Nov. 21, 2008
Date: Monday, Nov. 24, 2008
Time: 5:45 p.m. EST
Location: Stegeman Coliseum (10,523), Athens, Ga.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
GAME DATA: Arizona (1-1, 0-0 Pac-10) hits the road for the first time this season for a pair of neutral-site games beginning Monday vs. Mississippi Valley State (0-5, 0-0 SWAC) in Athens, Ga. ... The University of Georgia hosts this consolation bracket of the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off ... The consolation format gives the Wildcats a chance at Preseason NIT history. Should Arizona win two games in Athens, the program would equal the most wins (18) in tournament history, while setting a new record for games played (21).
THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Nov. 17 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, however, the Wildcats are receiving votes in both polls.
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 1-1 (.500) ... 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: Trailing by nine points with 4:36 to go, Arizona responded with a 10-1 run over the next 4:10 to tie the game only to see it slip away to UAB, 72-71, courtesy of an unnecessary foul with one tick remaining and the resulting free throw. All told, the Blazers led for 35:32 of Tuesday's NIT Season Tip-Off second round game and outscored Arizona 39-12 from behind the arc. The Cats couldn't capitalize on a 47-29 rebound advantage, which was compounded by just 13-of-20 shooting from the free throw line. Jordan Hill set a tournament record with his 22 boards, while Chase Budinger added a game-high 27 points.
SCOUTING MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE: The Delta Devils enter tonight's contest with an 0-5 record following Thursday's 82-65 loss at Montana. Led by Shannon Behling and Eric Petty, who tallied 18 points apiece, four players accounted for 63 of MVSU's 65 points. On the season MVSU shoots 33.8 percent (91-of-269) from the field, is outrebounded by an average of 9.2 rebounds per game and outscored by a 26.6-point margin. Behling leads the Devils with a 14.8 points per game average, while Petty pulls down an average of 9.2 rebounds per game.
THE SERIES: This is the first meeting of the two schools. Arizona has a 2-0 (1.000) record against current Southwestern Athletic Conference members. The last time UA faced a SWAC member was March 16, 2000, in a 71-47 Wildcat win in over Jackson State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament's West Region in Salt Lake City, Utah. In fact, Jackson State is the only SWAC foe UA has ever faced, also defeating the Tigers, 111-83, in Tucson on Dec. 14, 1996.
A BIG NUMBER: Talk about controlling the boards, Jordan Hill grabbed 22 rebounds (11 off./11 def.) against UAB, pushing UA to a 47-29 rebound advantage. Hill's 22 rebounds were a Preseason NIT tournament single-game record, eclipsing the former mark of 21 by TCU's Larry Richard vs. LSU on Nov. 21, 1986. The total also equaled the eighth-best single-game total in Arizona history and were the most rebounds for a Pac-10 player since January 2000. In fact, Hill is one of only five Pac-10 players to grab 20 or more rebounds in a single-game in the last eight-plus seasons.
LAST LINE OF DEFENSE: Junior forward Jordan Hill blocked two shots against UAB and is averaging 2.5 blocks per game to date. The Atlanta, Ga., native now has 87 blocked shots in his career, which is the eighth-best figure in UA annals. At his current career pace of 1.3 blocks per game, the 6-foot-10 Hill could find his way into the top five by season's end.
40-MINUTE MAN: It's no surprise that Chase Budinger leads the Wildcat in minutes played - 77 through two games. He played all 40 minutes in Tuesday's loss to UAB, which marked the third time in his career that he has played every possible minute of a game. That total does not include a 40-minute effort last season in an overtime win vs. Illinois in Chicago. Currently, his 34.3 career minutes per game average ranks second all-time in Arizona history, trailing only Jason Gardner (1999-2003), who averaged 35.5 minutes per game in 136 career games played.
