Game Notes: Feb. 13, 2009

Feb. 13, 2009

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Date: Saturday, Feb. 14, 2009

Time: 11 a.m. MST

Location: Olson Court, McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.

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

TV: CBS (Verne Lundquist/Clark Kellogg)

GAME DATA: Arizona (17-8, 7-5 Pac-10) closes the penultimate homestand of the season and looks to continue its winning ways against No. 11 UCLA (19-5, 8-3 Pac-10) Saturday morning at McKale Center ... The difference in tempo will play a role in today's contest as Arizona is averaging 82.3 points per game during its current six-game win streak, while UCLA is holding opponents to just 61.1 points this season and only three foes have scored more than 70 ... Rebounding could prove key today - because caroms could be hard to come by - as this game features two of the top-four shooting teams in the Pac-10 (UCLA, 1st/.503; UA, 4th/.477).

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Feb. 9 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 17-8 (.680) ... 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, 48, 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: In what turned out to be a game of runs, Arizona saved its best for last in earning a hard-fought 83-76 win Thursday over USC. The Cats made its first eight shots of the game and built an early 18-point lead before the Trojans eventually whittled the deficit to just three points at the break. USC opened the second half with a 15-4 run and built an eight-point lead, the last coming at 12:36, before UA tied the game at 61 with 9:54 remaining. The game went back and forth until Arizona scored the contest's final seven points, the key bucket coming on Nic Wise's trey with 45 seconds remaining.

SCOUTING UCLA: The Bruins enter today's contest with a 19-5 record (8-3 Pac-10) and winners of four of its last five games despite Thursday's 74-67 loss at Arizona State. On the season, UCLA shoots 50.3 percent (674-of-1,339) from the field, including 39.7 percent (180-of-453) from three-point range, outrebounds the opposition by a +4.4 per game margin, and outscores its opponents by 15.1 points per game. Two Bruins average in double figures, led by Darren Collison's 14.3 ppg mark. Alfred Aboya holds the rebounding lead with a 5.5 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Today's game is the 78th meeting of the two schools with UCLA holding a 46-31 series advantage. The teams have split the last 22 meetings in the series, which dates back to Feb. 19, 1923, but UCLA has won eight consecutive, including the last meeting, an 83-60 triumph in Westwood on Jan. 15. All-time, Arizona is 18-14 in series games played in Tucson, 12-29 in Westwood, and 1-3 in neutral-site games. See page 94 of the UA media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: UCLA 83, Arizona 60, Jan. 15, 2009: UCLA jumped out to a 14-5 lead less than four minutes into the game and never looked back in what became the Bruins' biggest win over the Wildcats since 1983. UCLA placed five players in double figures, shot 59.6 percent from the field and posted a 31-24 rebound advantage in its eighth straight win in the series. Jordan Hill tallied a game-high 22 points and Chase Budinger added 14 points, but no other Cat had more than eight points.

ROLLING: Arizona enters play this morning riding a six game win streak, which equals the longest for the program since last season's club won six straight during the non-conference portion of the slate. Furthermore, a look inside those numbers reveals to points worth mentioning. First, the Wildcats' current streak includes five consecutive Pac-10 wins, which is the second longest conference win streak in the last six seasons (the 2004-05 club won seven). Perhaps most importantly, UA's five straight league wins is the longest for a Pac-10 team this season. No other Pac-10 team has won more than four consecutive conference games in 2009-09.

LOOK AT US: Arizona has three of the Pac-10 Conference's seven non-conference wins against the RPI top 50 (No. 18 Kansas; No. 39 Gonzaga and No. 46 San Diego State), more than any other member. Here is a look at the complete list of victories:

Dec. 10:  California 72, at (13) Utah 69Dec. 23:  at Arizona 84, (18) Kansas 67Dec. 20:  Arizona State 76, vs. (34) Brigham Young 75Dec. 4:   at Washington 83, (37) Oklahoma State 65Dec. 14:  Arizona 69, vs. (39) Gonzaga 64Nov. 18:  Arizona State 59, at (46) San Diego State 52Dec. 10:  at Arizona 69, (46) San Diego State 56

HEATING UP: Over the last six games, Arizona has cranked up the offensive productivity by averaging 82.3 points per game in that span. That figure is 10.6 points per game better than its overall season scoring average (71.7 ppg). Four of the Wildcats' top five single-game point totals this season have come in the last six games: 106 vs. Washington on Jan. 29, 96 vs. Houston on Jan. 24, 87 at Oregon on Feb. 7, and 83 vs. USC on Feb. 12. This season, Arizona is 7-0 when scoring 80 or more points. Incidentally, the Cats have won the last six games by an average of 7.5 points.

YOU DON'T SEE THAT EVERY DAY: The rims must have been friendly Thursday night as Arizona and USC combined to shoot 55.0 percent (55-of-100) from the field, including .595 (22-of-37) from three-point range. The hot shooting was evident from the opening tip, as the Cats (8) and Trojans (4) combined to make their first 12 shots. Through the first 10 minutes, there were only eight misses combined (25 att.) and UA was 10-of-12 (.833) from the field, including eight of its first nine three-point field goal attempts.

