Game Notes: Dec. 4, 2008

Dec. 4, 2008

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Date: Friday, Dec. 5, 2008

Time: 8:30 p.m. CST

Location: Reed Arena (12,989), College Station, Texas

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

TV: ESPNU (Doug Bell/Reid Gettys)

GAME DATA: Arizona (5-1, 0-0 Pac-10) plays a true road game for the first time this season Friday at Texas A&M (5-1, 0-0 Big 12) in Reed Arena as part of the Big12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series ... Tonight's game opens a stretch where four of the next five opponents were NCAA Tournament teams in 2008 ... This is Arizona's first-ever visit to College Station, Texas ... File this under 'stating the obvious,' as defense and rebounding will play a key role in this contest - UA shoots 53.0 percent as a team while Texas A&M holds opponents to just 39.5 percent accuracy, and both squads outrebound the competition by at least a +6.8 boards per game figure.

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Dec. 1 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 5-1 (.833) ... 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 used a big first-half run to blow things open then got solid contributions from the bench as the Wildcats cruised to an 84-57 win Tuesday over Loyola Marymount. Down 15-11 just six minutes into the game, the Cats responded with a 24-2 run over the next 9:39 and never looked back. Budinger, Hill and Wise combined for 40 points, but it was the UA bench - led by Zane Johnson's career-high 17 points - that chipped in with 39 points in a combined 82 total minutes.

SCOUTING TEXAS A&M: The Aggies enter tonight's contest with a 5-1 record following last Friday's 77-71 win over Kent State. On the season TAMU shoots 44.0 percent (150-of-341) from the field, outrebounds the opposition by a +8.8 rebounds per game margin, and outscores opponents by 11.3 points. Averaging 74.0 points per game, the Aggies have won games in the 50s, 70s, 80s and 90s this season. Three Texas A&M players average in double figures, led by Josh Carter's 14.0 ppg clip. Bryan Davis paces the club with a 6.7 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the seventh meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 6-0 advantage in the series, which dates back to Dec. 16, 1949. The Wildcats won the last meeting, 78-67, in Tucson on Dec. 2, 2007. Prior to that, the programs met just once since 1970-71. All-time, Arizona is 3-0 in series games played in Tucson, 0-0 in College Station, and 3-0 in neutral-site games. See page 94 in the Arizona basketball media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Arizona 78, Texas A&M 67, Dec. 2, 2007: Arizona struggled early, found itself in a big hole and then impressively dug itself out in earning a hard-fought win. Trailing 32-12 with 6:47 to go in the first half, UA outscored Texas A&M 66-35 the rest of the way, including 50-27 in the second half, to pull away. Jerryd Bayless led all scorers with 26 points and joined with Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill to outscore the Aggies in the second half. The Cats shot 59.1 percent and held Texas A&M to just 34.5 percent shooting in the second half.

AGAINST THE BIG 12 CONFERENCE: All-time, Arizona is 63-66 (.488) against teams that currently make up the Big 12 Conference. Over the five previous seasons, the Wildcats are 4-1 against Big 12 foes. Last season, UA lost at Kansas in overtime and defeated Texas A&M. Those same two teams are also on the schedule this year.

IN TEXAS: The Arizona roster features three Texas natives (Judkins, Onobun, Wise) and the Wildcats have made regular appearances in the state recently. Since the start of the 2000-01 season, Arizona is 4-1 in the state of Texas, winning regular-season games at Texas (2002) and Houston (2008), and claiming two NCAA Midwest Regional games in San Antonio en route to the 2001 Final Four.

ROAD OPENERS: Friday's game in College Station marks Arizona's first true road game of the season. Since Arizona joined the Pac-10 for the start of the 1978-79 season, the program is 14-16 (.467) in those contests. This is the latest the Cats have played its first road game of the year since 2003-04, when UA played at Saint Louis on Dec. 6, 2003, in a 68-67 win.

SHOT INTO THE SPOTLIGHT: Aside from Tuesday's win being Arizona's fourth in a row, the biggest news may have been the emergence of Zane Johnson. The 6-foot-5 sophomore guard knocked down 5-of-9 treys en route to a career-high 17 points. For good measure, the Phoenix, Ariz., native played a career-best 24 minutes and grabbed two boards and passed out three assists without a turnover. It definitely was a career night for Johnson, as he matched his career point total Tuesday night. He now ranks third on the club with his six treys this season.

HELP IS ON THE WAY: Behind the efforts of Zane Johnson and a host of others, the UA bench contributed 39 of the team's 84 points (46.4 percent) in Tuesday's win. That's the highest output and percentage of points for the bench this season. Cumulatively, the UA bench shot 48.3 percent (14-of-29) from the field, and actually out-shot the starters (16-of-35/.457). All told, five different Wildcat reserves posted career-high scoring nights against Loyola Marymount. Four of those happened to be first-year players.

