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Game Notes: Jan. 16, 2009
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 01/16/2009
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Jan. 16, 2009

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Date: Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009

Time: 5 p.m. PST

Location: Galen Center (10,258), Los Angeles, Calif.

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

TV: FSNAZ (Dave Sitton/Bob Elliott)

GAME DATA: Arizona (11-6, 2-3 Pac-10) travels to Los Angeles to take on USC (11-5, 2-2 Pac-10) Saturday at the Galen Center ... The Wildcats look to win its first true road game of the season in its sixth try and even its league mark at 3-3 ... In its five previous road games, Wildcat opponents are averaging 10.6 more points per game than the overall scoring average (64.2), while shooting 52 points better from the field (.477), including 94 points higher from three-point range (.429) ... Over the previous 10 seasons, Arizona is 9-11 on the Southern California road swing, including a 5-5 record against the Trojans.

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Jan. 12 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 11-6 (.647) ... 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: UCLA jumped out to a 14-5 lead less than four minutes into the game and never looked back in what became an 83-60 Bruin win Thursday at Pauley Pavilion. It was also UCLA's biggest win over the Wildcats since 1983. UCLA placed five players in double figures, shot 59.6 percent from the field and posted a 31-24 rebound advantage in its eighth straight win in the series. Jordan Hill tallied a game-high 22 points and Chase Budinger added 14 points, but no other Cat had more than eight points.

SCOUTING USC: The Trojans enter today's contest with an 11-5 record (2-2 Pac-10) following Thursday's 61-49 win over Arizona State. On the season, USC shoots 47.3 percent (405-of-856) from the field, including 33.2 percent (69-of-208) from three-point range, outrebounds the opposition by a +7.9 rebounds per game margin, and outscores opponents by 9.6 points per game. Four USC players average in double figures, led by Dwight Lewis' 15.4 ppg clip. Taj Gibson leads the team with a 10.3 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Today's game is the 92nd meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 54-37 series advantage. UA has won 15 of the last 22 meetings in the series, which dates back to 1922, but USC captured the last contest, 70-58, in Tucson on Feb. 28, 2008. All-time, Arizona is 27-10 in series games played in Tucson, 24-27 in Los Angeles, and 3-0 in neutral-site games. Please see page 95 in the UA media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: USC 70, Arizona 58, Feb. 28, 2008: Arizona fell behind by double figures in the first seven minutes and, ultimately, didn't have the horses to play catch-up in the 12-point loss. The Cats rallied multiple times, cutting the deficit to four points in the first half and three points in the second, but each time USC had a stern response. The Cats shot 49 percent for the game, but were outrebounded by 10 and had 11 turnovers that led to 15 Trojan points. Jordan Hill and Jawann McClellan combined for 32 points, but USC held the duo of Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger to just 15 points.

LONG-RANGE ACCURACY: Chase Budinger enters Saturday's game currently ranked 10th on the Arizona career three-point field goal percentage at .385 (154-of-400). Of the nine players ahead of the 6-foot-7 junior forward on the percentage list, only three of those players have attempted more treys than Budinger: Salim Stoudamire, 2001-05, 747 atts. (.458); Damon Stoudamire, 1992-95, 677 atts. (.402); and Matt Othick, 1989-92, 485 atts. (.394).

A FIRST WOULD BE NICE: Arizona enters today's game winless in five true road games this season. A win today not only would give the Wildcats its first win in enemy territory in 2008-09, but would mark the latest the program would have won its first road game of the year since Jan. 18, 1986, when that year's club won at Miami, Fla., 81-74, in overtime. Prior to that win, the 1985-86 Wildcats lost its first three true road games of the year.

AGAINST THE NORM: For a program that had entered the season with a Pac-10-best 146-79 (.649) record in conference road games, this year's 0-3 mark in league road games is a bit puzzling. For reference, the last time UA lost four consecutive Pac-10 road games was during the 1983-84 season - Jan. 5-Feb. 13, 1984, to be exact.

TIGHTEN IT UP: Arizona allowed a season-high 83 points in Thursday's loss at UCLA, which was the first time a UA opponent had eclipsed the 80-point barrier. En route to what was UCLA's biggest win over the Cats since 1982-83, the Bruins connected on an opponent-best .596 field goal percentage (28-of-47) for the game. That effort also included opponent-best field goal percentages in both the first half (.577) and the second half (.619).

GOOD START: Arizona enters Saturday's affair hoping to put a few more points on the board after amassing 60 points in Thursday's loss at UCLA. Through 17 games, the Wildcats are averaging 69.9 points per game (the firs time this season that figure has dipped below 70.0 points per game), and that figure drops to 61.0 points in its five road games. In those games, UA has failed to score more than 66 points.

