Game Notes: Feb. 27, 2009

Feb. 27, 2009

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Date: Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009

Time: Noon PST

Location: Hec Edmundson Pavilion at Bank of America Arena (10,000), Seattle, Wash.

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

TV: FSN (BarryTompkins/Dan Belluomini)

GAME DATA: Arizona (18-10, 8-7 Pac-10) plays its final road game of the regular season at No. 21 Washington (21-7, 12-4 Pac-10) Saturday afternoon at Bank of America Arena ... One can only hope the Cats vs. Dawgs rematch is as entertaining as the Jan. 29 affair that saw the teams combine to hoist 210 shots (including FTs) en route to 203 points (UA, 106-97) ... In the last five meetings in Seattle, UA and UW have combined to average 174.4 points per game - that's better than 87 points per team ... Regardless of the outcome, Arizona (4-2) will finish February with a winning record, an improvement over last season's 2-5 mark.

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 18-10 (.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, 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: The teams followed a similar storyline from the previous meeting, this time it was the Cougars' chance to shine in a 69-53 win Thursday. Falling behind early, WSU used a stellar second half to pull away. Down 29-26 at the half, WSU blitzed the nets with 68 percent shooting to outscore Arizona by 19 points in the second period and earn the win. Nic Wise (19) and Jordan Hill (15) combined for 34 points, but the rest of the Cats managed just 19 points and the club was no match for a WSU club that placed four players in double figures.

SCOUTING WASHINGTON: The Huskies enter today's contest with a 21-7 record (12-4 Pac-10) following Thursday's 73-70 overtime win vs. Arizona State. On the season, UW shoots 45.9 percent (778-of-1,694) from the field, including 33.8 percent (119-of-352) from three-point range, outrebounds the opposition by a +8.9 per game margin, and outscores its opponents by 9.5 points per game. Four Huskies average in double figures, led by Justin Dentmon's 15.8 ppg mark. Jon Brockman holds the rebounding lead with an 11.3 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Today's game marks the 65th meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 42-23 series advantage. Arizona has won six of the last 10 in the series, including the last, a 106-97 triumph in Tucson on Jan. 29. All-time, Arizona is 24-6 in series games played in Tucson, 17-14 in Seattle, Wash., and 1-2 in neutral site games. See page 96 of the UA media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Arizona 106, Washington 97, Jan. 29, 2009: Arizona set McKale Center records for free throws (41) and free throw attempts (51) as the Cats outraced Washington. Four players finished in double figures as Arizona topped the century mark for this first time this season and posted its highest point total since March 2004. Arizona shot 63.6 percent from the field in the second half and built as much as a 16-point lead before the parade to the line began. Thirty-four of UA's 69 second-half points came at the stripe, where Nic Wise went 14-of-14, en route to a career-high 29 points and eight assists.

AGAINST RANKED OPPONENTS: This season, Arizona is 3-3 against nationally ranked opponents. All-time, the Wildcats are a spotless 4-0 vs. teams ranked 21st at the time of tip-off. When playing the Huskies as a ranked opponent, Arizona is 3-4. The first such meeting came in 1984 and the last came in 2007. For more information, please see page 143 of the UA media guide.

TOUGH SLEDDING: Heading into action this week (as of Monday), Arizona has played a total of 14 games against the Inside RPI top 50, a figure that is more than the noteworthy teams listed below. Additionally, UA's six wins in those contests also ranks favorably nationally. Here is a look at the teams with the most wins against the RPI top 50. Only seven of those teams have played at least 10 such games.

Quality Wins as of Monday, Feb. 23 (vs. InsideRPI Top 50)Michigan State (9-2)	California (6-4)Oklahoma (8-1)  	Arizona (6-8)Pittsburgh (7-2)	Wake Forest (5-2)Connecticut (7-2)	Missouri (5-2)Arizona State (7-3)	UNLV (5-2)North Carolina (6-1)	Louisville (5-3)Duke (6-3)       	Clemson (5-3)Kansas (6-4)    	Marquette (5-3)Illinois (6-4)  	Villanova (5-5)Texas (6-4)

MISSED OPPORTUNITY: Arizona got off to a good start Thursday, jumping out to an early lead and building as much as an 11-point lead. From that point forward - UA led 27-16 with 4:59 remaining in the first half - it was all Washington State. The Cougars trimmed eight points from that deficit by halftime to kick-start a very decisive run as WSU outscored UA, 43-24, in the second half. All told, Washington State outscored Arizona, 53-26, in the last 24:59.