QUITE A RUN: Arizona has shown an ability to produce solid scoring runs this season, but Tuesday's run was statistically impressive. Trailing 15-11 with 14:01 remaining in the first half, Arizona embarked on a 24-2 run over the next 9:39. During the run, Arizona forced Loyola Marymount into 1-of-14 shooting and four turnovers.

STILL HOLDS TRUE: Despite the fact that Arizona failed to shoot at least 50 percent from the field for only the second time this season, the ballclub still managed to outshoot LMU .469-.333 to remain unbeaten when accomplishing the feat. Through 6 games, the Wildcats are 5-0 when shooting better than the opposition.

ON THE GLASS: Led by Jordan Hill's game-high 17 rebounds, Arizona posted a 42-34 rebounding advantage against Loyola Marymount, which was the team's third-largest margin of the season. Hill, who averages 13.0 rebounds per game in 2008-09, has collected double-figure caroms in five of six outings and grabbed no fewer than nine in any contest to date. Hill has helped Arizona outrebound each of its last five opponents. Incidentally, Jamelle Horne grabbed a season-high seven rebounds on Tuesday.

STREAK STOPPED: Entering Tuesday's game with a streak of six straight games with 20 or more points (dating back to last season), Chase Budinger managed only 10 points in Tuesday's 27-point win. He played a season-low 27 minutes, but still managed to contribute seven rebounds, a season-high four assists and two steals. In all, it was Budinger's 60th career game in double figures. On the season, Budinger leads Arizona in scoring (21.0 ppg), FG percentage (.652), three-point FG percentage (.654) and minutes played (34.3 mpg).

NO MISTAKES: Junior guard Nic Wise tallied 15 points and a season-low three assists Tuesday, but he did manage to accomplish something noteworthy. The 5-foot-10 guard's three assists came against zero turnovers, marking the fourth time in Wise's career that he has played 20 or more minutes without committing a turnover. In fact, Arizona tallied a season-low six turnovers vs. Loyola Marymount, the third time this season that UA has had fewer than 10 miscues. Wise currently sports a 3.2:1 assist:turnover ratio.

SEASON HIGH: Guided by Jamelle Horne and Chase Budinger, who each passed out a season-high four assists, the Wildcats tallied a season-high 21 assists against the Lions, the first time this season that UA has topped the 20-assist plateau this season. Furthermore, those 21 UA assists came on 30 field goals. In its last two games, Arizona has 39 assists against 15 turnovers. All 12 UA players saw action Tuesday and 11 of those players had either one or zero turnovers.

DOUBLING UP: Forward Jordan Hill notched his fifth double-double of the season Tuesday with 15 points and 17 rebounds, a figure that leads the Pac-10 Conference. The 6-foot-10 junior from Atlanta, Ga., has 17 career double-doubles. Over his last three games, Hill is averaging 19.3 points and 12.0 rebounds, while shooting 25-of-36 (.694) from the field.

FROM LONG RANGE: The double-barreled action of Zane Johnson (5) and Nic Wise (3) enabled Arizona to sink a season-high 12 three-point field goals in Tuesday's win. The duo combined to make eight of those 12 treys. Having another effective outside shooter certainly aided the Wildcat cause from behind the arc. Entering the week, Arizona was averaging just 4.8 made three-point FGs per game. Prior to Tuesday, UA's single-game high this season for treys was six.

GETTING TO THE LINE: Despite the fact that UA has struggled a bit from the line, connecting on 68.6 percent, the Cats have used the charity stripe to its advantage. Arizona has outscored its opponents 83-49 from the line (a +5.7-point margin) and has attempted 50 more free throws on the season. The Wildcats have outscored five of six opponents from the free throw line this season (Santa Clara). Additionally, UA has more made free throws (83) than the opponent has attempted (71).

FAST START: In what has been a bit of a rare occurrence through six games, Arizona enjoyed a 17-point lead at halftime. That lead was the Wildcats' second-largest halftime lead of the season. Through the first six games, Arizona has outscored opponents by an average of 5.3 points per game in the first half and 10.3 points in the second.

EXTENDED ACTION: UA coach Russ Pennell praised the efforts of two freshmen following Tuesday's game: Kyle Fogg and Brendon Lavender. Fogg, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound native of Brea, Calif., knocked down a season-best three field goals and finished with eight points in 16 minutes. Lavender, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound native of Mesa, Ariz., hit 2-of-3 FGs, including a trey, on the way to five points and two steals in 15 minutes.

SCORING 80: Arizona scored a 84 points Tuesday against Loyola Marymount, breaking the 80-point barrier for the second time this year. Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 172-19 (.901) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points. Arizona is 2-0 this season when topping the 80-point plateau.

UP NEXT: Following tonight's game, the Wildcats return home to host San Diego State on Wednesday, Dec. 10. Tip-off in McKale Center is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST and can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona.



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