, Arizona is 61-17 (.782) in the month of November. The numbers are even more impressive considering the quality of competition, as 27 of 78 opponents (34.5 percent) were nationally ranked. In those contests, Arizona is 18-9 (.667). UA will play five times in November this season.

PRESEASON N.I.T. HISTORY: As mentioned earlier, Arizona has a 15-2 record when playing in the Preseason N.I.T. In tournament annals, Arizona's five previous appearances and three championships are tied for the all-time lead, while the .882 winning percentage ranks third, the 15 wins ranks fourth, and the 17 games played ranks fifth. UA's 15-game win streak in the event, which ended in the 2004 championship game loss to Wake Forest, is a tournament record. Here is a look at Arizona's participation:

Nov. 21, 1986:  UNLV 92, Arizona 87 (Las Vegas, Nev.)Nov. 14, 1990:  Arizona 122, Austin Peay 80 (Tucson, Ariz.)Nov. 16, 1990:  Arizona 88, East Tennessee State 79 (Tucson, Ariz.)Nov. 21, 1990:  Arizona 91, Notre Dame 61 (New York, N.Y.)Nov. 23, 1990:  Arizona 89, Arkansas 77 (New York, N.Y.)Nov. 15, 1995:  Arizona 91, Long Beach State 57 (Tucson, Ariz.)Nov. 17, 1995:  Arizona 83, Arkansas 73 (Fayetteville, Ark.)Nov. 22, 1995:  Arizona 86, Michigan 79 (New York, N.Y.)Nov. 24, 1995:  Arizona 91, Georgetown 81 (New York, N.Y.)Nov. 16, 1999:  Arizona 88, Kansas State 69 (Tucson, Ariz.)Nov. 19, 1999:  Arizona 84, New Mexico State 60 (Tucson, Ariz.)Nov. 24, 1999:  Arizona 76, Notre Dame 60 (New York, N.Y.)Nov. 26, 1999:  Arizona 63, Kentucky 51 (New York, N.Y.)Nov. 16, 2004:  Arizona 80, San Diego 69 (Tucson, Ariz.)Nov. 18, 2004:  Arizona 83, Wright State 66 (Tucson, Ariz.)Nov. 24, 2004:  Arizona 61, Michigan 60, overtime (New York, N.Y.)Nov. 26, 2004:  Wake Forest 63, Arizona 60 (New York, N.Y.)

FIRST THE GOOD: Led by Jordan Hill, who has connected on 70.4 percent (19-of-27) of his field goal attempts, Arizona shot a combined 53.4 percent (62-of-116) from the field in its exhibition games. The accuracy certainly helped the Cats average 87.5 points per game, a figure that was 15.6 ppg higher than last season. At the other end of the court, UA held opponents to just 41.3 percent (50-of-121) from the floor, including 35.6 percent from Sonoma State.

AND THE BAD: Look no further than ball security and free throw shooting to see a few areas of improvement from the Cats. UA turned it over 30 times in the exhibition games, a figure the staff undoubtedly would like to see drop, while shooting a combined 59.5 percent (44-of-74) from the charity stripe. While an average of 37.5 free throw attempts and a +10.5 scoring advantage from the line per game are good things, the fact remains that Arizona just needs to sink them at a better rate.

AROUND THE BUCKET: During exhibition action, Arizona connected on 53.4 percent of its field goal attempts. What's even better is that the Cats were able to accomplish that by getting good shots. In the games against Incarnate Word and Sonoma State, 33 of the team's 62 field goals (53 percent) were either dunks or lay-ups. Additionally, UA attempted only 20 three-point field goals (made seven), which amounted to only 17 percent of the team's total attempts.

ON THE GLASS: With four players averaging 5.5 rebounds per game in the two exhibitions, it's not surprising that UA posted a +13.4 rebound margin. The front line of Jordan Hill (12.0 rpg), Chase Budinger (6.0), Jamelle Horne (5.5) and Fendi Onobun (5.5) combined to average 29 boards per game, that's two-thirds of the team total.

JUST WHAT IS NEEDED: A coach couldn't ask for much more than what Jordan Hill delivered in the two exhibition games -- team-leading figures of 26.5 points per game, 12.0 rebounds and a .704 (19-of-27) field goal percentage -- all while playing 32.0 minutes per game. Why is 30 minutes so important? Last season, Arizona was 11-5 when Hill played 30 or more minutes in a game and 8-10 when he didn't.

IT'S GOING TO GET BETTER: After hitting just 26.3 percent (5-of-19) of his FG attempts during the exhibitions, one thing is certain. The shots will fall for Chase Budinger. The 6-foot-7 junior forward has a career field goal percentage of .463 (380-of-820), including .375 from three-point range, and averaged 17.1 points per game last year. What's been positive in the last two games is Budinger's ability to contribute in other ways. He's 14-of-15 (.933) from the line and ranks second on the club in both rebounds (6.0 rpg) and assists (4.5 apg).

A DIFFERENCE MAKER: Aside from Jordan Hill's 30 points and 11 rebounds Wednesday, no Wildcat may have had a greater impact in the win than Nic Wise. The 5-foot-10, 177-pound junior scored 14 of his 16 points (6-of-9 FG) in the second half and sparked the decisive run. Wise scored eight points in that 16-5 run over 3:27 which pushed the lead to 16 points.

A SECOND HALF CLUB: Arizona has done some good things in the second half, shooting a combined 56.5 percent (35-of-62) from the field and limiting the opposition to just a .358 (24-of-67) FG percentage. The effort enabled Arizona to outscore its exhibition foes, 97-67, in the second half alone.

TOP 50: University of Arizona men's basketball player Chase Budinger was named to the 2008-09 John R. Wooden Award preseason All-America team, it was announced Nov. 7 by the Los Angeles Athletic Club's Wooden Award Committee. The Wildcat junior is included among a list of 50 student-athletes who are under consideration for the 2009 John R. Wooden Award, which has been given to college basketball's player of the year annually since 1969. Budinger made the preseason list for the second straight year and is one of five Pac-10 players on the list.

MOVING UP: 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 (see chart at right). 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 more former Cats are on NBA D-League rosters.

MORE UA CONNECTIONS TO THE LEAGUE: 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.

PAC-10 PROGNOSTICATIONS: According to media members who regularly cover the Pacific-10 Conference, Arizona was picked to finish fourth in this season's Pac-10 race. The Wildcats received 241 points, trailing UCLA, Arizona State and USC. It's the second consecutive year in which UA was selected fourth.

UP NEXT: Arizona hosts either Santa Clara or UAB in Tuesday's Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off. Depending on tonight's outcome, the contest will be at either 6:30 p.m. or 9:30 p.m. MST. Regardless of outcome, the 9:30 p.m. game will be televised on ESPN2.

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