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NCAA Game Notes: March 20, 2009
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 03/20/2009
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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March 20, 2009

Date: Sunday, March 22, 2009

Time: approx. 2:40 p.m. EDT

Location: American Airlines Arena (19,600), Miami, Fla.

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

TV: CBS (Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel)

GAME DATA: No. 12 seed Arizona (20-13, 9-9 Pac-10) continues to dance at its 25th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance - 28th overall - by facing No. 13 seed Cleveland State (26-10, 12-6 Horizon League) Sunday in the second round at the American Airlines Arena ... UA has a 42-26 (.618) record in its 27-plus previous NCAA Tournament appearances ... Arizona is 4-6 previously when tipping off on Eastern time ...Arizona advances to the second round for the first time since 2006 ... Arizona is 5-5 in its last 10 NCAA Tournament games dating back to 2004, but who wouldn't enjoy playing in an average of two tourney games in its last five appearances?

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the March 16 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 20-13 (.606) ... 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: Arizona built a 10-point in the first seven minutes and made it hold up, as the Cats defeated Utah, 84-71, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Regional. Arizona's "Big Three" combined for 66 points and got solid contributions from a host of others as it advanced to the second round for the first time since 2006. UA's pressure bothered Utah from the opening tip, as Arizona forced 14 first-half turnovers and limited the Utes to just 39 percent shooting in the opening period. Nic Wise scored 21 of his career-high 29 points in the second half, while Chase Budinger added 20 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals.

THE SERIES: Today's game is the first meeting of the two schools. All-time, Arizona is 6-1 against current members of the Horizon League.

FINE AT 12: UA's win Friday was its first as a No. 12 seed. It is the first win for the program as a double-digit seed in four all-time appearances. Additionally, Arizona improved to 3-0 all-time when playing a No. 5 seed.

HERE'S ONE WORTH READING: With a seven-spot difference in seeds (Arizona 12/Utah 5), Friday's 13-point win was the program's biggest in terms of seeding in Arizona's 68-game NCAA Tournament history. The previous best was Fourth-seeded UA defeating three No. 1 seeds on the way to the 1997 NCAA championship. Incidentally, Arizona improved its record to 8-11 (.421) when playing as a lower seed.

LOOKING AHEAD: Arizona is 12-3 in 15 NCAA second-round games. Conversely, Cleveland State has advanced to the Sweet 16 in every previous trip to the NCAA Tournament (1986), when it downed Indiana and St. Joseph's before losing to Navy.

20 WINS: Friday's effort gave Arizona its 31st 20-win season in school history and the 21st in the last 22 seasons. Only last year's club, who posted a 19-15 record, failed to win 20 games in that span. Since the start of the 1984-85 season, Arizona has averaged 24.8 wins per season. The program has also won 40 NCAA Tournament games in that span.

TOP OF THE LIST: With a victory Friday in his first career NCAA Tournament appearance, Arizona's Russ Pennell moved to the top of the NCAA Tournament's career winning percentage at 1.000. Obviously, we mean this with a slight degree of fun involved, but it is a nice reward for a guy who has coached the Wildcats under sometimes-trying circumstances this season.

ANOTHER RANKED FOE FALLS: The victory over Utah on Friday gave Arizona another win over a ranked team this year. The Utes were No. 25 in the final AP poll last week. UA enters Sunday's game with a 3-4 mark against ranked teams in 2008-09. The notch on Friday was the second away from home, along with a victory over No. 4 Gonzaga in December on a neutral court in Phoenix.

NEARLY A RECORD: The 29 points by Nic Wise against Utah came within three of the Arizona record for an NCAA tournament game. Guard Khalid Reeves hit for 32 against Loyola-Maryland in first-round action in the West Region in 1994. However, Wise's 29 points did equal a career high, which he originally set on Jan. 29 of this season vs. Washington. Additionally, his 10 field goal made were also a new career high.

TWO GOOD THINGS: Arizona improved to 10-0 this season when scoring 80 or more points. Additionally, it marked just the fourth time this season that Utah has allowed 80 points this season.

POINTS APLENTY: As has been the case all season, Arizona's "Big Three" of Chase Budinger (20), Jordan Hill (17) and Nic Wise (29) tallied 66 of Arizona's 84 points (78.6 percent). Wise needed 16 points and got 29 to give the Cats three 500-point scorers this season - a feat that hasn't been reached since 1997-98, when Michael Dickerson (630), Mike Bibby (603) and Miles Simon (601) each scored more than 500 points in a single season. Incidentally, Arizona improved to 7-0 this season when Budinger, Hill and Wise all score 15 or more points each.

PRESSURE PAYS OFF: The Cats' 13 steals against Utah were one shy of its NCAA-tournament high of 14 against Nicholls State in a 1998 first-round match. The total was also a 2008-09 season high. The Cats' pressure defense helped force Utah into 20 turnovers, tying the season high for an opponent. UCLA booted 20 on Feb. 14 in a Wildcat 84-72 victory in Tucson.

NOTHING MATTERS BUT THE "W": Arizona's 11 assists in the victory over Utah was its season low in a winning game, matching the 11 marked at Oregon State Feb. 5. One reason for that low total was the score -- UA 56, OSU 53. One reason for the total in the Utah game (84-71 victory) was Nic Wise, who drove to the basket many times in posting his 10 field goals -- a career high.

AS CONSISTENT AS CAN BE: Jordan Hill's double-double Friday was his 19th of the year and 31st in his three-year tenure. The 13 boards and 17 points were highs for him in his three-game NCAA career, and he now has double-doubles in his last two NCAA Tournament appearances.

STAT SHEET STUFFER: Junior forward Chase Budinger put forth a sterling effort in Friday's win, posting 20 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals in 40 minutes. He connected on 8-of-14 field goal attempts and added a blocked shot against the Utes.

NOT TO BE OVERLOOKED: Much could be written of the contributions of UA's Big Three, but make no mistake, freshman Kyle Fogg added quite a bit to the winning effort. The 6-foot-2 guard from Brea, Calif., hit 6-of-8 free throws en route to 12 points to go with a block and three steals. For Fogg, it was his eighth double-figure scoring game of the season.

A POINT FOR NEUTRALITY: Friday's 13-point win improved Arizona's record to 4-1 in neutral-site games this season. Overall, Arizona was 14-3 at home, 2-9 on the road, and 4-1 in neutral-site games.

TARGET PRACTICE: Bolstered by Nic Wise's 10-of-19 shooting, Arizona connected on 30-of-55 (.545) field goal attempts vs. Utah. It marked the 13th time this season that the Cats have shot 50 percent from the field this season and the team is 11-2 when that happens. Additionally, UA is 17-5 this season when outshooting the opposition.

AT THE LINE: Arizona connected on its last 12 attempts from the free throw line to finish with a respectable 20-of-28 (.714) from the line Friday. Prior to the last four minutes of clock time, UA knocked down just 8-of-16, well below par for a club shooting 73.4 percent from the stripe on the season.

SCORING 80: Arizona scored 84 points Friday vs. Utah, breaking the 80-point barrier for the 10th time this year. Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 180-19 (.905) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points. Arizona is 10-0 this season when topping the 80-point plateau.

IN MARCH: Since the start of the 1996-97 season, Arizona has a 52-27 (.658) record in the month of March. In that span, 36 of those games have been played in the NCAA Tournament and UA is 25-11 (.694) in them.

UP NEXT: A win today moves Arizona into Friday's NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal. A loss ends the 2008-09 season.

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