A STRUGGLE: As Arizona plays its final true road game of the regular season, it does so looking to build on what currently is a 2-8 record in such contests. The Cats have struggled on the road overall, averaging 63.3 points in those 10 games, while facing deficits of 7.5 points and 2.3 turnovers per game. Things have improved slightly of late, as Arizona is 2-4 in its last four road games, averaging 66.0 points per game and riding a positive margin in turnovers (+3.3). Pay attention to a pair of lines for Wildcat successes: three point and free throw. In 10 road games, Arizona foes have made an average of 3.6 more treys and 1.7 made free throws per game. Over the last four games, those figures drop to 2.5 more treys for the opposition and a +2.3 UA free throw advantage.

MISFIRING: Arizona registered only 53 points in Thursday's loss, which was the second-lowest point total of the season. In doing so, the Wildcats equaled season low with 44 field goal attempts and shot just 40.9 percent (18 made) from the field. Interestingly, Arizona is 3-6 this season when failing to shoot 50 percent from the field, and all six of those defeats have come on the road in Pac-10 play.

ONE BAD HALF: In each of the Wildcats' last two losses, there has been a striking similarity, opponents have managed to post one really good offensive half. In losses to Arizona State (1st) and Washington State (2nd), those teams combined to shoot 67.4 percent (31-of-46) from the floor, including 64.0 percent (16-of-25) from three-point range. In those two halves, Arizona was outscored by an average of 14.5 points. Incidentally, Arizona State's 66.7 percent (14-of-21) in the first half last Sunday and Washington State's 68.0 shooting (17-of-25) in the second half Thursday were both opponent season highs in those respective halves.

BOARD WORK: Arizona equaled a season low with five offensive rebounds and were outrebounded 34-25 by Washington State. The -9 rebound margin equaled the highest of season for the Wildcats, previously matched in the season opener vs. Florida Atlantic (37-28) on Nov. 17.

SEPARATE EFFORTS: Junior Nic Wise continued his run of solid play by totaling a game-high 19 points Thursday at Washington State. That figure was bolstered by 15 points in the first half. Teammate Jordan Hill picked up a bit of the slack in the second half, collecting nine of his 15 points in the second half. Nine points may not seem like a bunch, but it was nearly 40 percent of UA's offensive tally in the second half.

OFF THE MARK: Chase Budinger connected on just 3-of-11 field goals Thursday and finished with nine points. He was 0-of-5 from the field in the second half, which snapped a streak of 14 consecutive games in double figures for the junior forward. The double-figure scoring streak, which dated back to Jan. 4, was the longest of Budinger's career.

MOVING UP: Of his three field goals Thursday, Chase Budinger did connect on two three-point field goals, and those treys moved him up the Arizona career three-point field goals list. The 6-foot-7 forward now has 177 career treys and stands in seventh place. He moved past Miles Simon (1994-98) in the process. On the season, Budinger has made at least one trey in 26 of 28 games.

SOLID CONTRIBUTIONS: Sophomore Zane Johnson stepped up with eight points, three rebounds and two assists at Washington State. The 6-foot-5 sophomore also logged a career-high 30 minutes, and is averaging better than 25 minutes per game over his last 11 appearances. Through 28 games, Johnson is averaging 5.2 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. He ranks third on the squad with 32 treys.

STEAL AWAY: Led by Nic Wise, who collected a game-high three, Arizona amassed nine steals Thursday at Washington State. Chase Budinger and Kyle Fogg added two each to boost UA's total to nine, a figure that is well above UA's season-long average of 6.1 steals per game. Steals have been on the rise for the Wildcats, as the team is averaging 8.4 steals per game in the last seven games.

ACCEPTING CHARITY: Junior guard Nic Wise knocked down 7-of-10 free throws Thursday, marking the third time this year that Wise has attempted 10 or more charity tosses in a single game. The 5-foot-10 native of Houston, Texas, leads Arizona with an .841 free throw percentage (90-of-107). Thursday's effort also qualified Wise for the Arizona career free throw percentage list (min. 2.0 made FT/game), where he has connected on 154-of-192 (.802) of his free throw attempts in 77 appearances. That percentage currently ranks 11th in UA annals.

ROAD WOES: Should Arizona win Saturday, the Cats would post a 3-6 record in Pac-10 road games, which would equal the program's worst conference road mark in the last 26 years. Arizona also notched 3-6 road records in 2003-04 and 1983-84. If the Wildcats fall to the Huskies, it would be the program's worst Pac-10 road record since 1982-83, when that edition of the Cats went 0-9 away from McKale Center.

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 today's contest, Arizona will close the regular season in Tucson beginning Thursday, March 5, against California. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. MST and can be seen on FSN.



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