Game Notes: Dec. 27, 2008

Dec. 27, 2008

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Date: Monday, Dec. 29, 2008

Time: 6:30 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 (8-3, 0-0 Pac-10) opens a busy week Monday against Weber State (6-6, 0-0 Big Sky) in McKale Center ... It is the first of three games this week as the Cats open Pac-10 play on Friday in the Bay Area ... Despite being separated by a mere 626 miles, Arizona and Weber State meet for this first time in 39 seasons ... UA enjoyed an 18-7 advantage in points off turnovers in Tuesday's win over Kansas ... Arizona has outrebounded eight of 11 opponents this season, but is just 5-3 when accomplishing the feat ... The Wildcats are 3-1 this season when four players finish in double figures.

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Dec. 22 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 8-3 (.727) ... 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: Trailing 44-35 with 18:57 to go in the second half, Arizona responded with a 29-6 run over the next 8:44 to take control of the game and defeat Kansas, 84-67, Tuesday in the Desert Diamond Fiesta Bowl Classic. All told, UA limited KU to 36 percent shooting and outscored the Jayhawks 49-29 after the break. Jamelle Horne posted career-high totals of 19 points and 13 rebounds to earn Classic MVP honors, while Jordan Hill added 23 points and 11 rebounds. Arizona outrebounded Kansas by 11 and held a 20-8 advantage in second-chance points.

SCOUTING WEBER STATE: The Wildcats enter tonight's contest with a 6-6 record following Tuesday's 68-49 loss at Southern Miss. On the season, WSU shoots 47.3 percent (271-of-573) from the field, is outrebounded by a -0.5 rebounds per game margin, and is outscored by 3.5 points per game. Tonight's game is Weber State's fourth consecutive away from home. Three Wildcats average in double figures, led by Steve Panos' 11.5 ppg clip. He also leads the club with a 5.2 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the fourth meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 3-0 advantage in the series, which dates back to Dec. 12, 1966. Each series game has been played in Tucson, including the last, a 72-68 UA win on Dec. 4, 1969. All-time, Arizona is 3-0 in series games played in Tucson, 0-0 in Ogden, Utah, and 0-0 in neutral-site games. See page 96 in the Arizona basketball media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Arizona 72, Weber State 68, Dec. 4, 1969: Tom Lee and Bill Warner took turns carrying the scoring load as Arizona outlasted Weber State. Lee scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half and Warner tallied 16 of his game-high 24 points in the second period, including the go-ahead bucket with 2:39 remaining to lift Arizona. Lee and Warner combined to hit 16-of-25 field goals and grab 20 rebounds in the contest to offset Weber's offensive balance that saw three players in double figures. Free throws proved to be the difference, as UA connected on 18-of-22, while WSU made just 8-of-22 attempts.

AGAINST THE BIG SKY CONFERENCE: All-time, Arizona is 100-32 (.758) against teams that currently make up the Big Sky Conference. The majority of those contests have come against Northern Arizona (118 meetings), including the last eight. The last time UA faced a Big Sky foe not named NAU came Dec. 5, 1995, in an 84-66 UA win over Montana in Tucson.

MOST VALUABLE EFFORT: In Arizona's only game this week, Jamelle Horne led Arizona to an 84-67 win over Kansas by posting career-high totals of 19 points and 13 rebounds. He also knocked down a career-best two treys and added two assists and a steal. Horne connected 7-of-13 (.538) field goal attempts and eight of his 13 rebounds were offensive as he collected his first career double-double and helped the Wildcats hand the defending national champions its worst loss of the season. On the year, Horne averages 8.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, while shooting 48.7 percent from the field. He was named Fiesta Bowl Classic Most Valuable Player.

WORTH NOTING: Arizona handed Kansas its worst loss of the season, 84-67, on Tuesday in the Desert Diamond Fiesta Bowl Classic. The Wildcats posted a season-best 49 points in the second half - outscoring the Jayhawks by 20 in the period - to win by 17. It was Arizona's second-highest offensive output of the season.

RUNNING AWAY: Trailing Kansas 44-35 with 18:57 to go in the second half, Arizona responded with a 29-6 run over the next 8:44 to take control of the game. During the run, Arizona connected on 11-of-19 field goals, while limiting the Jayhawks to just 2-of-10 shooting to go with six turnovers. Jordan Hill's jumper with 14:23 remaining gave the Wildcats the lead for good - one it would eventually stretch to 17 points.

LET THE DEFENSE DO ITS JOB: Over the last three games, Arizona has connected on just 43.4 percent (75-of-173) of its field goal attempts, but the squad has answered the call defensively, limiting opponents to a 42.0 percentage (73-of-174) in that same span. Why is that so important? Arizona is 8-1 this season when outshooting the opposition. Against Kansas, the second-half numbers proved key, as UA hit 15-of-31 (.484) shots after the break, while Kansas connected on only 9-of-25 (.360).

