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Game Notes: Dec. 9, 2008
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 12/09/2008
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Dec. 9, 2008

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Date: Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008

Time: 7 p.m. MST

Location: Olson Court, McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.

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

TV: FSAZ (Dave Sitton/Bob Elliott)

GAME DATA: Arizona (5-2, 0-0 Pac-10) returns home to host San Diego State (7-1, 0-0 MWC) Wednesday in McKale Center ... Two of the Wildcats' next three opponents are members of the Mountain West Conference ... This is the fifth meeting of the two programs in the last seven seasons ... Both teams are outscoring the opposition by more than 13.0 points per game, but Arizona is averaging 75.0 points shoots at a 53.7 percent clip, while San Diego State holds the opposition to just 53.0 points and a 39.5 field goal percentage ... Seven Arizona players are shooting 50 percent or better from the field through seven games.

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Dec. 8 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 5-2 (.714) ... 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: Texas A&M took its only lead of the game courtesy of a Nathan Walkup three-pointer with 19 seconds remaining to give the Aggies a 67-66 win Friday in College Station. UA posted a 33-18 rebound advantage, shot 58.3 percent from the field and led by as many as 14 points in the game. But the Cats missed two front ends of one-and-ones in the final 90 seconds that proved fatal. Jordan Hill tallied game-high totals of 20 points and eight rebounds.

SCOUTING SAN DIEGO STATE: The Aztecs enter tonight's contest with a 7-1 record following Saturday's 57-46 win over San Diego. On the season SDSU shoots 43.5 percent (182-of-418) from the field, outrebounds the opposition by a +2.1 rebounds per game margin, and outscores opponents by 13.4 points. Averaging 66.4 points per game, six of SDSU's seven wins have been by double figures. One Aztec player averages in double figures - Kyle Spain's 17.8 ppg figure. Spain also paces the club with a 5.6 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the 25th meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 19-5 advantage in the series, which dates back to Dec. 27, 1945. The Wildcats won the last meeting, 74-58, in Tucson on Dec. 22, 2007. All-time, Arizona is 13-1 in series games played in Tucson, 6-4 in San Diego, and 0-0 in neutral-site games. See page 94 in the Arizona basketball media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Arizona 74, San Diego State 58, Dec. 22, 2007: Jerryd Bayless and Nic Wise combined for 25 second-half points to lead Arizona to its sixth consecutive win in the Fiesta Bowl Classic. The backcourt duo hit 11-of-16 field goal attempts in the second period as the Cats shot 59.4 percent from the field, while limiting the visiting Aztecs to just 32.4 percent shooting. Jordan Hill notched his second straight double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Jawann McClellan earned game MVP honors with a seven-point, nine-rebound, nine assist game.

AGAINST THE MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE: All-time, Arizona is 184-132 (.582) against teams that currently make up the Mountain West Conference. Over the five previous seasons, the Wildcats are 8-0 against Mountain West foes. Last season, UA defeated San Diego State in Tucson and UNLV in Las Vegas. Those same two teams are also on the schedule this year.

CENTER OF ATTENTION: Jordan Hill and the Wildcats split a pair of games as the junior from Atlanta averaged 17.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game last week. Hill connected on 64.0 percent (16-of-25) of his field goal attempts to go with three assists and one double-double. His week began with a 15-point, 17-rebound, three-block performance against Loyola Marymount, marking his Pac-10 leading fifth double-double of the season. He followed that up with 20 points, eight boards, and two blocks at Texas A&M. It was the second time this season that Hill has made 10 or more field goals in a game, and his third 20-point scoring effort this season (sixth career). On the year, he averages 17.4 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game, while shooting 61.0 percent from the field.

STRANGE SITUATION: It's not often that a team shoots 58.3 percent (28-of-48) from the field and posts a +15 rebound advantage on the road and still comes up short, but that's what happened Friday at Texas A&M. Turnovers turned out to be the great equalizer, as the Cats tallied 11 more miscues than the Aggies (15-4). Nic Wise played just 10 second-half minutes before fouling out with 7:33 to go. Chase Budinger handled the point guard duties for the majority of the second half and finished with a career-high seven assists.

ON TARGET: The Wildcats continue to shoot the ball very well this season, posting a .537 field goal percentage (198-of-369) through seven games (a figure that ranks second nationally). UA has shot 50 percent or better five times in 2008-09, including four games of better than 55 percent as a team. Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill lead the way for the Cats, as each has connected on 50-of-82 (.610) FG attempts this year. Incidentally, Friday's loss at Texas A&M snapped a streak of 17 straight wins for the Wildcats when shooting 50 percent or better from the field dating back to last season.