UNRIVALED SUPPORT: As evidenced by Thursday's crowd of 14,728, the third-largest in McKale Center history, one thing has not wavered in this season of transition: outstanding support from its fans. Arizona leads the Pac-10 in both overall (11,102) and home (13,465) attendance, and UA's average is 92.5 percent of capacity. Winning certainly helps, as the Cats are averaging 14,216 over the last five home games. Arizona has led the Pac-10 in attendance every year since 1984-85.

OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY: Led by Nic Wise and Chase Budinger, who both connected on 8-of-11 field goal attempts, Arizona hit 26-of-44 attempts (.591) from the floor Thursday vs. USC. It was the 10th time this season that Arizona has shot 50 percent or better from the field, and the team is 8-2 when that happens. On the year, Arizona shoots 47.7 percent (637-of-1,336) from the floor as a team. Taking advantage of the opportunity, the Wildcats also sank 19-of-21 (.905) free throws against the Trojans. Impressively, UA scored 83 points on 65 total shots (44 FG/21 FT) in Thursday's win.

DIALED IN: Arizona was especially efficient from three-point range in Thursday's win, as the team connected on a season-high 12 treys in 20 attempts (.600) from behind the arc. The Cats, who average 6.0 made threes per game, topped that in the first half, sinking 8-of-13. The 12 treys against USC marked the fourth time this season that Arizona has reached double figures in a game this year. Additionally, it was the seventh time this year that Arizona has shot better than 50 percent from behind the arc.

PLUS ONE: Much has been made of Arizona's 'Big Three' of Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise, and they have delivered by accounting for 69 percent (1,238 of 1,793 points) of the offense. But the Cats have proven to be a more dangerous bunch when a fourth scorer can join the mix, as was the case Thursday with Kyle Fogg and his 13 points. When Arizona has four players finish in double figures this year, the program is 8-1.

A DIFFERENCE MAKER: Junior guard Nic Wise continues to prove himself as a key late-game scorer, as witnessed by Thursday's effort. The 5-foot-10 Houston, Texas, native scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half, including the decisive trey with 45 seconds remaining. That's nothing new for Wise, who has scored 20 points in the final 20 minutes three times during the current win streak (Jan. 24 vs. Houston and Jan. 29 vs. Washington) and also nailed the game-tying three with 10 seconds to go that sent the Houston game into overtime.

IN BUNCHES: One thing about Nic Wise is that he seems to get his points in bunches, especially from three-point range. Twelve times this season, Wise has made three or more three-point field goals in a game, and he has made 10-of-20 from distance over his last three outings. He has 48 treys this season and trails Chase Budinger by a single three-pointer for the team lead.

PILING UP POINTS: Chase Budinger notched 25 points Thursday, which was his second straight 25-point game and his third in the last five games. The effort moved the 6-foot-7 forward into 14th place on the UA career scoring list with 1,517 points. Like UA recently, Budinger's success isn't just about scoring, as the junior is averaging 8.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists to go with a 21.0 points during UA's six-game win streak. In fact, Budinger has led the team in rebounding in each of the last three games, and his current 6.6 rebounds per game average is the best of his career.

UNASSUMING: Playing alongside UA's Big Three could cast a long shadow, but freshman Kyle Fogg continues to perform above expectation outside of the spotlight. The 6-foot-2 guard from Brea, Calif., posted 13 points (career-high five FG), two rebounds and a career-best five assists with zero turnovers in 34 minutes Thursday. During Arizona's recent win streak, Fogg is averaging 11.5 ppg while shooting 60.0 percent from the field (21-of-35). His season averages are a respectable 6.4 points and 2.2 rebounds per game, while shooting 49.5 percent (49-of-99) from the floor.

STICKING WITH IT: Somehow Arizona managed to win Thursday despite being held to season-low totals of five offensive and 21 total rebounds. Whatever the reason, the Cats didn't give up on the glass, as Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger and Nic Wise each collected key boards in the final two minutes of play. All told, Arizona's 30-21 rebound disadvantage equaled the largest the team has faced and still won this season (28-37 vs. Florida Atlantic on Nov. 17).

BREAKFAST ANYONE?: Today's late-morning tip-off is nothing new for the Wildcats. In fact, it's a pretty regular occurrence, especially with CBS scheduled to broadcast the game to most of the of the United States. Over the last eight years, UA has played 14 times at 11 a.m. locally and in those games the Cats are 9-5 (.643).

SCORING 80: Arizona scored 83 points Thursday vs. USC, breaking the 80-point barrier for the seventh time this year. Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 177-19 (.903) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points. Arizona is 7-0 this season when topping the 80-point plateau.

UP NEXT: Following today's game, the Wildcats are not scheduled to return to action for eight days. UA's next game is Sunday, Feb. 22, at No. 18 Arizona State. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. MST and can be seen nationally on Fox Sports Net.



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