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Game Notes: Jan. 3, 2009
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 01/03/2009
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Jan. 3, 2009

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Date: Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009

Time: 7 p.m. PST

Location: Maples Pavilion (7,329), Palo Alto, Calif.

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

TV: FSN (Barry Tompkins/Dan Belluomini)

GAME DATA: Arizona (9-4, 0-1 Pac-10) closes the first road trip of the Pac-10 schedule Sunday at Stanford (10-1, 0-1 Pac-10) in Maples Pavilion ... The Wildcats enter the contest looking for a win not just to even its conference record, but to mark a true road game in the win column ... UA hopes to avoid back-to-back losses for this first time this season ... Despite averaging 72.1 points per game through its first 13 games, Arizona has averaged just 63.0 points per game in its last two games, including a season-low 55 points on Friday ... Chase Budinger knocked down the 150th trey of his career Friday at California.

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Dec. 29 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 9-4 (.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, 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: California limited Arizona to just one field goal in the final 7:56 and closed the game on a 14-4 run in that span to claim the 69-55 win Friday in Berkeley. The loss was the worst for the Cats in Berkeley since December 1958. Once again the UA offense struggled, shooting just 42.1 percent and its 12 turnovers led to 16 Cal points. Jordan Hill collected his ninth double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Nic Wise added 16 points of his own.

SCOUTING STANFORD: The Cardinal enters tonight's contest with a 10-1 record (0-1 Pac-10) following Friday's 90-60 home loss to Arizona State. On the season, Stanford shoots 45.7 percent (296-of-648) from the field, including 35.9 percent (75-of-209) from three-point range, outrebounds the opposition by a +0.7 rebounds per game margin, and outscores teams by 11.1 points per game. The Cardinal sports a balanced offensive attack as four players average in double figures, led by Anthony Goods' 17.5 ppg clip. Lawrence Hill leads the club with a 6.5 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game marks the 77th meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 48-28 series advantage. Arizona has won six of the last nine in the series, but Stanford has won the last three, including a 75-64 triumph in Los Angeles on March 13, 2008. All-time, Arizona is 25-8 in series games played in Tucson, 19-17 in Palo Alto, Calif., and 4-3 in neutral site games. See page 94 of the UA media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Stanford 75, Arizona 64, March 13, 2008: Stanford's size and depth ultimately proved to be too much for the Wildcats, as the Cardinal broke open a close game with a late run. The Stanford front line totaled 45 points and 26 rebounds and led a total of five players in double figures. The contest featured 13 ties and three lead changes before Stanford broke things open late with a 12-2 run over 3:16. Arizona shot just 36 percent from the field and was outrebounded 50-27, a figure that led to a 20-10 second-chance-points deficit for the Cats.

MORE POINTS PLEASE: Arizona enters tonight's game hoping to put a few more points on the board after amassing a season-low 55 points in Friday's loss to California. Through 13 games, the Wildcats are averaging 72.1 points per game, but that figure drops to 68.3 points over the last seven outings. In that span, UA has failed to break the 70-point plateau five times since Dec. 5.

A COMMON THREAD: In Friday's game at California, Arizona managed to force the homestanding Golden Bears into only six turnovers, while collecting a season-low two steals. Obviously, these two statistics are related because one doesn't happen without the other, and it's a good measure of defensive intensity. In each of Arizona's four losses, opponents have fewer than 10 turnovers, while Arizona has posted no more than three steals. To further the point, opponents have averaged 6.0 turnovers in the four UA defeats - five less than the season average - and UA has averaged 2.8 steals per game - 2.4 less than its season average.

NEEDS AN EASY ONE: Chase Budinger could use a few easy buckets because nothing has come easy of late. In his last three games, the 6-foot-7 forward has connected on just 20.5 percent (8-of-39) of his field goal attempts, including 14.3 percent (2-of-14) from three-point range. Statistically, these things usually work themselves out over the course of a season, but by comparison, Budinger shot 54.3 percent (69-of-127) from the floor in his first 10 games, including 58.1 percent (25-of-43) from behind the arc.

BLOCKED OUT: Junior forward Jordan Hill entered Friday's game ranked second in the Pac-10 with a 2.7 blocked shots per game average. He finished without a blocked shot against California, marking the first time this year Hill failed to register at least one swat. All told, Arizona tallied a season-low two blocks at California.

CONSISTENT ACHIEVERS: Arizona heads into tonight's game in search of its 10th victory of the season. When compared against recent editions of the Wildcats, this year's club seems right on pace. In each of the last five seasons, Arizona has won its 10th game of the year right around the new year. The earliest came in 2006-07 (Dec. 28), while the latest occurred in 2003-04 (Jan. 8).

