Game Notes: Dec. 12, 2008

Dec. 12, 2008

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Date: Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008

Time: 4 p.m. MST

Location: U.S. Airways Center (18,500), Phoenix, Ariz.

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

TV: FSN (Ted Robinson/Marques Johnson)

Game Data: Arizona (6-2, 0-0 Pac-10) makes the trip west on I-10 to take on No. 4 Gonzaga (7-0, 0-0 WCC) Sunday in Phoenix at the U.S. Airways Center ... The game is the second half of the Desert Classic, a doubleheader also featuring Arizona State and IUPUI at 1:15 p.m. ... Arizona last played a game at U.S. Airways Center on Dec. 2, 2006, in an 84-72 win over Illinois ... This is the Wildcats' first game this season against a ranked opponent this season ... Look for turnovers to play a part in this contest, as Gonzaga forces an average of 18.6 turnovers per game and boasts a +6.0 turnover margin, while Arizona forces 11.3 per game and carries a -1.1 margin.

The Rankings: Arizona remains unranked in the Dec. 8 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 6-2 (.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: Jamelle Horne scored all eight of his points in a 15-2 run to close the game, as Arizona held off San Diego State, 69-56, Tuesday night. The Aztecs erased an eight-point deficit and tied the game with 5:17 to go before the Wildcats scored nine of those final 15 points from the line. Behind Jordan Hill's career-high 25 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks, UA shot 54 percent from the field in the second half and limited SDSU to just 35 percent shooting for the game.

Scouting Gonzaga: The Bulldogs enter today's contest with a 7-0 record following Wednesday's 74-52 win at Washington State. Each of Gonzaga's last five victories have come against an opponent from a Big Six power conference and are 11.8 points. On the season the Zags shoot 48.1 percent (206-of-428) from the field, outrebound the opposition by a +3.7 rebounds per game margin, and outscores opponents by 20.8 points. Averaging 79.1 points per game, only one of Gonzaga's seven wins have been by fewer than 10 points. Five Zags averages in double figures, led by Josh Heytvelt's 16.3 ppg clip. Austin Daye leads the club with a 6.1 rebounds per game average.

The Series: Today's game is the third meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 2-0 advantage in the series, which dates back to Nov. 29, 2000. The Wildcats won the last meeting, 96-95 (2ot), in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 22, 2003, in the NCAA West Regional second round. All-time, Arizona is 1-0 in series games played in Tucson, 0-0 in Spokane, Wash., and 1-0 in neutral-site games. See page 92 in the Arizona basketball media guide for more series information.

Last Meeting: Arizona 96, Gonzaga 95 (2ot), March 22, 2003: Luke Walton grabbed the rebound following a miss by Gonzaga's Blake Stepp to end what can easily be described as an NCAA Tournament classic - a 96-95 double overtime UA victory. The game featured seven ties and 10 lead changes, four ties and four lead changes in the overtime periods alone, the last coming on a Salim Stoudamire floater with 1:59 to go. Arizona, which committed just nine turnovers in the game, shot 58.3 percent from the floor in the overtime periods. All five Wildcat starters finished in double figures, led by Jason Gardner and Channing Frye, who each netted 22 points.

Against the West Coast Conference: All-time, Arizona is 26-14 (.650) against schools that currently reside in the West Coast Conference. The last time the Wildcats faced a WCC club was Nov. 25 in a 69-66 UA win over Santa Clara in Athens, Ga., as part of the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off consolation rounds.

Last Time at U.S. Airways Center: Arizona 84, Illinois 72, Dec. 2, 2006: The Wildcats exorcised a few demons and enacted a small piece of revenge in earning a hard-fought 12-point victory. After falling behind by as many as 16 points in the first half, Arizona chipped away and cut the deficit to five at the break and then outscored Illinois, 48-31, in the second half, keyed by a 21-4 run that covered 8:08. All five UA starters finished in double figures, led by Chase Budinger's 22 points. Incidentally, the first game of that Hall of Fame Challenge doubleheader featured Gonzaga and Texas in an 87-77 GU win.

Against ranked Opponents: Today's game features the first ranked opponent of the season for the Wildcats. All-time Arizona is 121-155 (.438) against ranked opponents since the Associated Press poll debuted on Jan. 20, 1949. Arizona was 3-6 last season against nationally ranked opponents and is a combined 13-28 (.317) in such games over the previous five seasons. Additionally, Arizona is 26-47 (.356) against teams ranked in the top five nationally.

Vs. No. 4: The Wildcats have a 6-16 (.273) record when facing the nation's fourth-ranked team. In fact, the Cats have lost its last four games against No. 4, including two games last season (at Kansas, 76-72 ot/UCLA, 68-66). The last time UA defeated the a team holding down the fourth slot in the polls came on March 25, 2001, in an 87-81 win over Illinois in the NCAA West Regional Final in San Antonio, Texas.