PRESEASON N.I.T. HISTORY: As mentioned earlier, Arizona has a 16-3 record when playing in the Preseason N.I.T. In tournament annals, Arizona's five previous appearances and three championships are tied for the all-time lead, while the .842 winning percentage ranks ninth, the 16 wins ranks fourth, and the 19 games played ranks fourth. UA's 15-game win streak in the event, which ended in the 2004 championship game loss to Wake Forest, is a tournament record. Here is a look at UA's participation: Nov. 21, 1986: UNLV 92, Arizona 87 (Las Vegas, Nev.) Nov. 14, 1990: Arizona 122, Austin Peay 80 (Tucson, Ariz.) Nov. 16, 1990: Arizona 88, East Tennessee State 79 (Tucson, Ariz.) Nov. 21, 1990: Arizona 91, Notre Dame 61 (New York, N.Y.) Nov. 23, 1990: Arizona 89, Arkansas 77 (New York, N.Y.) Nov. 15, 1995: Arizona 91, Long Beach State 57 (Tucson, Ariz.) Nov. 17, 1995: Arizona 83, Arkansas 73 (Fayetteville, Ark.) Nov. 22, 1995: Arizona 86, Michigan 79 (New York, N.Y.) Nov. 24, 1995: Arizona 91, Georgetown 81 (New York, N.Y.) Nov. 16, 1999: Arizona 88, Kansas State 69 (Tucson, Ariz.) Nov. 19, 1999: Arizona 84, New Mexico State 60 (Tucson, Ariz.) Nov. 24, 1999: Arizona 76, Notre Dame 60 (New York, N.Y.) Nov. 26, 1999: Arizona 63, Kentucky 51 (New York, N.Y.) Nov. 16, 2004: Arizona 80, San Diego 69 (Tucson, Ariz.) Nov. 18, 2004: Arizona 83, Wright State 66 (Tucson, Ariz.) Nov. 24, 2004: Arizona 61, Michigan 60, overtime (New York, N.Y.) Nov. 26, 2004: Wake Forest 63, Arizona 60 (New York, N.Y.) Nov. 17, 2008: Arizona 75, Florida Atlantic 62 (Tucson, Ariz.) Nov. 18, 2008: UAB 72, Arizona 71 (Tucson, Ariz.)
MOVING UP: Chase Budinger's fast start (24.0 ppg) to the season has moved him up the Arizona career scoring list. With 27 points Tuesday vs. UAB, the 6-foot-7 forward now has 1,115 career points and is in 33rd place on the list just ahead of Gilbert Arenas (1,105 points). Budinger is 44 points out of 30th place on the UA scoring list.
MAKING THE ATTEMPT: Through two games, forward Jordan Hill is averaging 12.5 field goal attempts per game, a figure that ranks third on the team behind Chase Budinger (14.5) and Nic Wise (13.0). Getting the big man more attempts could be advantageous, especially with his .620 career field goal percentage. Consider 12 attempts an important barrier because Hill has attempted more than 12 field goal attempts in a single game just five times in his 65-game career.
MOVING THE BALL: Tuesday against UAB Nic Wise passed out a career-best nine assists, a figure he has reached in both games this season. Even at a school known as "Point Guard U." that's a pretty good number. Mustafa Shakur was the last UA point guard to collect a total of 18 or more assists in back-to-back games, when he accomplished the feat on Jan. 4 and 6, 2007. He tallied 19 assists in games at Washington (11) and at Washington State (8). What's best about Wise's performance this season is that his 18 assists come against only three turnovers.
STEADY CONTRIBUTIONS: Through two games, sophomore forward Jamelle Horne is averaging 10.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists. The San Diego, Calif., product is shooting .500 from the field (10-of-20), third-best on the club, and ranks fourth in rebounding. His 37.0 minutes per game average is nearly two and a half times that of last season (15.3).
AREA OF IMPROVEMENT: In terms of getting to the free throw line, Arizona has done a good job in two areas: getting to the line more than the opponent (44 to 27) and outscoring the opposition (29-17). The Cats' biggest problem has been accuracy. UA has connected on just 65.9 percent (29-of-44) of its charity tosses, and even that is 29 point higher than the opposition (.630). Remove Chase Budinger and Nic Wise and their combined 22-of-24 (.917) marksmanship from the equation and the rest of the Cats are 7-of-20 (.350) from the stripe.
SECOND-HALF TEAM: Though just two games into the season, Arizona has proven itself to be a bit of a second-half club. UA is outscored by an average of 3.0 points per game in the first half and rebounds to outscore the opposition by nine points after the break, which accounts for Arizona's +6.0 scoring margin. Interestingly, the Cats' FG percentage doesn't measure up in the same way: .482 (27-of-56) in the first half and .442 (27-of-61) in the second.
IN RESERVE: Freshman Garland Judkins has stepped nicely into the role of back-up guard, as he has logged 26 minutes in both games to date. He's averaged 5.0 points, 1.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists to go along with a pair of steals, and is shooting 40.0 percent (4-of-10) from the field.
UP NEXT: Arizona remains in Athens to face Santa Clara tomorrow in the final game of the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off. The contest is scheduled to begin at 5:45 p.m. EST.