COLD SPELL: Arizona managed to connect on 42.1 percent (24-of-57) field goal attempts, including a season-low .357 percentage (10-of-28) in the second half at California. It was the eighth time this season that Arizona shot less than 50 percent as a team this season, and marked just the fourth time that an opponent has outshot the Cats this season (.467-.421). Incidentally, Arizona is shooting just .398 (47-of-118) from the field in games against Weber State and California this week, which is the Cats' lowest back-to-back effort of the season.

ON THE GLASS: Largely due to Jordan Hill's game-high 11 rebounds, Arizona and California both finished with 34 rebounds on Friday. It was Arizona's first loss this season (3-1) when tied or outrebounded in a game this season. It also reversed a recent trend that saw Arizona out rebound its previous three opponents by 10 boards or more.

STARTING FIVE: With Jordan Hill's return from injury Friday, Arizona started what has almost become its default starting five: Chase Budinger, Jamelle Horne, Hill, Kyle Fogg and Nic Wise. That quintet has now started five of 13 games to date, but the group has managed only a 2-3 record.

FEWER MISTAKES CERTAINLY HELPS: Look no further than the turnover category to determine success or failure for the Cats. This season, Arizona is 7-0 when posting fewer turnovers than the opposition. Additionally, UA averages just 11.3 turnovers and a +1.9 turnover margin in its nine wins and 14.5 turnovers and a -8.5 turnover margin in its four losses. Eight times this season Arizona has posted a positive assist:turnover ratio in a game and the squad is 7-1 when that happens. Friday at California, Arizona managed a season-low 11 assists against 12 miscues.

STEPPING UP: With Chase Budinger in a bit of a shooting slump, sophomore forward Jamelle Horne has done his best to pick up some of the slack. Over the last three games, the 6-foot-6 San Diego, Calif., native is averaging 14.7 points and 9.3 rebounds. Additionally, Horne is shooting 56.7 percent (17-of-30) from the field. The boost in productivity has raised his season averages to 9.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and a .505 field goal percentage (47-of-93).

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES: Through 13 games this season, Jamelle Horne has played a total of 397 minutes (30.5 mpg), which equals his minutes played from all of last year. In the ensuing year, Horne has topped all of totals from 2007-08, most notably, scoring (9.1 in 2008-09/3.0 last year), rebounding (5.7/2.7), assists (24/8), field goal percentage (.505/.437) and treys (4/2). He also has three consecutive games with 10 or more points, a career first for Horne.

LIKE CLOCKWORK: Jordan Hill notched his Pac-10-leading ninth double-double of the season with 18 points and a game-high 11 rebounds vs. California. That was also the 21st double-double of his career. Since getting his first double-double (13 pts./10 reb.) as a freshman against North Carolina on Jan. 27, 2007, the Atlanta, Ga., native has tallied a double-double on average once every three games and has nine in 12 games in 2008-09.

STANDING TALL: Junior guard Nic Wise has seen his scoring average rise of late, as he is averaging 18.3 points per game over his last three outings, which is the best three-game output of his career. Additionally, Wise entered Pac-10 play ranked second in the league in both assists (5.4 apg) and assist:turnover ratio (2.2:1). Since averaging 1.9 points and 0.5 assists per game as a freshman, the 5-foot-10 Wise has averaged 11.0 points and 4.7 assists in the 40 games since.

ROAD WOES: Whether three games is enough to establish a trend may be debatable, but there are a few differences for the Cats when playing on the road. In those three true road games, Arizona has averaged 61.7 points per game, 13.7 points less than in its seven home games. The majority of that difference can be seen at the free throw line, as UA attempts an average of 23.3 free throw per game in home games (16.6 made) and just 10.7 attempts while on the road (7.7 made). Furthermore, Arizona carries a +2.1 turnover margin in its seven home games and a -9.3 margin in those three road tilts.

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.

PAC-10 PROGNOSTICATIONS: According to media members who regularly cover the Pacific-10 Conference, Arizona was picked to finish fourth in this season's Pac-10 race. The Wildcats received 241 points, trailing UCLA, Arizona State and USC. It's the second consecutive year in which UA was selected fourth. Here is the complete list: 1. UCLA, 379 points; 2. Arizona State, 325; 3. USC, 292; 4. ARIZONA, 241; 5. Washington, 217; 6. Washington State, 188; 7. Oregon, 147; 8. California, 143; 9. Stanford, 155; 10. Oregon State, 40.

UP NEXT: Following tonight's contest, the Cats return home to host Oregon on Thursday, Jan. 8. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. MST and will be televised on FS Arizona.

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