Game Notes: Feb. 16, 2009

Feb. 16, 2009

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Date: Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009

Time: 8 p.m. MST

Location: Ned Wulk Court, Wells Fargo Arena (14,141), Tempe, Ariz.

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

TV: FSN (Barry Tompkins/Dan Belluomini)

GAME DATA: Arizona (18-8, 8-5 Pac-10) puts its seven-game win streak on the line as it rolls up I-10 to face intrastate rival and No. 14 Arizona State (20-5, 9-4 Pac-10) Sunday night at Wells Fargo Arena ... This match-up features the two hottest teams in the Pac-10, clubs that have combined to win 11 consecutive games ... Which version of the Wildcats that shows up will help decide this contest: the winners of seven straight who averages 82.6 points per game or the club that is 2-6 on the road who averages 64.0 points per game ... Regardless, it faces a stout ASU defense that ranks second in the Pac-10 by allowing just 58.5 points per game.

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Feb. 16 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 18-8 (.692) ... 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: A 22-9 run midway through the first half gave Arizona a lead it would not relinquish, as the Cats defeated UCLA for the first time in nine meetings, 84-72, on Feb. 14. Nic Wise scored seven of his game-high 26 points during the run and led an offensive attack that built as much as a 25-point lead and handed the Bruins its worst loss of the season. UA, who has scored 80 or more points in five of its last seven games, shot 50 percent from the field, posted a 34-27 rebound advantage and forced 20 UCLA turnovers. Jordan Hill added 22 points and 13 rebounds.

SCOUTING ARIZONA STATE: The Sun Devils enter tonight's contest with a 20-5 record (9-4 Pac-10) and winners of four straight, including last Sunday's 65-53 win over USC. On the season, ASU shoots 48.4 percent (596-of-1,231) from the field, including 36.1 percent (199-of-551) from three-point range, outrebounds the opposition by a +2.9 per game margin, and outscores its opponents by 11.6 points per game. Three Sun Devils average in double figures, led by James Harden's 21.3 ppg mark. Jeff Pendergraph holds the rebounding lead with an 8.0 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the 215th meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 138-76 series advantage. Arizona has won 24 of the last 28 meetings in the series, which dates back to 1914, but ASU swept the last three, including a 53-47 decision on Jan. 21, in Tucson. All-time, Arizona is 77-27 in series games played in Tucson, 60-49 in Tempe, and 1-0 in neutral-site games. Please see page 91 in the UA media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Arizona State 53, Arizona 47, Jan. 21, 2009: In an intense game that saw both teams combine to shoot a mere 29 percent from the field, a single trey swung momentum with less than two minutes to go. Derek Glasser's three-pointer with 1:39 remaining broke a 40-40 tie and sent the Sun Devils to victory. ASU closed the game with a 13-7 run in that span, spurred by 10-of-12 shooting from the line. Arizona outshot and outrebounded the visitors, but couldn't overcome 15 turnovers, including nine in the second half.

STANDING TALL: Nic Wise was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week on Monday after leading Arizona to its seventh straight win (six Pac-10 wins) by averaging 26.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists last week. In two games, Wise shot .708 (17-of-24) from the field and .625 from three-point range (5-of-8) to go with four assists and four steals. He opened the week by scoring 27 points (8-of-11 FG) to go with three rebounds and four assists vs. USC. Wise followed that up with 26 points (sixth 20-point game this season) on 9-of-13 shooting, 7-of-9 from the line, and two steals in Saturday's win over No. 11 UCLA. On the year, Wise is averaging 14.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, while shooting .450 from the field.

TAKE NOTICE: With a pair of wins this week, Arizona stretched its win streak to seven games, which equals the longest for the program since the 2006-07 club won 12 straight. Furthermore, a look inside those numbers reveals two points worth mentioning. First, the Wildcats' current streak includes six 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 six 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 2008-09.

SEEKING BALANCE: 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 (1,303 of 1,877 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 Saturday with Zane Johnson and his 11 points. When Arizona has four players finish in double figures this year, the program is 9-1.

OUT OF THE GATE QUICKLY: Arizona raced to 49 first-half points in Saturday's win over UCLA, which was the most UA has scored in the opening period this season and was the most allowed by the Bruins in any half this year. The Wildcats, who have topped the 80-point plateau in three straight games and five of seven, became just the fourth team to score more than 70 points against UCLA. During its current seven-game win streak, Arizona is averaging 82.6 points per game, 10.4 points better than its season scoring average (72.2 ppg). On the year, UA is 8-0 when scoring 80 or more points in a game this year.

