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Game Notes: Dec. 2, 2008
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 12/02/2008
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Dec. 2, 2008

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Date: Tuesday, Dec. 2, 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 (4-1, 0-0 Pac-10) opens a busy month of December beginning Tuesday against Loyola Marymount (0-6, 0-0 WCC) in McKale Center ... Following tonight's game, three of Arizona's next four games will be away from the comfortable confines of home, including the Cats' first true road game of the season Friday at Texas A&M ... The contest opens a stretch of the schedule in which the Wildcats will play three games in six days, including its first true road game of the season on Dec. 5 ... As it usually does, field goal percentage should tell quite a story: Arizona is shooting 54.5 percent (140-of-257) as a team, while LMU is shooting 37.3 percent (114-of-306).

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Dec. 1 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 4-1 (.800) ... 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: Chase Budinger hit back-to-back treys, the last coming with 12:35 remaining, to cap a 16-4 UA run that broke open a tight game, as Arizona downed Northern Arizona, 74-57, Sunday afternoon. Field goal shooting proved to be the difference, as Arizona shot 65.2 percent in the second half, while limiting Northern Arizona to just 34.4 percent in the period. The trio of Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise combined to score 63 of the Cats' 74 points on 23-of-36 shooting.

SCOUTING LOYOLA MARYMOUNT: The Lions enter tonight's contest with an 0-6 record following Saturday's 67-59 loss at Arkansas-Little Rock. On the season LMU shoots 37.3 percent (114-of-306) from the field, is outrebounded by the opposition by an average of 0.4 rebounds per game, and is outscored by 14.2 points. Averaging 54.2 points per game, the Lions have yet to score 60 points this season. Of LMU's eight active players, only Jarred DuBois averages in double figures (12.2 ppg). Ashley Hamilton paces the club with a 5.0 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the 12th meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 7-4 advantage in the series, which dates back to Jan. 2, 1937. The Wildcats have won the last three meetings, including an 82-75 UA win in Tucson on Dec. 4, 1984, and the programs have met just once in the last 40 seasons. All-time, Arizona is 6-1 in series games played in Tucson, 1-3 in Los Angeles, and 0-0 in neutral-site games. See page 93 in the Arizona basketball media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Arizona 82, Loyola Marymount 75, Dec. 4, 1984: Led by Pete Williams, who tallied 19 points and 20 rebounds, Arizona used a balanced attack to subdue Loyola Marymount. Five Cats finished in double figures as UA built as much as a 16-point lead in the second half before withstanding a late LMU rally. The Lions trimmed the deficit to two points with 5:44 remaining before the Cats closed with a 13-8 run to clinch the win.

AGAINST THE WEST COAST CONFERENCE: All-time, Arizona is 25-14 (.641) against teams that currently make up the West Coast Conference. The Wildcats defeated Santa Clara, 69-66, on Nov. 25 in the last game against a WCC foe. Prior to that, UA had not faced a West Coast Conference opponent since a 73-61 Arizona win in Tucson over Saint Mary's on Dec. 10, 2005.

ON TARGET: For the fourth time in five games, Arizona shot 50 percent or better from the field as a team. The Cats connected on 15-of-23 (.652) attempts in the second half to push its game percentage to 56.5 percent (26-of-46). The second half shooting marked the third time this season that Arizona has shot better than 60 percent from the field in a half.

NATIONAL SEARCH: Arizona's cumulative 54.5 (140-of-257) field goal percentage is an impressive statistic, even if it's only through five games. Nonetheless, the figure leads the Pac-10 and ranks second nationally as of Dec. 1. Only Utah State, who boasts a 55.2 cumulative field goal percentage, tops the Cats' effort to date.

FOR THREE: Much was expected of Arizona's Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise entering this season, and through five games the trio has certainly delivered. In that span, Budinger, Hill and Wise have combined to tally 271 of Arizona's 375 points (72.3 percent) and log 515 of 1,000 (51.5 percent) of the possible minutes played. The trio has efficiently gone about its business, as they have combined to sink 99-of-174 (.569) field goal attempts. Additionally, they are also willing to spread the wealth, as each of the three has attempted between 21 and 24 percent of the team's total field goal attempts. As UA interim head coach Russ Pennell said following Sunday's win, "They're awful good. If we wanted to play anyone three-on-three, we could win just about any game."

HALFWAY THERE: Through four games this season, Arizona is shooting a cumulative 54.0 percent (114-of-211) from the field. When breaking that down per half, UA has shot better than 50 percent from the floor in five of eight halves - and two of those halves have been 60 percent or better.

