Game Notes: Jan. 7, 2009

Jan. 7, 2009

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Date: Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009

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 (9-5, 0-2 Pac-10) returns home to host Oregon (6-8, 0-2 Pac-10) Thursday in McKale Center in what would be a much-needed win by either team ... The last time these teams opened the Pac-10 season 0-2 was 1995-96 for Arizona and 1993-94 for Oregon ... In seven hones games this season, Arizona is averaging 75.4 points at home and outscores the opposition by an average of 13.1 points per game ... Balance could be the key in this game as Oregon has five players scoring roughly 70 percent of its points, while Arizona has three players supplying that same level of offensive productivity.

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Jan. 5 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 9-5 (.643) ... 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 sputtered offensively by committing 20 turnovers, failing to make a three-point field goal and passing out just five assists in a 76-60 loss Sunday at Stanford. The Cardinal converted those 20 UA miscues into 20 points of its own while using 14 offensive rebounds to build a 16-8 advantage in second-chance points. Jordan Hill totaled 17 points and 16 rebounds and Nic Wise scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half for Arizona, but it wasn't enough to overcome its offensive inefficiency.

SCOUTING OREGON: The Ducks enter tonight's contest with a 6-8 record (0-2 Pac-10) following Sunday's 83-74 home loss to UCLA. On the season, Oregon shoots 41.6 percent (345-of-829) from the field, including 37.0 percent (110-of-297) from three-point range, is outrebounded by the opposition by a -4.3 rebounds per game margin, and is outscored by 3.5 points per game. The Ducks sport a balanced offensive attack as five players average 9.3 points or better, led by Tajuan Porter's 14.9 ppg clip. Joevan Catron leads the club with a 7.2 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the 63rd meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 39-23 advantage in the series, which dates back to Jan. 12, 1979. The Ducks have won the last three games in the series, including the last, 78-69, in Eugene on March 8, 2008. The last Wildcat win in the series came on Feb. 10, 2007, in a 77-74 triumph in Eugene. All-time, Arizona is 23-7 in series games played in Tucson, 16-14 in Eugene, and 0-2 in neutral-site games. See page 93 of the UA media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Oregon 78, Arizona 69, March 8, 2008: A 15-2 Oregon run covering 3:09 of the second half broke open what was a tight game as the Ducks sprinted away for the win. Arizona was no match for an Oregon attack that placed five players in double figures, shot 58.3 percent from the field, including 10-of-19 from three-point range, and posted a +13 rebound advantage. UO's Tajuan Porter proved to be the difference by scoring 14 of his points in the second half, including 11 points in the decisive run. The Ducks connected on 13-of-16 (.813) field goal attempts in the second half. Jerryd Bayless led four UA players in double figures with 19 points.

0-2 STARTS: After getting swept last weekend in the Bay Area, Arizona opened Pac-10 play with an 0-2 record. It is the fifth time since joining the Pac-10 in 1978-79 that UA has started league play with an 0-2 record. Here is how the Cats have finished in the previous four occurrences: 1981-82: 4-14, T8th; 1982-83: 1-17, 10th; 1983-84: 8-10, T5th; 1995-96: 13-5, 2nd. The 1996 season start includes a loss at California that was later forfeited.

POINTS WOULD BE ON THE WISH LIST: The Wildcats enter tonight's game looking to put a few more points on the board after averaging 57.5 points during last weekend's Bay Area road trip. Through 14 games, the Wildcats are averaging 71.2 points per game, but that figure drops to 67.2 points over the last eight outings. In that span, UA has failed to break the 70-point plateau six times in the eight games since Dec. 5. On the season, Arizona is 3-4 in games where it fails to score 70 points and 6-1 when it tops the 70-point plateau.

EASILY IDENTIFIABLE: In Sunday's loss at Stanford, Arizona committed a season-high 20 turnovers which the Cardinal converted into 20 points of its own. In each of the Wildcats' five defeats such figures have been commonplace, as the club is averaging 15.6 turnovers per game and opponents are converting those into an average of 18.8 points per game. Cumulatively, UA opponents hold a 94-35 advantage in turnover points in Arizona's five losses. In UA's nine wins, the margin tips to the Cats, 137-115.

MORE ON MISCUES: Entering play this week, Arizona ranks eighth in the Pac-10 with a -1.6 turnover margin. That number is especially interesting depending on the UA outcome. In Arizona victories, the Cats post a +1.9 turnover margin. That figure flips to a -8.0 in Arizona defeats.

MORE HELPERS NEEDED: Arizona collected a season-low five assists in Sunday's loss at Stanford, which was the lowest total for the program since totaling four in a 61-49 win over Kansas on Nov. 21, 2005. What's most interesting about Sunday's figure is that Arizona had assists on each of its first five field goals in the game and then was not credited with one for the last 34:01 of the contest.

