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Game Notes: Dec. 22, 2008
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 12/22/2008
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Dec. 22, 2008

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Game 11: Arizona (7-3) vs. Kansas (8-2)

Date: Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008

Time: 8:30 p.m. MST

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

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

TV: FSN (Ted Robinson/Marques Johnson)

GAME DATA: Arizona (7-3, 0-0 Pac-10) returns to the cozy confines of McKale Center Tuesday to host Kansas (8-2, 0-0 Big 12) in the 24th annual Desert Diamond Fiesta Bowl Classic ... All time, Arizona is 43-1 (.977) in Fiesta Bowl Classic action ... After playing three of its last four games away from home -- a game at McKale Center should give the Cats a boost, as the squad is outscoring foes by 13.8 points per game in its five home games this season and outshooting opponents .478-.392 ... The last time these two programs played in Tucson (Dec. 1, 2001), the contest spotlighted nine future NBA performers.

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Dec. 22 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 7-3 (.700) ... 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: UNLV's Wink Adams drained five of his career-high seven three-point field goals in the second half on the way to 25 points in propelling the Rebel offense past the Wildcats, 79-64, Saturday afternoon. Adams hit three treys during the decisive 15-0 run early in the period to put the game out of reach. Chase Budinger tallied 22 points and Jordan Hill added 16 points and 13 rebounds, but otherwise UA struggled offensively with 19 turnovers and a season-low 39.7 field goal percentage.

SCOUTING KANSAS: The Jayhawks enter tonight's contest with an 8-2 record following Saturday's 71-59 win over Temple. On the season, KU shoots 47.5 percent (291-of-613) from the field, outrebounds opponents by a +9.9 rebounds per game margin, and outscores opponents by 18.2 points per game. Tonight's game is Kansas' first road game of the season. Three Jayhawks average in double figures, led by Sherron Collins' 18.0 ppg clip. Cole Aldrich leads the club with a 10.5 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the 11th meeting of the two schools with Kansas holding a 7-3 advantage in the series, which dates back to Dec. 31, 1979. The teams have split the last four meetings with KU prevailing in the last, a 76-72 overtime win in Lawrence, Kan., on Nov. 25 of last season. All-time, Arizona is 0-2 in series games played in Tucson, 1-2 in Lawrence, Kan., and 2-3 in neutral-site games. See page 92 in the Arizona basketball media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Kansas 76, Arizona 72 (OT), Nov. 25, 2007: In a game that featured six ties and four lead changes after halftime, Chase Budinger scored 27 points to lead a spirited effort, but the Wildcats could not overcome 25 turnovers in a four-point overtime loss at No. 4 Kansas. UA erased an 11-point first-half deficit and controlled play for much of the second half, holding a two-point lead with 1:26 remaining, but could not close it out with two possessions in the final minute. Kansas took control in overtime, hitting 5-of-6 field goal attempts.

AGAINST THE BIG 12 CONFERENCE: All-time, Arizona is 63-67 (.485) against teams that currently make up the Big 12 Conference. Over the five previous seasons, the Wildcats are 4-2 against Big 12 foes. Last season, UA lost at Kansas in overtime and defeated Texas A&M. Those same two teams are on the schedule this year, and the Aggies defeated UA, 67-66, in College Station on Dec. 5.

A BRIEF FIESTA BOWL CLASSIC HISTORY: Long considered one of the finest in-season events in college basketball, the Desert Diamond Fiesta Bowl Classic is in its 24th year. For the first 21 years, the event was a four-team tournament that regularly featured some of the nation's best programs. From 1985-2005, Arizona won 20 of 21 championships, losing only the 2000 title game, 75-74, to Mississippi State. The format was changed in 2006 to a one-game showcase that has spotlighted Memphis, San Diego State, and this season, Kansas. For more Fiesta Bowl Classic information, please see pages 86-88 in the UA men's basketball media guide.

TOPPING 20: In Arizona's only game last week, Chase Budinger posted 22 points, five rebounds and two blocks, while connecting on 53.3 percent (8-of-15) of his field goal attempts to go with an assist and a steal. His 22 points and two blocks were team-high totals at UNLV, and was Budinger's sixth 20-point scoring effort this season. On the year, he averages 19.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, while shooting 54.3 percent from the field.

MILESTONES PASSED: Junior forward Jordan Hill surpassed two milestones in Las Vegas. He surpassed 500 career rebounds with his 13-board effort and now has 507 for his career (6.9 rpg). The 6-foot-10 native of Atlanta, Ga., who was 5-of-11 from the field Saturday, also notched his 500th career field goal attempt. Hill is Arizona's career field goal percentage leader at .619 (314-of-507).

BOARD WORK: Spurred by a season-high 19 offensive rebounds Saturday, Arizona posted a 42-32 rebound advantage over UNLV. It was the fourth time this season that Arizona has outrebounded an opponent by 10 or more in a single game. Incidentally, three of those four occurrences have been in UA losses.