NOT YOUR AVERAGE FORWARD: Perhaps his per game averages of 23.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists were anticipated, but Chase Budinger definitely has dialed in the accuracy. The 6-foot-7 forward has taken just 62 shots this season - and nearly 40 percent of those have come from three-point range - and connected at an attention-getting rate. Through five games, the Encinitas, Calif., product has connected on 67.7 percent of his field goal attempts and 65.2 percent of his three-point attempts. Over his last three games, Budinger is shooting 78.8 percent from the field (26-of-33) and 90.0 percent (9-of-10) from behind the arc.

STREAKING: Chase Budinger has scored 20 or more points in all five games to date. The streak stretches to six when dating back to last season. Overall, it is the longest string of consecutive 20-point efforts in Budinger's three-year career (70 games). During the streak, Budinger is averaging 23.2 points and shooting 66.7 percent from the field.

A TOP-10 PREMIERE: It took Jordan Hill 68 games to qualify, but it was worth the wait. With a career-best 10 field goal made vs. Northern Arizona, the junior forward finally collected enough makes per game (4.0) to qualify for the Arizona career field goal percentage leaders. The 6-foot-10 Hill, who has made 62.3 percent (276-of-443) of his career attempts, debut in the top spot when it comes to field goal accuracy.

WORTH MENTIONING: Jordan Hill tallied a career-high 23 points in Sunday's win on the strength of 10-of-16 shooting. Perhaps most impressive was the fact that Hill was on the court for all 40 minutes. It's the first time in his career that Hill has played every possible minute of a game. The junior notched a career-best 41 (of a possible 45) minutes in last season's overtime win over Illinois. In his career, Arizona is 18-7 when Hill plays at least 30 minutes.

LEADING THE WAY: Point guard Nic Wise continues to give Arizona just what it needs out of the position: solid decision making and steady scoring. Through five games, Wise is averaging 7.0 assists per game and carries a 2.9 assist:turnover ratio. Those figures rank first and second, respectively, among Pac-10 players. Additionally, Wise's 13.6 points per game average ranks third on the team and he has finished in double figures three times in the Wildcats' first five games.

OFF TO A GOOD START: It's safe to say that Garland Judkins may be the team's most pleasant surprise through the first handful of games. The 6-foot-3 freshman from Humble, Texas, has made three starts and is averaging 6.2 points, 1.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, while playing nearly 26 minutes per game. Furthermore, his 2.2 assist:turnover ratio is the second best figure on the team. Sunday against Northern Arizona, Judkins played a season-best 29 minutes and passed out five assists against only one turnover.

SOLID CONTRIBUTIONS: Sophomore guard Zane Johnson earned a season-best 15 minutes Sunday against Northern Arizona and responded with four rebounds. It was the second time this season and the third time in his career that the Phoenix, Ariz., native has garnered double-figure minutes played.

LONG RANGE DISCREPANCIES: Through five games, Arizona certainly hasn't relied on the three-point field goal, as the club averages just over 11 attempts per game while opponents have nearly doubled that at 20.8 attempts per game. What's been good is that the Cats have limited the opposition to a .298 percentage, which keeps the makes nearly equal. From a UA perspective, Chase Budinger leads the team with 15 treys, that's more than the rest of the team combined (9).

GETTING TO THE LINE: Despite the fact that UA has struggled a bit from the line, connection on 67.6 percent, the Cats have used the charity stripe to its advantage. Arizona has outscored its opponents 71-40 from the line (a +6.2-point margin) and has attempted 45 more free throws on the season. The Wildcats have outscored four of five opponents from the free throw line this season (Santa Clara).

CLOSING EFFORT: To secure Sunday's win, Arizona posted its highest second-half point total of the season (43) and also allowed the fewest points (26) after the break this season. The 17-point differential was the second-largest in a half this season. Only UA's 23-point first half advantage (44-21) vs. Mississippi Valley State on Nov. 24 was greater.

BALL SECURITY: Arizona posted a 18 assists and only nine turnovers Sunday vs. Northern Arizona. It was the second-best assist:turnover ratio this season and marked the second time this season that the Wildcats have finished a game with fewer than 10 miscues.

SCORING 80: Arizona scored a season-best 86 points Nov. 24 vs. Mississippi Valley State and broke the 80-point barrier for the first time. Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 171-19 (.900) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points. Arizona is 1-0 this season when topping the 80-point plateau.

UP NEXT: Arizona hits the road for its first true road game of the season on Friday, Dec. 5, at Texas A&M as part of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. Tip-off in College Station is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. CST and will be televised nationally by ESPNU.

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