Game Notes: Dec. 31, 2008

Dec. 31, 2008

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Date: Friday, Jan. 2, 2009

Time: 5:30 p.m. PST

Location: Haas Pavilion (11,877), Berkeley, Calif.

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

TV: FSAZ (Dave Sitton/Bob Elliott)

GAME DATA: A turn of the calendar brings a new year and the start of conference action as Arizona (9-3, 0-0 Pac-10) opens Pacific-10 Conference play at California (11-2, 0-0 Pac-10) Friday in Berkeley ... Over the previous 10 seasons, Arizona has opened league play on the road in six of those seasons, and in those opening-weekend road swings UA is 9-2 ... In those same 10 seasons, the Wildcats are a combined 13-7 on the Bay Area road swing, with five sweeps and three splits to its credit ... Friday's game will be the Cats' third true road game of the season, and Arizona is 0-2 in those contests in 2008-09 ... HAPPY NEW YEAR!

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Dec. 29 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 9-3 (.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: Nic Wise poured in a career-high 23 points and Chase Budinger collected his first double-double of the season as Arizona outlasted Weber State, 71-65, on Monday. Playing without Jordan Hill, who missed the game with a left leg muscle strain, struggled offensively by shooting just 37.7 percent from the field but managed to put four players in double figures. Budinger connected on 9-of-12 free throws as Arizona outscored Weber State, 18-6, from the line.

SCOUTING CALIFORNIA: The Golden Bears enter tonight's contest with an 11-2 record following Sunday's 81-61 home win over Portland. Tonight's game is Cal's fifth consecutive at Haas Pavilion. On the season, Cal shoots 49.6 percent (359-of-724) from the field, including 50.6 percent (82-of-162) from three-point range, outrebounds the opposition by a +5.6 rebounds per game margin, and outscores teams by 14.5 points per game. Three Golden Bears average in double figures, led by Jerome Randle's 19.5 ppg clip. Jamal Boykin leads the club with a 6.2 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the 77th meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 51-25 advantage in the series, which dates back to Feb. 1, 1924. Arizona has won 18 of the last 20 meetings, including the last, an 83-73 win in Tucson on Feb. 14, 2008. All-time, Arizona is 26-8 in series games played in Tucson, 22-16 in Berkeley, Calif., and 3-1 in neutral-site games. See page 92 in the Arizona basketball media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Arizona 83, California 73, Feb. 14, 2008: Jerryd Bayless topped the 30-point plateau for the second straight game, but this time he got help from his teammates as the Cats pulled away late. Bayless finished with a game-high 33 points and Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill combined to score 28 of their 39 points in the second half. Arizona shot 60.9 percent from the floor after the break and outscored the Golden Bears 52-43 in the period. UA used a 21-12 run over 6:18 in which the Cats knocked down 10-of-10 free throw attempts.

FOR (CONFERENCE) OPENERS: Since joining the Pac-10 Conference in 1978-79, Arizona has a 21-9 (.700) record in conference openers. Of those 30 previous openers, the Cats are 11-0 when opening at home and 10-9 when opening on the road. Arizona last opened its conference slate on the road in 2005-06 and posted a sweep of the Washington schools on Dec. 29 and 31, 2005.

ON THE ROAD: Over the last 25 seasons, no Pac-10 team has enjoyed more success on the road than Arizona. In that span, UA is a league best 146-79 (.649) in conference road games. Now with its third coach in the last three seasons, no one knows how that figure will hold up, but for comparison Lute Olson was 6-3 on the road in the Pac-10 during his final season on the sidelines in 2006-07 and Kevin O'Neill was 4-5 on the road last year.

FOR CONSISTENCY'S SAKE: Arizona heads into tonight's game in search of its 10th victory of the season. When compared against recent editions of the Wildcats, this year's club seems right on pace. In each of the last five seasons, Arizona has won its 10th game of the year right around the new year. The earliest came in 2006-07 (Dec. 28), while the latest occurred in 2003-04 (Jan. 8).

GAME-TIME DECISION: Junior Jordan Hill missed Monday's game with a muscle strain in his left leg. As to whether the 6-foot-10 forward, who is averaging 18.9 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, will be in the lineup is a game-time decision. Hill is the first Wildcat to miss a game due to injury this season.

A RARITY: For a team shooting 48.8 percent (319-of-654) from the field, Monday's season-low 37.7 percent shooting vs. Weber State was a bit of an aberration. It was the seventh time this season that Arizona shot less than 50 percent as a team, and marked just the third time that an opponent has outshot the Cats this season (.393-.377).

