Game Notes: March 9, 2008

March 9, 2009

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Date: Thursday, March 12, 2009

Time: Noon PDT

Location: Staples Center (19,282), Los Angeles, Calif.

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

TV: FSN (Barry Tompkins/Dan Belluomini)

GAME DATA: No. 5 seed Arizona (19-12, 9-9 Pac-10) travels to Los Angeles for the 2009 Pacific Life Pac-10 Tournament and opens play in the first quarterfinal Thursday afternoon against No. 4 seed Arizona State (22-8, 11-7 Pac-10) ... Arizona's 17 wins and four championships (1988-90, 2002) in this event are league bests ... Since the event was reincarnated in the Staples Center in 2002, the Cats are 8-6 in tournament play ... The number 70 looms large in conference tournament action as Arizona is 8-3 since 2002 when scoring 70 or more points and 0-3 when it does not ... Over the last three seasons, the Cats are averaging 66.6 points in five Pac-10 tournament games.

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the March 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 19-12 (.613) ... 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: Efficient was the word of the day as Arizona connected on 70 percent of its field goal attempts as it topped the century mark in the regular-season finale, a 101-87 defeat of Stanford last Saturday. Nic Wise hit all nine shots from the field and posted 27 points and nine assists to lead the Cats in a game that Arizona never trailed. UA junior triumvirate of Wise, Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill combined for 75 points on 27-of-37 (.731) shooting. Nine of the 10 Wildcats to see action tallied at least three points in the win.

SCOUTING ARIZONA STATE: The Sun Devils enter today's contest with a 22-8 record (11-7 Pac-10) following Saturday's 83-66 win over California. On the season, ASU shoots 47.8 percent (708-of-1,481) from the field, including 36.2 percent (242-of-669) from three-point range, outrebounds the opposition by a +2.2 per game margin, and outscores its opponents by 9.8 points per game. Three Sun Devils average in double figures, led by James Harden's 20.8 ppg mark. Jeff Pendergraph holds the rebounding lead with an 8.5 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Today's game is the 216th meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 138-77 series advantage. Arizona has won 24 of the last 29 meetings in the series, which dates back to 1914, but ASU swept the last four, including a 70-68 decision on Feb. 22, in Tempe. All-time, Arizona is 77-27 in series games played in Tucson, 60-50 in Tempe, and 1-0 in neutral-site games. The lone neutral-site meeting was a 73-56 UA win on March 7, 2002, in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 Tournament. Please see page 91 in the UA media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Arizona State 70, Arizona 68, Feb. 22, 2009: Arizona fell behind early, dug itself out of a big hole, but didn't make enough plays late in a two-point loss. 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.

ALL-CONFERENCE: Four Wildcats were honored with Pac-10 postseason honors, as Chase Budinger (1st), Jordan Hill (1st) and Nic Wise (2nd) were all named all-conference, while Kyle Fogg was an honorable mention all-Freshman pick. It marks the 26th consecutive season that UA has had at least one all-Pac-10 player and the 25th time with at least one first-team selection.

INSPECTING THE SEEDS: The Wildcats enter the Pacific Life Pac-10 Tournament as the No. 5 seed. In the 12-year of the Pac-10 Tournament , Arizona has been a No. 1 seed four times (1988, 89, 2003, 05), No. 2 three times (1987, 90, 2002) No. 3 once (2004), No. 4 once (2006), No. 5 twice (2007, 2009) and a No. 7 seed once (2008). Additionally, no other Pac-10 team has played in as many conference postseason tournament games as Arizona's 24. Of those 24 contests, the Wildcats have played as the higher seed 20 times.

HEATING UP: In a pair of games last week, Budinger led Arizona with per-game averages of 28.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists, posting a season-high point total in both games. He connected on 61.3 percent of his field goal attempts (19-of-31), including 50.0 percent (7-of-14) from three-point range, while adding a block and two steals. Budinger opened the week with 28 points, three rebounds and four assists against California. He followed that up with another 28 points (10-of-14 FG), five rebounds and five assists vs. Stanford. For Budinger, it was his 28th game in double figures this season and his sixth game with 25 or more points. Additionally, Budinger logged 78 of 80 total minutes this weekend, collecting those nine assists against only two turnovers. On the year, Budinger is averaging 18.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, while shooting .483 from the field.

PILING UP POINTS: Bolstered by a combined 75 points from the 'Big Three' of Chase Budinger (28), Nic Wise (27) and Jordan Hill (20), Arizona scored 101 points in Saturday's 101-87 defeat of Stanford. Eight of the nine Wildcats to see action Saturday tallied at least three points. Incidentally, Arizona scored a season-high 51 points in the first half vs. the Cardinal and added 50 after intermission. It was Arizona's second time above the century mark this season.