OFF THE MARK: In its last five games, Arizona is shooting a cumulative .426 (124-of-291) from the field, a figure that is 56 percentage points off its season percentage, and nearly equal to that of the opposition (128-of-299/.428). Where UA has seen the greatest change is beyond the arc, where the club has connected on 25.5 percent (14-of-55) in that same span. The average of 2.8 made treys per game is nearly half as many as its season average of 5.0.

INDIVIDUALLY SPEAKING: Whereas Chase Budinger's recent shooting woes have been noted, the team's recent struggles (see previous note) are affecting everyone. Admittedly, Budinger is shooting just .308 (20-of-65) from the field in the last five games, but he is not alone. Most notably, Jordan Hill (down 69 percentage points from his season figure), Jamelle Horne (down 28 points) and Kyle Fogg (down 132 points) are also off target over the last five games.

ON TARGET: Junior guard Nic Wise is the lone Wildcat player shooting better than 50 percent over the last five games. The 5-foot-10 native of Houston, Texas, has connected on 51.7 percent (31-of-60) from the field in that span and is averaging 16.0 points per game. In the last three games, Wise has boosted those figures to 60.0 percent (24-of-40) and 18.7 ppg.

MOVING UP: With 12 points Sunday at Stanford, Chase Budinger scored his 1,300th career point. The effort moved him into a tie for 23rd place with Ivan Radenovic (2003-07) on the UA career scoring list. In 79 career games, Budinger is averaging 16.5 points per game.

STOLEN MOMENTS: One bright spot in Sunday loss was the fact that Arizona amassed a season-high nine steals. Led by Jordan Hill, who collected a career-high four pilfers individually, five other Cats collected one steal in the effort. Through 14 games, Arizona averages 5.5 steals per game.

GETTING IT DONE: Jordan Hill notched his Pac-10-leading 10th double-double of the season with 17 points and a game-high 16 rebounds vs. Stanford. It was this third time this season that Hill, who leads the Pac-10 in rebounding, has collected 15 or more rebounds in a single game. Additionally, it was also the 22nd double-double of his career. Since getting his first double-double (13 pts./10 reb.) as a freshman against North Carolina on Jan. 27, 2007, the Atlanta, Ga., native has tallied a double-double on average once every three games and has 10 in 13 appearances in 2008-09.

ADD ONE MORE TO THE MIX: Brendon Lavender garnered nine minutes of action Sunday and represented himself will with two points (1-of-2 FG). It was the most playing time for the 6-foot-3 freshman from Mesa, Ariz., since Dec. 2. Lavender has made five appearances to date and is averaging 4.2 minutes per game.

ANOTHER OPTION: Through 12 appearances this season, Zane Johnson has played a total of 182 minutes (15.2 mpg), which more than doubles his minutes played from all of last year. In the ensuing year, Johnson has bettered all of totals from 2007-08, most notably, scoring (3.3 in 2008-09/0.9 last year), field goal percentage (.481/.286), three-point field goals (10/4), assists (9/2), and rebounds (17/9). He notched his first career double-figure scoring game (17 points) vs. Loyola Marymount on Dec. 2.

SECOND CHANCE OPPORTUNITIES: Forward Jordan Hill ranks second in the Pac-10 with an average of 4.5 offensive rebounds per game. Not surprisingly, 36.9 percent of the 6-foot-10 Hill's rebounds (58 of 157) have been on the offensive end - a figure that leads the team among UA's regular starters. Of that group, forward Jamelle Horne ranks second at 35.9 percent (28 of 78) and guard Kyle Fogg ranks third at 30.6 percent (11 of 36).

CHARITABLE CAUSE: Stepping to the charity stripe may help the Cats to victory, as the team averages 22.1 free throws per game (16.1 made) in its nine wins and just 13.6 attempts (9.2 made) in the five losses. Interestingly, Arizona outscores its opponents by an average of 7.1 points from the line in wins, but is exactly equal in makes and attempts in the losses. All told, Arizona scores an average of 12.5 more points per game (75.7) when it wins, and most of that differential comes from the charity stripe.

DUBIOUS DISTINCTION: Arizona missed all eight three-point attempts at Stanford, marking the firs time since Dec. 10, 2005 (0-of-10 in a 73-61 win over Saint Mary's) that the program had failed to knock down at least one trey. Additionally, it is just the third time since the advent of the three-point shot in 1986-87 that Arizona has not made at least one trey. The first occurrence (0-of-8) came on March 23, 2001, in a 66-56 win over Mississippi in the 2001 NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal.

SCORING 80: Arizona scored 84 points Dec. 23 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, Arizona returns to action on Saturday, Jan. 10, when it hosts Oregon State . Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. MST and will be televised on FS Arizona.



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