Jan. 19, 2009
Date: Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009
Time: 7:30 p.m. MST
Location: Olson Court, McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
TV: FSNAZ (Dave Sitton/Bob Elliott/Tom Kuyper)
GAME DATA: Arizona (11-7, 2-4 Pac-10) opens a four-game homestand - the longest of the season - Wednesday against intrastate rival 17th-ranked Arizona State (15-3, 4-2 Pac-10) at the McKale Center ... Tonight's game is Arizona's third of the season against a nationally ranked opponent, and the Cats are 1-1 in those games previously ... The Cats return to Olson Court, where the squad is 8-1 this season and outscoring opponents by an average of 13.8 points per game ... In nine home games to date, UA is limiting opponents to a .395 field goal percentage (202-of-511), including a .303 mark from three-point range.
THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Jan. 19 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 11-7 (.611) ... 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, 47, 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: Seeking its first road win of the season, Arizona led throughout the majority of this game before things slipped away in the final seconds at USC Saturday, 65-64. UA led 56-50 with 6:30 to go before Dwight Lewis single-handedly outscored the Wildcats, 12-4, over the next 4:30 to give the Trojans the lead. Arizona answered with four points of its own to take a two-point lead with 24 seconds to go, but USC's Daniel Hackett scored the game's final three points, including the clinching free throw with one tick remaining.
SCOUTING ARIZONA STATE: The Sun Devils enter tonight's contest with a 15-3 record (4-2 Pac-10) following Saturday's 61-58 overtime win at UCLA. On the season, ASU shoots 50.8 percent (454-of-894) from the field, including 38.3 percent (148-of-386) from three-point range, outrebounds the opposition by a +4.0 per game margin, and outscores opponents by 14.9 points per game. Three Sun Devils average in double figures, led by James Harden's 22.1 ppg clip. Jeff Pendergraph leads the team with a 7.1 rebounds per game average.
THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the 214th meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 138-75 series advantage. Arizona has won 24 of the last 27 meetings in the series, which dates back to 1914, but ASU swept the last two, including a 59-54 in on Feb. 10, 2008, in Tucson. All-time, Arizona is 77-26 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 59, Arizona 54, Feb. 10, 2008: Jerryd Bayless scored 39 of Arizona's 54 points, but the visiting Sun Devils had just enough offensive balance to overcome that in a five-point win. Behind Bayless' 26 first-half points UA jumped out to an early 22-6 lead, but was outscored, 53-32, over the last 31:46. The Cats shot 37 percent from the field for the game, including just 30 percent (6-of-20) in the second half. In addition to UA's poor shooting, ASU outrebounded UA, 28-21, and no Wildcat other than Bayless managed more than one field goal in the contest.
A STEADYING INFLUENCE: Chase Budinger averaged 16.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in Arizona's two games last week. In posting the 69th and 70th double-figure scoring games of his career, he shot .571 (12-of-21) from the field, including 50.0 percent from behind the arc, .714 from the line (5-of-7), and collected a pair of steals. He opened the week by scoring 14 points to go with five rebounds, two assists and two steals in 35 minutes at UCLA. Budinger followed that with 19 points (6-of-10 FGs), a team-high seven boards and three assists at USC. To date, Budinger is averaging 17.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, while shooting .478 from the field.
OUT OF THE ORDINARY: Arizona dropped a pair of Pac-10 games last week to fall to 2-4 in conference play. Additionally, the Wildcats are now 0-6 in true road games this season. The last time Arizona lost six consecutive road games came Dec. 3, 1983 -Feb. 13, 1984, when the Cats actually dropped seven straight road tilts in what was Lute Olson's first season in Tucson.
CLOSE CALLS: The Wildcats dropped a 65-64 decision Saturday at USC, which was Arizona's third one-point loss of the season. Of those three defeats by a single point, two have come on the road. Additionally, in games decided by five points or less this year, UA has a 2-3 record.
A WORK IN PROGRESS: Arizona did a few things well in Saturday's loss at USC, most notably shooting 52.2 percent (24-of-46) from the field, including 7-of-16 (.438) from three-point range, and committing just 10 turnovers. Ultimately, rebounding did in the Cats, as USC posted a 31-25 rebound advantage -- 15-8 on the offensive glass -- that led to a 15-9 USC edge in second-chance points. All told, Arizona is 3-4 this year when outrebounded, including an 0-4 mark in Pac-10 play.
ON THE MARK: As mentioned above, Arizona shot 52.2 percent from the field Saturday at USC, the first time in 11 games that the squad has shot 50 percent or better from the field. That's a marked improvement over UA's performance over the last 10 games in which the team is shooting 239-of-542 (.441) from the field. Incidentally, the Wildcats have shot 50 percent or better from the field seven times in 2008-09 and are 5-2 in those contests. Furthermore, Arizona outshot USC, .522-.451, but despite that fact, fell to 9-3 this season when posting a better field goal percentage than the opponent.