A DECISIVE AIR STRIKE: UNLV put Saturday's game out of reach with a 15-0 run early in the second half. The Rebels' Wink Adams drained five of his career-high seven three-point field goals in the second half, including three treys during the run to cap things. Led by Adams, UNLV blitzed UA with 14 three-point field goals (in 31 attempts/.452) and outscored the Cats, 42-3, from behind the arc.

ON THE LOW SIDE: Arizona dropped a 79-64 decision at UNLV Saturday, and the 64 points scored were a season low, as was the team's .397 (23-of-58) field goal percentage. The 15-point margin was also UA's first loss of the year not to be decided by one point.

OFF THE MARK: The Wildcats entered Saturday's game ranked fourth nationally with a cumulative .517 field goal percentage. However, the Cats managed to post a .397 percentage against the Runnin' Rebels. The Cats got off to a bad start, connecting on just 9-of-29 attempts (.310), which was UA's lowest FG percentage in any half this season. At one point of the first half, Arizona went seven minutes without a field goal. Despite the effort, UA trailed by only five points at the half.

HINDERING PROGRESS: More than anything else, turnovers proved to be UA's biggest bugaboo in Saturday's loss. Not only did Arizona commit a season-high 19 miscues, but UNLV converted those 19 turnovers into 25 points. All told, UNLV held a 25-6 advantage in points off turnovers. The Wildcats had its biggest deficit of the season in assists to turnovers (-7) Saturday. It was the fourth time this season that UA posted a negative assist:turnover ratio.

DOUBLING UP: For Hill, who collected 16 points and 13 rebounds against UNLV, it was his seventh double-double of the season and the 19th of his career. Hill's seven double-doubles currently leads the Pac-10 Conference. Additionally, it was Hill's 40th career game with 10 or more points. His per game averages of 18.5 points and 11.9 rebounds currently ranks fifth and first in the Pac-10 Conference, respectively.

MOVING UP: Forward Chase Budinger moved into 10th place on Arizona's career three-point field goal attempts list with 371. The junior from Encinitas, Calif., who is already in UA's career top-10 list for three-point FGs made (148/10th) and three-point FG percentage (.399/8th) has made at least one trey in all 10 games this season.

PITCHING IN: Jamelle Horne tallied a season-high nine rebounds Saturday at UNLV, which boosted his per game average to 4.6 rpg. The 6-foot-6 sophomore from San Diego, Calif., also attempted a career-high 10 FGs against the Runnin' Rebels. On the season, Horne is averaging 7.4 points per game and shooting .476 (30-of-63) from the field.

CASHING IN ON THE OPPORTUNITY: Jordan Hill continues to make himself a much better free throw shooter. The sophomore forward was 6-of-6 from the line Saturday, which marked the first time in his career that Hill has attempted five or more free throws in a game (19 times) and made all of his attempts. Over the last three games, Hill is 19-of-24 (.792) from the stripe and has raised his season free throw percentage to 41-64 (.641), a figure made a bit more impressive when noted that Hill was shooting .550( 22-of-40) in the first seven games of the season.

TO BE WARY OF: It may not be as legendarily literary as "beware the ides of March," but there has been a long-standing wariness of UA's final pre-Christmas game. Over the last 24 seasons, Arizona is just 11-13 (.458) in the game just prior to Christmas. Perhaps in some sort of Dickensian manner, the ghosts of Christmases past might be waning, as the Cats have won the last five such contests, including last season's 74-58 win over San Diego State on Dec. 22. Here is a look at the 12 seasons prior to the current five-game win streak, where the Cats were just 2-10: Dec. 21, 1991: at Arkansas 65, Arizona 59

Dec. 22, 1992: at Providence 81, Arizona 66

Dec. 23, 1993: Kentucky 93, Arizona 92 (Maui Invitational)

Dec. 22, 1994: at Syracuse 84, Arizona 94

Dec. 23, 1995: Syracuse 79, at Arizona 70

Dec. 21, 1996: at Michigan 73, Arizona 71

Dec. 23, 1997: at Florida State 84, Arizona 79

Dec. 19, 1998: Arizona 75, Iowa State 61 (Las Vegas Shootout)

Dec. 21, 1999: at New Mexico 70, Arizona 68

Dec. 20, 2000: at Arizona 88, Louisiana State 75

Dec. 22, 2001: at Oregon 105, Arizona 75

Dec. 21, 2002: at Louisiana State 66, Arizona 65

A PRODUCTIVE STINT: UA redshirt freshman Alex Jacobson logged a mere five minutes in Saturday's contest, but it was a productive one. The 6-foot-11, 253-pound center managed to collect three rebounds in that span, including two offensive. Jacobson has garnered double-figure minutes in four of seven appearances this year.

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 contest, the Cats return to action on Monday, Dec. 29, when the club hosts Weber State. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. MST and can be seen on FS Arizona.

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