Game Notes: Feb. 24, 2009

Feb. 24, 2009

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Date: Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009

Time: 6 p.m. MST

Location: Friel Court, (11,671), Pullman, Wash.

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

TV: FSAZ (Dave Sitton/Bob Elliott)

GAME DATA: Arizona (18-9, 8-6 Pac-10) heads back out on the road for the final time during the regular season beginning at Washington State (14-13, 6-9 Pac-10) Thursday night at Friel Court ... Once again, a contrast in styles is the order of the day, as Arizona averages 72.0 points per game and Washington State allows 55.1 points per game ... Over the last 10 games, the Wildcats are averaging 75.7 points and have scored over 80 points five times, while the Cougars have allowed only three opponents to break the 70-point plateau ... UA is almost sorry to see February go, as the team was 4-1 this month after posting a 5-5 record in January.

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Feb. 23 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 18-9 (.667) ... 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: Arizona fell behind early, dug itself out of a big hole, but didn't make enough plays late in a 70-68 loss Sunday at Arizona State. The Cats trailed by 10 points at the half, and fell behind by as 17 before posting a 23-4 run to take a 62-60 lead with 4:14 remaining. Led by Rihards Kuksiks, who drained two key treys down the stretch, ASU had an answer for each UA effort to eke out the win. Nic Wise tallied 17 points to lead four Wildcats in double figures, who saw its seven-game win streak come to an end.

SCOUTING WASHINGTON STATE: The Cougars enter tonight's contest with a 14-13 record (6-9 Pac-10) following Saturday's 82-81 win at UCLA. On the season, WSU shoots 43.9 percent (585-of-1,332) from the field, including 35.6 percent (156-of-438) from three-point range, outrebounds the opposition by a +3.0 per game margin, and outscores its opponents by 4.2 points per game. Three Cougars average in double figures, led by Taylor Rochestie's 13.3 ppg mark. Aron Baynes holds the rebounding lead with a 7.3 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the 65th meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 51-13 series advantage. Arizona has won 44 of the last 47 meetings in the series, which dates back to Dec. 22, 1959, including the last one, 66-56 on Jan. 31 in Tucson. All-time, Arizona is 25-7 in series games played in Tucson, 21-6 in Pullman, Wash., and 5-0 in neutral-site games. See page 96 of the UA media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Arizona 66, Washington State 56, Jan. 31, 2009: Trailing 37-30 with 14:36 remaining, Arizona responded with a 26-4 run over the next 10:11 to take control of this game. Chase Budinger, who posted a double-double and seven assists, scored 10 of his team-high 19 points during the run. UA placed four players in double figures, outrebounded WSU and forced the Cougars into 13 turnovers. Jordan Hill also notched a double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds.

FOLLOW THE LEADER: In Arizona's only game this week, Chase Budinger led Arizona with totals of 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Against 14th-ranked Arizona State, Budinger posted his 25th game in double figures this season, and led the Wildcats in rebounding to go with four steals. On the year, Budinger is averaging 17.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, while shooting .472 from the field.

AN UPHILL BATTLE: As Arizona embarks on its final road trip of the regular season, it does so looking to build on what currently is a 2-7 record in true road tilts. The Cats have struggled on the road overall, averaging 64.4 points in those nine games, while facing deficits of 6.4 points and 3.6 turnovers per game. Things have improved of late, as Arizona is 2-2 in its last four road games, averaging 68.8 points per game and riding positive margins in both scoring (+2.6) and turnovers (+3.0). Pay attention to a pair of lines for Wildcat successes: three point and free throw. In nine road games, Arizona foes have made an average of 3.7 more treys and 2.0 made free throws per game. Over the last four games, those figures drop to 1.0 more treys for the opposition and a +0.5 UA free throw advantage.

TROIKA: Arizona's 'Big Three' of Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise have consistently delivered plenty of offense this season, but even their productivity has gone up of late. Over the last 10 games, that trio has been responsible for 71.8 percent of the offense, an increase of 2.5 percent over the season-long output. In that span, Budinger (189 points), Hill (179) and Wise (176) have balanced the load, as each is averaging within a field goal of the other.

AND DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME: With two weekends remaining in the regular season, it's safe to say that the Wildcats are in the stretch to the finish. Recently, Arizona has performed relatively in those situations, posting a 10-6 record over the last five seasons in the last two weekends of the regular season. For reference, last season's club went 1-3.

