Feb. 9, 2009
Date: Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009
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 (16-8, 6-5 Pac-10) looks to continue its winning ways against USC (15-7, 6-4 Pac-10) Thursday night at McKale Center ... This game shapes up to be rather meaningful as the league moves toward the postseason ... With 11 wins at home and four such dates remaining on the slate, UA has an opportunity to win 12 or more games at home for the first time since 2005-06 ... From the "Some Things Don't Change" file, when Arizona is playing well, the Cats get to the free throw line far more than its foes: UA has outscored its opponents by 8.4 points per game during its current five-game win streak and attempt 9.8 more charity tosses per game in that span.
THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Feb. 9 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 16-8 (.667) ... 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 broke open a tight game with a 20-4 run over 6:22 of the second half en route to its second straight road win, 87-77, Saturday at Oregon. Nic Wise was the driving force, as he tallied 11 of his 17 points during the run. The Wildcats, who shot 58 percent from the field after the break, scored on 13 consecutive second-half possessions and led by as many as 19 points. Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Wise combined to hit 24-of-44 field goal attempts and posted 66 of UA's 87 points.
SCOUTING USC: The Trojans enter tonight's contest with a 15-7 record (6-4 Pac-10) and winners of five of its last seven games despite last Wednesday's 76-60 loss at UCLA. On the season, USC shoots 47.0 percent (548-of-1,166) from the field, including 31.4 percent (83-of-264) from three-point range, outrebounds the opposition by a +5.6 per game margin, and outscores its opponents by 6.7 points per game. Four Trojans average in double figures, led by Dwight Lewis' 15.5 ppg mark. Taj Gibson holds the rebounding lead with a 10.0 rebounds per game average.
THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the 93rd meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 54-38 series advantage. UA has won 15 of the last 23 meetings in the series, which dates back to 1922, but USC captured the last contest, 65-64, in Los Angeles on Jan. 17. All-time, Arizona is 27-10 in series games played in Tucson, 24-28 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 65, Arizona 64, Jan. 17, 2009: Seeking its first road win of the season, Arizona led throughout the majority of this game before things slipped away in the final seconds. UA led 56-50 with 6:30 to go before Dwight Lewis single-handedly outscored the Wildcats, 12-4, over the next 4:30 to give the Trojans the lead. Arizona answered with four points of its own to take a two-point lead with 24 seconds to go, but USC's Daniel Hackett scored the game's final three points, including the clinching free throw with one tick of the clock remaining.
MAKING HIS PRESENCE FELT: Chase Budinger led Arizona to its fifth straight win - four in Pac-10 play - by averaging 21.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists last week. In the two games, Budinger shot .600 (15-of-25) from the field and .500 from three-point range (5-of-10), while playing 80 total minutes with three blocks and four steals. He opened the week by scoring 17 points to go with eight rebounds, and three assists at Oregon State. Budinger followed that up with 25 points (10th 20-point game this season) on 8-of-12 shooting, 4-of-6 from three-point range, and nine boards to go with two blocks and three steals Saturday at Oregon. On the year, Budinger is averaging 17.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, while shooting .472 from the field.
STREAKING: The Wildcats extended its current winning streak to five games after earning a pair of road wins - its first this year -- this week. The five-game streak is the longest for the Cats since the 2007-08 squad won six consecutive games from Nov.28-Dec.22. Four of those five straight wins have been in conference play, marking the first time the Cats have won four consecutive Pac-10 games since the 2004-05 season. Additionally, it's the first time the Wildcats have been above .500 in Pac-10 play since Feb.14, 2008, when the club was 6-5.
A BOOST IN PRODUCTIVITY: Over the last five games, Arizona has cranked up the offensive productivity by averaging 82.2 points per game in that span. That figure is 11.0 points per game better than its overall season scoring average (71.2 ppg). The Wildcats' top three single-game point totals this season have come in the last five games: 106 vs. Washington on Jan. 29, 96 vs. Houston on Jan. 24, and 87 at Oregon on Feb. 7. This season, Arizona is 6-0 when scoring 80 or more points. Incidentally, the Cats have won the last five games by an average of 7.6 points.
ON THE RUN: Arizona used a 20-6 run over 6:22 of the second half at Oregon Saturday to break open what was a close ball game. Nic Wise scored 11 of his 17 points during the run. At one point during that decisive second half in Eugene, Arizona scored on 13 consecutive possessions in building what became a 19-point lead.
COMMON THREADS: Big UA scoring runs proved key in both Wildcat victories last week. In addition to Saturday's 20-6 run at Oregon, Arizona registered a 30-9 run over 14:28 in Thursday's win at Oregon State. In those runs, Arizona combined to hit 20-of-32 field goals (.625), while the opposition connected on just 6-of-21 (.286) field goal attempts. Incidentally, marks the third straight game in which the Cats have posted a scoring run of more than 20 points on an opponent.