Playing From Behind: A season-worst .360 field goal percentage (9-of-25) in the first half Wednesday led to a season-low 21 first-half points, as the Wildcats found itself trailing by five points at the break. Playing from behind hasn't been a terrible hindrance for Arizona, as the club is 2-1 when trailing at halftime. A season-high 48 points after the break certainly aided matters, continuing a season-long trend that has seen Arizona tally the majority of its points in the second period.

Final Five: Arizona saved its best effort for the final push Wednesday night as the Wildcats outscored San Diego State, 15-2, over the final 5:17 to break a tie and establish the margin of victory. Other than a pair of Aztec free throws with 4:16 to go, SDSU did not make a field goal in those last five minutes. Of Arizona's 15 points, nine (in 10 attempts) came from the free throw stripe.

Moving Up: Junior Chase Budinger hit 2-of-5 three-point attempts in Wednesday's win, which gave him 145 career three-point field goals made. That figure moved the 6-foot-7 forward into 10th place on the Arizona career three-point field goals made list. The Encinitas, Calif., native has been good from long range this season, averaging 2.8 made treys per game and is shooting a career-best .595 (22-of-37) from behind the arc.

Imposing His Will: Sophomore forward Jamelle Horne was the driving force in that decisive run, as the 6-foot-6 San Diego, Calif., native scored all eight of his points in the run and finished the contest with four rebounds and a career-high three steals as well. On the season, Horne is averaging 8.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, while shooting 53.1 percent (26-of-49) from the field. He is averaging 30.0 minutes per game.

Mr. Consistency: Junior Jordan Hill continues his consistent, high-level, production this season. Wednesday against San Diego State, Hill registered career-high totals of 25 points, four assists and six blocks to go with 14 rebounds. Overall, it was Hill's sixth double-double in eight games and the fifth time he has scored 20 or more points in a game this year. The 6-foot-10 Hill leads all Pac-10 players with his 12.5 rebounds per game average.

Learning on the Fly: Kyle Fogg continues to grow into a key role for the Wildcats. A starter in each of the last two games, Fogg averages 3.9 points and 2.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 68.8 percent (11-of-16) from the field. The 6-foot-2 freshman from Brea, Calif., chipped in a solid performance against San Diego State, totaling nine points, six rebounds, three assists and a steal in 20 minutes. Fogg is the only freshman on the squad to see action in all eight games to date, averaging 14.1 minutes per appearance.

Tis the Season for Charity: It's certainly no secret that Arizona hasn't shot its free throws very well, at least from a percentage standpoint. One game is not a trend, but the Cats were certainly efficient from the line in Wednesday's win, connecting on 18-of-21 (.857) attempts. The 18 makes were the second-highest total from the stripe this season and the percentage was a single-game high. Leading the way for the Cats was Jordan Hill, who connected on a career-best 9-of-12. The effort pushed Arizona's season free throw percentage to a respectable .701 (103-of-147). Arizona still outscores the opposition by an average of 4.6 points per game from the line and has made more free throws (103) than the opposition has attempted (96).

Victory favors the team making the fewest mistakes: Led by Jamelle Horne's career-high three steals Wednesday, Arizona collected a season-high nine steals and forced San Diego State into 16 turnovers. That figure was just enough for the Wildcats to win the turnover battle, 16-15. This season, the Wildcats are 4-0 when committing fewer turnovers than the opposition.

Behind the Arc: Chase Budinger (22) and Nic Wise (16) have shouldered most of the load when it comes to three-point shooting, as the duo has combined to make 38 of the team's 49 treys so far this season, and have connected on 52.1 percent of those attempts. No other player on the club has half as many treys as Wise's 16. Budinger has been consistent in his production, sinking at least two three-pointers in each game, while Wise has made three five different times in eight games.

Extended Effort: Jordan Hill and Nic Wise each logged 40 minutes in Wednesday's win, marking the seventh time this season that a Wildcat player has played 40 minutes. All told, Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise will likely play as many minutes as they can muster, as each are averaging better than 32 minutes so far. If you are scoring at home, Budinger leads the Cats with three 40-minute games in 2008-09, while Hill and Wise have two apiece. Incidentally, Budinger ranks second in the Pac-10 with his 35.5 minutes per game average, while Wise ranks fifth at 33.5.

Scoring 80: Arizona scored a season-high 84 points Dec. 2 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: After this afternoon's game, Arizona will get a respite for final exams before heading back to action on Saturday, Dec. 20, at UNLV. The game is scheduled for noon PST in Las Vegas and will be televised on Versus. Incidentally, Arizona's football team takes on Brigham Young in the Pioneer Audio Las Vegas Bowl that same night. Kick-off on ESPN is at 5 p.m. PST.



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