THAT'S MORE LIKE IT: Jordan Hill bounced back with a solid performance Saturday against the Bruins, collecting his 15th double-double (27 career) with 22 points and 13 rebounds. The effort snapped a three-game stretch where the 6-foot-10 junior failed to notch a double-double, his longest drought of the season. Hill leads the Pac-10 with an 11.3 rebounds per game average and those 15 double-doubles.

MAKING THE ATTEMPT: The Wildcats connected on 27-of-54 (.500) field goal attempts in Saturday's win, marking the 11th time this season that the team has connected on 50 percent of its shots. The Cats are 9-2 when that happens in 2008-09. In sweeping the Southern California schools this week, Arizona shot a combined 54.1 percent (53-of-98) from the field. By posting a .500 FG percentage Saturday, Arizona became the fourth team this season - and second Pac-10 squad - to shoot 50 percent or better against UCLA.

CAUSE AND EFFECT: En route to its 12-point win Saturday, Arizona shot 50 percent from the field, posted a 34-27 rebound advantage and forced 20 UCLA turnovers. The Wildcats led by 18 points at halftime and eventually pushed the lead to as many as 25 in the second half. The final margin marked UCLA's worst loss of the season.

CASHING IN: Arizona was effective from the free throw line against UCLA, connecting on 23-of-30 attempts and outscoring the Bruins from the stripe, 23-5. UA has been good all season in such comparisons, as the club outscores its foes by an average of 5.5 points per game from the free throw line. Twenty attempts is a good bellwether of success for the Cast, as the team is 14-3 this season when shooting 20 or more charity tosses in a single game.

STOLEN MOMENTS: Led by Chase Budinger, who equaled a season high with five steals, Arizona collected a season-best 10 steals vs. UCLA. Eight of those 10 pilfers came in the first half, as Arizona converted those in 14 turnover points in the first 20 minutes. On the year, UA averages 5.8 steals per game.

RANKED FOES: UA's victory over No. 11 UCLA improved the Cats record to 3-2 this season against nationally ranked teams. Two of Arizona's three wins have come against clubs ranked in the top-11 at the time of tip-off.

SUSTAINED EFFORT: Nic Wise continues to prove himself as an offensive force. In addition to averaging 26.5 points per game in the two wins this week, the 5-foot-10 junior is averaging 20.3 points per game over the last seven games, while posting an impressive .524 field goal percentage (44-of-84) with 20 of those 44 FGs coming from three-point range. For good measure, Wise has made 34-of-42 (.810) free throws in that span.

GOOD AS EVER: Chase Budinger continued his run of stellar play this week by posting 17 points, five boards, five assists and five steals Saturday vs. UCLA. During Arizona's current win streak, the 6-foot-7 Encinitas, Calif., product has posted per game averages of 20.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists, while shooting 48.4 percent (46-of-95) from the floor. Most impressively, Budinger has logged 279 of a possible 280 minutes played over the last seven games.

LONG DISTANCE SPECIALIST: Sophomore guard Zane Johnson is in a zone of his own lately. The 6-foot-5 sharpshooter has hit 10-of-15 shots from beyond the arc in the last five games. Overall he's clipped along at 14-of-24 (.583) in that span, so his shots are going down. Those rates compare with season marks of .466 from the field and .420 from beyond the arc. Averaging just five shots per game over his last five outings is fine, especially if Johnson is going to sink two-thirds of them.

GETTING OTHERS INVOLVED: Freshman guard Kyle Fogg had 10 assists last weekend, posting career-highs with five apiece against USC and UCLA. He did face the likes of Darren Collison and Daniel Hackett this weekend, but a 5:1 assist:turnover ratio for the two games is superb regardless of the opposition. Fogg's dishing in those two contests equaled the number of assists he had in the previous 10 games combined. He averages 1.4 assists per game through 26 games.

CHALLENGE AHEAD: The Cats get to say something about their competitiveness in the remaining games, as the next three games are away from home. Obviously, things are looking up as the squad is riding a string of seven straight wins. Two of those victories came on the road (Feb. 5-7 at Oregon State/Oregon), but those are Arizona's only true road wins this season. Arizona won't play again at McKale Center for 19 days, when it closes the regular season March 5-7 vs. California and Stanford.

SCORING 80: Arizona scored 84 points Feb. 14 vs. UCLA, breaking the 80-point barrier for the eighth time this year. Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 178-19 (.904) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points. Arizona is 8-0 this season when topping the 80-point plateau.

UP NEXT: Following tonight's contest, Arizona completes the road portion of the regular season schedule with a pair of games in Washington. The first, against Washington State, is scheduled for 6 p.m. PST on Thursday, Feb .26, and can be seen on FS Arizona.



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