CLOSE IT OUT: Arizona got off to a good start at USC, leading by as many as seven points in the first period, but were unable to close out the victory. Generally speaking such starts are good for the Cats, as the team is 9-3 when leading 10 minutes into the opening period and 7-2 when leading at halftime.
CAUSE AND EFFECT: Much has been made about the Wildcats and turnovers this season. In Saturday's game at USC Arizona turned it over just 10 times, but lost the turnover battle 10-9. That turns out to be a telling statistic, as the Cats are 3-7 season when turning it over more than the opposition, including an 0-6 record in road games. This season, Arizona has a +1.8 turnover margin in its 11 wins and a -6.0 margin in its seven losses.
HE'S SNAPPED OUT OF IT: Junior forward Chase Budinger seems to have worked himself out of his recent shooting slump. In two games this week, the 6-foot-7 native of Encinitas, Calif., connected on 571 (12-of-21) from the field, including 50.0 percent (4-of-8) from behind the arc. Over the last five games, Budinger is shooting 51.7 percent (31-of-60) from the field and averaging 17.8 points per game, a slight increase over his season-long average.
ON THE RISE: Sophomore guard Zane Johnson earned his second start of the season Saturday at USC and responded with six points, a rebound, two assists and zero turnovers in a career-high 26 minutes played. The 6-foot-5 product of Phoenix, Ariz., has upped his productivity of late, averaging 6.6 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists and 20.2 minutes played per game, while shooting 50 percent (10-of-20) from the field and 42.9 percent (6-of-14) from three-point range - a figure that ranks ninth in the Pac-10. On the year Johnson is averaging 4.4 points and 1.6 boards per game.
MORE ON ZANE: In two games last week, Zane Johnson played a total of 46 minutes without a turnover. Admittedly, the sophomore guard isn't UA's primary ball handler, but it's impressive any time you can go 40+ minutes without a turnover. In fact, Johnson has five games this season where he has played 20 or more minutes without a turnover. His 3:1 assist:turnover ratio currently leads the Wildcats.
LEADING AT BOTH ENDS: Junior forward Jordan Hill currently leads the Pac-10 in rebounding with an 11.4 rebounds per game average. Additionally, the 6-foot-10 product of Atlanta, Ga., leads the conference in both offensive (4.5 orpg) and defensive (6.9 drpg) rebounds per game. How rare is the feat? Not very. In fact, over the last six seasons, a player has led the league in both offensive and defensive boards in the same season three times: Jon Brockman, Washington, 2007-08; Leon Powe, California, 2005-06; and Powe again in 2003-04.
40-MINUTE MAN: If it seems like Nic Wise never comes out of the game, it's because he rarely does. He played 40 minutes Saturday at USC, which was his team-leading sixth 40-minute game of the year. All told, Arizona has had a player play all 40 minutes 13 times this season (UA has not played an overtime game). In addition to Wise's six, Chase Budinger has five, while Jordan Hill has accomplished it twice. Each of those players is averaging better than 33 minutes played per game.
MORE IN THE MIDDLE: Alex Jacobson equaled a career high with four points in Saturday's game, as he connected on both field goal attempts and added a rebound in 15 minutes of action. The redshirt freshman from Santa Ana, Calif., is averaging 1.4 points and 1.5 rebounds per game through 15 appearances. When he is in the game, Jacobson has proven to be active on the offensive glass, as 15 of his 23 rebounds this season are offensive (65 percent).
BOUNCING BACK: Nic Wise tallied 11 points on Saturday, which was his 12th double-figure scoring effort of the season and his first time with 10 or more points in four games. Additionally, the junior guard passed out six assists, marking his highest tally in seven games. Through the first 18 games, Wise has passed out five or more assists 10 times.
AN ODDITY: Arizona committed 20 personal fouls in Saturday's game, three more than the homestanding Trojans. That marked just the fourth time in 18 games this season that the Wildcats have tallied more fouls than the opposition. That disadvantage led to USC sinking six more free throws than Arizona. UA was outscored by an average of five points from the line in those four games and two of them were one-point defeats. On average, Arizona outscores opponents by 3.9 points per game from the line this year.
SCORING 80: Arizona scored 84 points Dec. 23 against Kansas, breaking the 80-point barrier for the third time this year. Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 173-19 (.901) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points. Arizona is 3-0 this season when topping the 80-point plateau.
UP NEXT: The Wildcats step out of conference following tonight's game, as the club hosts Houston on Saturday, Jan. 24. The game is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. MST and will be televised by FS Arizona.