JOIN THE CLUB: With 24 points Saturday, Jordan Hill became the 43rd player in Arizona history to score 1,000 career points. The 6-foot-10 junior forward, who is one of the 30 players included on the Wooden Award midseason list, has nine 20-point games this season, and 1,007 points in 86 career appearances (11.7 ppg).
CLOSING TIME: Arizona has been a stronger offensive team in the second half. During its five game win streak, Arizona has actually been outscored by an average of 2.4 points in the first half before responding with a +8.8 points per game margin in the second half - that's an improvement of 11.2 points between periods. The Cats have also been aided by the fact that the team has scored 50 or more points three times in the second half alone: 69 vs. Washington on Jan. 29, 55 vs. Houston on Jan. 24, and 50 at Oregon on Feb. 7.
BALL SECURITY: Arizona committed just eight turnovers in Saturday's win, marking the seventh time this season that UA has turned it over fewer than 10 times in a game. What makes Saturday's effort most impressive is the fact that the Wildcats did not commit a turnover in the second half. That helped Arizona post a 17-3 advantage in turnover points, including a 6-0 difference in the second half. Saturday's effort helped the Cats improve to 11-0 this season when winning the turnover battle.
A CONNECTION IS MADE: Led by Chase Budinger, who knocked down 8-of-12 field goal attempts, Arizona hit 30-of-54 attempts (.556) from the floor Saturday at Oregon. It was the ninth time this season that Arizona has shot 50 percent or better from the field, and the team is 7-2 when that happens. Perhaps more importantly, it was the first time this season that the Cats had accomplished the feat in a true road game in 2008-09. On the year, Arizona shoots 47.3 percent (611-of-1,292) from the floor as a team.
KNOCK `EM DOWN: Arizona was especially efficient from three-point range in Sunday's win, as the team connected on 11-of-20 (.550) attempts from behind the arc. The Cats, who average 5.7 made threes per game, nearly made that many in each half against the Ducks, sinking 5-of-8 in the first half and 6-of-12 in the second. The 11 treys Saturday marked just the third time this season that Arizona has reached double figures in a game this season. Additionally, it was the sixth time this year that Arizona has shot better than 50 percent from behind the arc, but the first since Dec.14.
QUITE AN EXAMPLE: Looking for a reason for Arizona's recent resurgence? Look no further than Chase Budinger, who has averaged 20.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game over the last five games. In that span, the 6-foot-7 junior forward has only six turnovers in 199 total minutes played (39.8 mpg), or one miscue every 33.2 minutes played. In the last seven contests, Budinger has collected no fewer than seven rebounds in each game.
AN EVOLVING THREAT: Junior guard Nic Wise continues to prove himself as an all-around offensive threat, as he is averaging 13.7 points and 4.8 assists per game, while playing more than 36 minutes per outing. Wise has seen his points and assists per game averages rise significantly with each passing year. Saturday at Oregon, the 5-foot-10, native of Houston, Texas, registered 17 points and seven assists. It was his 16 double-figure scoring game of the season and the 30th of his career. Additionally, it was Wise's 13th time with five or more assists in 2008-09. Take a look at the following career comparison of Wise's minutes, points and assists per game:
Year GP MPG PPG APG 2006-07 22 8.2 1.9 0.5 2007-08 27 29.4 9.2 4.4 2008-09 24 36.4 13.7 4.8VIVE LA RÉSISTANCE: The Wildcats have also shown an ability to turn up the defensive pressure as well. Over the last four games, Arizona is averaging 8.0 steals per game, a figure that is 2.3 steals per game higher than the team's 24-game totals. Arizona collected eight steals, and the Cats have had no fewer than seven pilfers in each of the last four contests. Saturday at Oregon, Chase Budinger led the squad and equaled a season high with three steals.
AIDING THE CAUSE: Sophomore Jamelle Horne continues to contribute in meaningful ways, as indicated by his seven points, four boards, two steals and a block Saturday. The 6-foot-6 forward also set a new career high with five free throws made. His lone FG vs. the Ducks came on an impressive tip-dunk following a Nic Wise missed trey attempt. Through 24 games, Horne is averaging 7.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
SCORING 80: Arizona scored a 87 points Saturday at Oregon, breaking the 80-point barrier for the sixth time this year. Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 176-19 (.903) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points. Arizona is 6-0 this season when topping the 80-point plateau.
UP NEXT: Following tonight's game, the Wildcats will next be in action on Saturday, Feb. 14, against No. 11 UCLA. The Valentine's Day tip-off is scheduled for 11 a.m. MST and can be seen nationally on CBS-TV.