SOLIDIFYING THE MIDDLE: Redshirt freshman center Alex Jacobson also had a productive week, averaging 4.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 12.0 minutes played in two appearances. The 6-foot-11 native of Santa Ana, Calif., put forth a nice effort at Texas A&M, while Jordan Hill battled first-half four trouble. Jacobson posted four points (2-of-3 FG), two boards and an assist in 10 minutes during the opening period. The effort boosted his seasons averages to 2.8 points and 1.3 rebounds to go with a .500 field goal percentage.

ALMOST THERE: Having hit on 62.5 percent (20-of-32) of his three-point attempts this season, junior Chase Budinger is one three-pointer shy of moving into 10th place on the UA career three-point field goals made list. He enters Wednesday's game with San Diego State with 143 treys in 360 career attempts (.397) behind the arc. Budinger's percentage ranks eighth in Arizona history.

CENTURY MARK: With a pair of blocked shots Friday, Jordan Hill became just the eighth player in Arizona history to register 100 career blocked shots. The 6-foot-10 junior from Atlanta, Ga., averaging 2.7 blocks per game in 2008-09, an improvement over his career average of 1.4 blocks per game (101 in 70 games played).

TOPPING 20: Jordan Hill equaled a career best with 10 field goals Friday (in 15 attempts) en route to a game-high 20 points. For Hill, it was his third 20-point game of the season, a figure that equals his total from last season and doubles his career output. Through seven games, Hill averages 17.4 points per game, which ranks second on the team.

LONG RANGE MARKSMANSHIP: A sizeable portion of Arizona's .537 cumulative field goal percentage comes from its long range efforts, especially of late. On the season, the Wildcats are shooting .458 (44-of-96) from behind the arc. Over the last five games, UA has connected on 35-of-58 attempts (.603) from three-point range. The Cats have shot better than 50 percent from behind the arc in four of those five games, including a season-best 61.5 percent (8-of-13) in Friday's game.

STEPPING UP: Sophomore guard Zane Johnson enjoyed an impressive week where he averaged 11.0 points and 2.0 assists per game, while shooting 66.7 percent (8-of-12) from the field. Six of those eight FGs came from behind the arc, where he hit 6-of-10 attempts. On the season, the 6-foot-5 Johnson has made 7-of-14 attempts from behind the arc, and now ranks third on the club in treys made this season.

REGULAR OCCURRENCE: Forward Jamelle Horne has become a regular as a sophomore, having started all seven games. The 6-foot-6 San Diego, Calif., product is averaging 8.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Horne is shooting 54.5 percent from the field (24-of-44) and is averaging nearly 30 minutes per game. Friday at Texas A&M Horne knocked down his second trey of the season, which equaled his total from the previous season.

STATISTICS DON'T LIE: Arizona slipped to 5-2 on the season following a 67-66 loss at Texas A&M in what was the Cats' first true road game of the season. The 66 points, including 26 in the second half, were a season low for UA, a team that is averaging 75.0 points per game. Interestingly, Arizona has won five games this season by an average of 16.5 points, while its two losses were by one point each. Over the last three seasons, Arizona 6-14 in games decided by five points or less.

40-MINUTE MAN: Chase Budinger recorded his third 40-minute game of the season Friday at Texas A&M, marking the seventh 40-plus minute game of his career. Through seven games, Budinger leads the Wildcats with an average of 35.1 minutes per game, a figure that ranks second in the Pac-10. Budinger has never played as many minutes through the first seven games of the season, as this year's 246.

BOARD WORK: Through its early-season efforts, the Cats have fared very well on the glass, posting a +8.0 rebound margin. Rebounding was certainly a concern heading into the season, but Arizona has outrebounded its last six opponents this season, including three by 10 or more. In Friday's game at Texas A&M, UA outrebounded the Aggies by a 33-18 margin. How good were the Cats on the boards? Arizona connected on 17-of-27 first half attempts and grabbed offensive rebounds on seven of those 10 missed shots.

PLAYING POSITIVELY: Nic Wise currently leads the Pac-10 with a 2.8:1 assist:turnover ratio and his 39 total assists rank third. Wise battled foul trouble at Texas A&M, registering one assist, a season low, and two miscues. For Wise it was just the second time this year that he's had fewer assists than turnovers in a game.

SCORING 80: Arizona scored a season-high 84 points Dec. 2 against Loyola Marymount, breaking the 80-point barrier for the second time this year. Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 172-19 (.901) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points. Arizona is 2-0 this season when topping the 80-point plateau.

UP NEXT: Following tonight's game, Arizona heads to Phoenix to take on No. 4 Gonzaga as part of the Desert Classic at U.S. Airways Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. MST and will be televised nationally by Fox Sports Net.

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