FAST STARTS: It seems obvious to say, but every team hopes for a good start, especially in road games. Arizona definitely didn't do that in Sunday's loss, as it allowed 44 points and a .667 (14-of-21) field goal percentage to Arizona State, both opponent season highs. Through 27 games, the Wildcats are 13-4 when leading at the 10-minute mark of the first half, 10-3 when leading at the break and 13-3 when leading with five minutes to go in the second half. Those numbers switch to 3-5, 7-6 and 4-6, respectively, when trailing at those same junctures.

THAT NUMBER MATTERS: The Wildcats would consider themselves fortunate on a number of levels to score 70 points Thursday. It has proven to be a bellwether of success for this ball club, as the team is 11-1 when it does and 7-8 when it doesn't.

EVERY POSSESSION MATTERS: Arizona dropped a two-point decision Sunday to fall to 3-4 this season in games decided by five points or less. Each of those four defeats have been by two points or less with three coming on the road and two of them in Pac-10 play.

DEFENSIVE ADJUSTMENTS: As mentioned earlier, Arizona gave up a season-high 44 points and a .667 field goal percentage to the Sun Devils in Sunday's loss, but the team certainly made the necessary adjustments. In the second period, UA limited ASU to a .417 (10-of-24) field goal percentage, including 3-of-14 (.214) from three-point range, and just 26 second-half points, which equaled a opponent low for 2008-09.

A STRONG MOVE: Finding itself down by 17 points with 13:02 to go Sunday, Arizona responded with a 23-4 run over the next 8:48 to take a two-point lead. During the run, the Wildcats connected on 9-of-13 shots, while limiting Arizona State to just 2-of-11 shooting with three turnovers. Six different UA players tallied points during the run.

ON THE GLASS: While Arizona lost the rebounding battle Sunday, 31-29, the Cats did manage to generate more second-chance opportunities by posting an 11-5 advantage in offensive rebounds. The five offensive rebounds registered by Arizona State was an opponent low this season. Incidentally, six of the seven UA players to see action grabbed at least one offensive board.

VALUING THE BALL: The Wildcats did a good job of taking care of the ball Sunday, totaling just seven turnovers at Arizona State. That marked the eighth time this season that Arizona has tallied fewer than 10 turnovers in a game. Interestingly, Arizona committed just two miscues in the second half and just three in the game's final 36 minutes and 33 seconds.

MASTER OF THIEVES: Led by Chase Budinger, who collected a game-high four, Arizona amassed a season-best 11 steals Sunday at Arizona State. Nic Wise and Kyle Fogg added three each to boost UA's total to double figures. Budinger has been especially productive when it comes to pilfers, totaling 13 in his last four games (3.3 spg). The 6-foot-7 junior now owns the team lead with 41 steals in 27 games.

ALL-AROUND CONTRIBUTIONS: Chase Budinger has proven himself to be a very complete ball player, especially of late. Over the last 10 games, the 6-foot-7 junior is averaging 18.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game in that span. He's connected on 47.3 percent (61-of-129) of his field goal attempts, including 39.6 percent from three point range. He done all of this by playing in 393 of 400 (98.3 percent) minutes and posting a team-best 1.95:1 assist:turnover ratio.

PLAYING BIG: Five-foot-10 guard Nic Wise stature on the court seemingly has grown with each passing game. Sunday at Arizona State, the junior from Houston tallied 17 points, seven assists and three steals. Over his last 10 games, Wise is averaging 17.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists, while shooting 47.8 percent (55-of-115) from the floor. Wise leads the Cats with 24 treys over the last 10 games played.

NO FIRST-YEAR JITTERS: Freshman guard Kyle Fogg continues to be a stellar contributor, in a below-the-radar kind of way. Sunday at Arizona State, the 6-foot-2 product of Brea, Calif., tallied 14 points, four rebounds and three steals. What's been most surprising is his willingness to take - and make - some big shots. Over the last 10 games, Fogg has connected on 16-of-32 (.500) of his three-point attempts, and his overall FG percentage of .491 (27-of-55) in that span ranks second on the squad to Jordan Hill (.526).

GOING THE DISTANCE: Arizona's trio of juniors have logged a ton of minutes to date. Collectively, Chase Budinger (11), Nic Wise (11) and Jordan Hill (7) have 29 games with 40 or more minutes played. The guys rank, first, third and sixth in the Pac-10 when it comes to playing time.

HARD TO DO: Arizona collected 16 assists Sunday against just seven turnovers, and the club's +9 difference equaled the fourth-best performance of the season. Unfortunately for the Cats, Sunday's loss was the first in a game where the assist-turnover margin was +6 or greater.

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 at No. 21 Washington. Tip-off is scheduled for noon PST on Saturday, Feb. 28, and can be seen nationally on FSN.



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