A TELLING STATISTIC: With Arizona and Stanford combining to shoot better than 58 percent from the field Saturday there weren't many rebounds to be had, but the Wildcats managed to win the rebounding battle, 26-24. It was just the seventh time in 18 conference games that UA has outrebounded an opponent. In Pac-10 play, Arizona is 5-2 when it wins the rebound battle and 4-7 when it doesn't. Through 31 games, Arizona posts a +2.3 rebound margin, but that margin slips to -0.7 in conference play.

MAKING SHOTS: On the way to victory Saturday, Arizona connected on a season-high 70.0 percent - yes, 70 - of its field goal attempts (35-of-50). The Cats blistered the nets with 71.4 percent shooting (20-of-28) in the first half before cooling off a bit (15-of-22/.682) in the second. Once again, it was Budinger, Wise and Hill leading the way for the Cats, as that trio combined to connect on 27-of-37 (.730) attempts. Individually, Nic Wise was a perfect 9-of-9 from the field. Interestingly, of the eight players to chuck it Saturday, none shot worse than 50 percent from the floor.

NUMBERS DON'T LIE: The Wildcats' .700 FG percentage Saturday marked the 12th time this season that Arizona has shot 50 percent or better from the field and the team is 10-2 when that happens, including a spotless 6-0 record at home. Additionally, UA outshot Stanford, .700-.492, to improve to 16-5 this season when outshooting its foes.

AT THE LINE: Arizona got to the free throw line Saturday, connecting on 21-of-29 charity tosses to outscore Stanford, 21-8 from the stripe. For a team that averages 20.4 free throw attempts per game, just getting to the line is key, as Arizona outscores the opposition by an average of 4.9 points per game. This season, Arizona is 15-4 when attempting 20 or more free throws in a game.

AMONG THE BEST: Arizona closed the regular season by hitting 10-of-16 (.625) three-point field goal attempts to boost the team's season percentage to better than 40 percent at .402 (193-of-480). UA currently ranks third in the Pac-10 in that statistical category, and the conference might just be the best three-point shooting league in the nation as California (first), UCLA (eighth) and Arizona (21st) all rank in the top-21 places nationally as of March 6. UA's .402 percentage from behind the arc is the best for the program since 2004-05.

AIDING THE CAUSE: Of course, Arizona may be doing more than anyone to aid those three-point shooting numbers on both sides, as UA opponents are hitting 45.4 percent (59-of-130) of its three-point attempts over the last five games. In three of those five games, the opposition has made 13 or more trey vs. the Wildcat defense. By comparison, Arizona shot .420 (37-of-88) from behind the arc over the last five games.

SPREADING THE WEALTH: Led by Nic Wise (9) and Kyle Fogg (8), Arizona collected a season-high 26 assists in Saturday's win. Those 26 helpers came on UA's season-high 35 field goal, or 74.3 percent. Wise and Fogg both set or equaled career bests in that category Saturday, and combined for a 17:4 assist:turnover ratio. For good measure, Chase Budinger added five assists of his own against just one turnover.

TOPS THE LIST: By totaling 28 points in Saturday's win, Chase Budinger passed Chris Mills (1991-93) to become the most prolific three-year scorer in Arizona history. In his 96-game career, the 6-foot-7 forward from Encinitas, Calif., has scored 1,632 points (17.0 ppg), 13 more than Mills did in his three seasons in Tucson. Budinger now stands in 12th place on the Arizona career scoring list.

HIS NUMBERS ARE UP: Chase Budinger continued his run of strong play Saturday, equaling a season-high with 28 points to go with five rebounds, five assists and two steals. The junior forward connected on 10-of-14 field goal attempts and equaled a season high with four treys. Over the last 10 games, Budinger is averaging 20.1 points, 6.8 points and 3.9 assists, while shooting 50.4 percent (68-of-135) from the field. He has five 20-point games in those last 10 outings.

JUST DOIN' HIS JOB: Nic Wise proved his value Saturday by claiming responsibility for 48 of Arizona's 101 points against Stanford as he scored 27 points and passed out nine assists. The 5-foot-10 junior from Houston, Texas, went 9-of-9 from the field and added three steals in 40 minutes of action. On the season, Wise is averaging 15.0 points, 2.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, while shooting .450 percent from the field. UA is 11-4 when Wise passes out five or more assists in a game.

CONSISTENTLY GOOD: Freshman Kyle Fogg provided a lift Saturday, collecting nine points, five rebounds and a career-high eight assists in the win over Stanford. The 6-foot-2 guard from Brea, Calif., hit 2-of-3 attempts from behind the arc and 3-of-4 free throws in 31 minutes. Over the last 10 games, Fogg is shooting a respectable .460 (23-of-50) from the field and averaging 7.7 points per game.

SCORING 80: Arizona scored 101 points March 7 vs. Stanford, breaking the 80-point barrier for the ninth time this year. Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 179-19 (.904) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points. Arizona is 9-0 this season when topping the 80-point plateau.

UP NEXT: A win today sends Arizona into Friday's semifinal No. 1, which is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. PDT and will be broadcast by FOX Sports Net. A loss sends the Cats home to await word in its postseason fate.

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