BOARD WORK: Five different Wildcats posted season- or career-best rebounding totals in Monday's win over Weber State, as UA posted a 46-36 rebound advantage. It was the sixth time this season that the Cats have outrebounded the opposition by 10 or more boards in a single game. In addition to Chase Budinger, who equaled a career high with 12 rebounds, Kyle Fogg (6), Alex Jacobson (5), Fendi Onobun (3) and Garland Judkins (3) each put forth solid rebounding efforts. Incidentally, UA's 19 offensive rebounds vs. Weber State were a season high.

LIKE A CHAMELEON: The injury to Jordan Hill necessitated yet another lineup change, which was the third different UA starting five in as many games. True to form, the player earning his first start upped his productivity. Alex Jacobson posted season-high totals of five boards and two blocks in 16 minutes.

THE KEY TO VICTORY: Look no further than the turnover category to determine success or failure for the Cats. This season, Arizona is 7-0 when posting fewer turnovers than the opposition. Additionally, UA averages just 11.3 turnovers and a +1.9 turnover margin in its nine wins and 15.3 turnovers and a -9.3 turnover margin in its three losses. Eight times this season Arizona has posted a positive assist:turnover ratio in a game and the squad is 7-1 when that happens.

FOUR SCORE: Even without Jordan Hill and his 18.9 points per game average, the Wildcats managed to place four players in double figures Monday night, as Wise (23), Budinger (16), Horne (14) and Fogg (10) each scored 10 or more points. It was the fifth time this season that Arizona has accomplished the feat (4-1 when it does) and was the second consecutive game with that kind of balance.

JOIN THE CLUB: Chase Budinger notched his first double-double of the season Monday with 16 points and a career-high 12 rebounds against Weber State. He joins Jordan Hill (8) and Jamelle Horne (1) as Wildcats with a double-double this season. All told, it was the seventh double-double of Budinger's career.

A MULTITUDE OF OPTIONS: It wasn't just merely points that Chase Budinger contributed in Monday's win, as the 6-foot-7 junior forward added 12 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal in 40 minutes played. On a night when he connected on just 3-of-14 field goal attempts, Budinger still managed to hit 9-of-12 free throws against Weber State. As a testament to his contributions, Budinger ranks either first or send on the team in nearly every statistical category.

DOUBLING UP: Jamelle Horne, the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Week, and Kyle Fogg both finished in double figures for the second straight game. For Fogg, who tallied 24 points on 7-of-14 shooting vs. Kansas and Weber State, it was the first time he's accomplished the feat in his career, while Horne did it for the second time this year. Horne nearly collected consecutive double-doubles, finishing with 14 points and eight caroms vs. Weber State after a career-best 19 points and 13 boards vs. Kansas.

A LARGE PRESENCE: Junior Nic Wise cast a long shadow in Monday's win, hitting 9-of-17 FGs (both career highs) en route to a game-high 23 points to go with five assists and three steals. For the 5-foot-10, native of Houston, Texas, it was his second 20-point game this season and his seventh with five or more assists. Wise ranks second in the Pac-10 with a 2.2:1 assist:turnover ratio.

STEADY FROM THE PERIMETER: Zane Johnson continues to make solid contributions from the perimeter. Monday vs. Weber State, the 6-foot-5 sophomore knocked down his 10th trey of the season (in 21 attempts/.476). Johnson has made at least one trey in six of his last nine appearances and is shooting 52.9 percent (9-of-17) in his last seven appearances.

AWAY FROM HOME: While two games may not be enough to establish a trend, there are a few differences for the Cats when playing on the road. In those two true road games, Arizona has averaged 65.0 points per game, 10.4 points less than in its seven home games. The majority of that difference can be seen at the free throw line, as UA attempts an average of 23.3 free throw per game in home games (16.6 made) and just 12.5 attempts while on the road (9.5 made). Furthermore, UA carries a +2.1 turnover margin in its seven home games and a -11.0 in those tow road tilts.

CLOSE CALLS: Arizona's win Monday's improved the team's record to 3-2 in games decided by six points or less. In fact, UA has won three of its last four games decided by six points or less.

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.

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. Here is the complete list: 1. UCLA, 379 points; 2. Arizona State, 325; 3. USC, 292; 4. ARIZONA, 241; 5. Washington, 217; 6. Washington State, 188; 7. Oregon, 147; 8. California, 143; 9. Stanford, 155; 10. Oregon State, 40.

UP NEXT: Following tonight's contest, the Cats travel across the bay to take on Stanford on Sunday, Jan. 4. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. PST and can be seen nationally on Fox Sports Net.



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