CAUSE AND EFFECT: In Thursday's game at UCLA, Arizona managed to force the Bruins into only 10 turnovers, while collecting four steals. Obviously, these two statistics are related because one doesn't happen without the other, and secondly, it's a good measure of defensive intensity. In four of Arizona's five losses, opponents have had 10 or fewer turnovers, while Arizona has posted no more than four steals. To further the point, opponents have averaged 8.4 turnovers in the five UA defeats - three less than the season average - and UA has averaged just 4.2 steals per game - 0.8 less than its season average.

DIFFICULT TO OVERCOME: In Thursday's loss at UCLA, Arizona committed 11 turnovers which the Bruins converted into 20 points of its own. In each of the Wildcats' six defeats such figures have been commonplace, as the club is averaging 15.4 turnovers per game and opponents are converting those into an average of 19.0 points per game. Cumulatively, UA opponents hold a 114-44 advantage in turnover points in Arizona's five losses. In UA's 11 wins, the margin tips to the Cats, 176-132.

THIS ONE COUNTS: Look no further than the turnover category to determine success or failure for the Cats. This season, Arizona is 8-0 when posting fewer turnovers than the opposition. Additionally, UA averages just 11.5 turnovers and a +1.8 turnover margin in its 11 wins and 15.4 turnovers and a -7.0 turnover margin in its five losses. Ten times this season Arizona has posted a positive assist:turnover ratio in a game and the squad is 8-2 when that happens.

TEN FOR 20: Junior forward Jordan Hill scored a game-high 22 points against UCLA, shooting a respectable 10-of-15 from the field in the process. For the 6-foot-10 forward from Atlanta, Ga., it marked the fourth time this season that he has collected 10 or more field goal in a game. He notched a career-high 11 field goal on Dec. 23 in the win over Kansas. Additionally, Hill's 22 points helped Arizona post a 32-20 points-in-the-paint advantage over UCLA on Thursday.

A NEED TO HEAT IT UP: Arizona managed to connect on 43.6 percent (24-of-55) field goal attempts, including a .423 percentage (11-of-26) in the first half at UCLA. That figure was almost exactly on par with what the Cats have shot over the last six games - 140-of-323 (.433). In four of those six games, Arizona has shot less than 44 percent from the field. On the season, Arizona is 6-5 when shooting less than 50 percent from the field.

ON THE GLASS: Arizona managed a season-low 14 defensive rebounds en route to being outrebounded by UCLA, 31-24. Through 17 games, Arizona has a +5.1 rebound margin, but is 3-3 when outrebounded. Included in that figure is an 0-3 mark when beaten on the boards in Pac-10 play.

STRIKING DIFFERENCES: Five games can be considered enough to establish a trend, and there are a few differences for the Cats when playing on the road. In those five true road games, Arizona has averaged 61.0 points per game, 12.1 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 23.1 free throw per game in home games (16.6 made) and just 12.0 attempts while on the road (8.2 made). Furthermore, Arizona carries a +2.0 turnover margin in its nine home games and a -7.0 margin in those three road tilts.

GOOD STARTS ARE KEY: Arizona found itself trailing early in Thursday's game, 14-5, just for minutes into the contest, and 42-28 at the half. On the year, the Wildcats are 9-2 when leading 10 minutes into the opening period and 7-1 when leading at halftime. In Arizona's six losses this season, the team has trailed by an average of 8.5 points at halftime.

MORE FREQUENT APPEARANCES: UA interim head coach continues to do a nice job of working guys into the rotation. One player who has benefitted from this of late is freshman guard Brendon Lavender. The 6-foot-3 product of Mesa, Ariz., has logged 28 of his 69 minutes played this season in the last four games. Thursday at UCLA, Lavender collected an assist and a steal in 12 minutes of action. On the year, he is averaging 0.9 points, 0.2 rebounds and 0.3 assists per game.

A NICE BOOST: Sophomore Zane Johnson connected on 2-of-3 attempts from behind the arc Thursday to improve his three-point FG percentage to .400 (14-of-35). The 6-foot-5 guard currently ranks third on the club with 14 treys.

MORE LIKE IT: Chase Budinger seems to have snapped out of a shooting slump by connecting on 53.8 percent (21-of-39) of his field goal attempts over his last three games, while averaging 19.3 points per game. Through 17 games, Budinger is shooting .476 (102-of-216) from the field.

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: Following today's contest, returns home for four consecutive home games, beginning Wednesday, Jan. 21, against No. 15 Arizona State. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. MST and will be televised by FS Arizona.

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