ON THE REBOUND: Led by Jordan Hill and Jamelle Horne, Arizona's Arizona posted a 40-29 rebound advantage in Tuesday's win, marking the fifth time this season that the Cats have outrebounded the opposition by 10 or more in a single game. In addition to Horne's career-high 13 rebounds, freshman Alex Jacobson also pulled down a career-high four rebounds vs. the Jayhawks in six minutes of action. Jacobson, a 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman center is averaging 1.6 rebounds per game and has collected a total of seven boards in the last two outings.

FROM THE STRIPE: Spurred on by Nic Wise, who knocked down a career-best 10-of-10 from the stripe, Arizona made a season-best 23 free throws in 29 attempts (.793), outscoring Kansas by nine. Over UA's last three games, the squad has connected on 80.0 percent (56-of-70) of its free throws and has outscored opponents by an average of 7.0 points per game when it comes to charity tosses.

LIMITING MISTAKES: The Wildcats committed just three second-half turnovers en route to only eight for the game Tuesday. It was the fourth time this season that Arizona has committed less than 10 miscues in a contest. The eight turnovers was half as many as UA's season average of 16.1 turnovers per game. Once again, Nic Wise was solid in this department, passing out eight assists against one turnover in 38 minutes vs. Kansas. On the season, Wise has a 2.14:1 assist:turnover ratio.

IN THE PAINT: Riding the productivity of Jordan Hill (23 points/11 rebounds) and Jamelle Horne (19 points/13 rebounds), Arizona rolled its way to a 42-20 points in the paint advantage, including a 26-12 advantage in the second half. Exactly half of Arizona's 84 points vs. Kansas were scored in the paint.

DOUBLING UP: As mentioned above, both Jordan Hill and Jamelle Horne notched double-doubles in the win over Kansas. For Hill, it was his eighth double-double of the season and the 20th of his career. It was the first career double-double for Horne, and marked the first time two Wildcats had collected double-doubles in the same game since Ivan Radenovic (16 points/11 rebounds) and Marcus Williams (15/12) accomplished the feat in an 87-62 win over Houston on Dec. 17, 2006, a span of 67 games.

CHANGE IS GOOD: Saying he went on a hunch, UA interim head coach Russ Pennell tinkered with the starting lineup Tuesday and inserted guard Zane Johnson in place of Jamelle Horne. Johnson logged 20 minutes without a turnover and collected three points, while Horne responded with his first career double-double en route to Fiesta Bowl Classic MVP honors. To date, it was the fourth different starting lineup for Pennell this season.

BOUNCING BACK: Chase Budinger tallied just five points Tuesday vs. Kansas, which was the first time this season the junior has finished out of double figures. Look for the 6-foot-7 forward from Encinitas, Calif., to bounce back solidly, as he has finished out of double figures in consecutive games just once in his career. Of the 10 previous games in his career in which he's scored less than 10 points, he's rebounded to average 16.0 points, including two games with 24 or more points.

IT'S EVOLUTION: Freshman Kyle Fogg continues to display an evolving game. Tuesday vs. Kansas, the 6-foot-2 guard from Brea, Calif., hit 4-of-6 FGs and 6-of-8 FTs and finished with 14 points - his first game in double figures. For good measure, Fogg added five boards, to assists and a steal in 25 minutes. He is averaging 5.3 points and 2.3 rebounds to go with a .613 field goal percentage this season.

A QUICK LOOK BACK: Tuesday's win closed a rugged portion of the schedule that included four 2008 NCAA Tournament teams and three games away from McKale Center that saw Arizona post a 3-2 record. In those five games, the Wildcats outshot foes, .463-.413, outrebounded opponents by a +5.2 margin and outscored them by an average of 3.8 points. In only one of those games (Texas A&M) did an opponent shoot better than 43 percent from the field. Jordan Hill averaged 21.2 points and 10.4 rebounds in those five games, while shooting .558 (43-of-77) from the field to go with 2.8 blocks per game.

GETTING BETTER: Over the last five games, forward Jamelle Horne has become Arizona's second-best rebounder. In the month of December, Horne is averaging 7.0 rebounds per game and 15 of his 35 total boards have come on the offensive end. The effort has boosted his season rebounding average to 5.4 points, a figure that ranks third on the team.

GETTING BETTER: Arizona has done a better job of taking care of the ball recently, as the Cats are averaging just 13.4 turnovers per game over its last five. That's nearly three fewer than its season average of 16.1 per game.

SCORING 80: Arizona scored 84 points 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: Following tonight's contest, the Cats open Pacific-10 Conference play Friday, Jan. 2 in Berkeley, Calif. UA and California will tip-off at 5:30 p.m. PST and the game will be televised by FS Arizona.



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