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Game Notes: Dec. 16, 2008
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 12/16/2008
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Dec. 16, 2008

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Date: Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008

Time: Noon PST

Location: Thomas & Mack Center (18,500), Las Vegas, Nev.

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

TV: Versus (Tim Neverett/Tim McCormick)

GAME DATA: Arizona (7-2, 0-0 Pac-10) hits the road for the final time in December to take on UNLV (8-2, 0-0 MWC) Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center ... The Wildcats lead the Pac-10 in field goal percentage (.517), assists per game (16.6) and assist:turnover ratio (1.4), and rank second in three-point field goal percentage (.467) and three-point FG percentage defense (.307) ... UA is 7-1 this season when shooting better than the opposition ... Arizona's football team takes on Brigham Young in the Pioneer Audio Las Vegas Bowl across town at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday night. Kick-off on ESPN is at 5 p.m. PST.

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the Dec. 15 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 7-2 (.778) ... 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: Arizona used a 10-0 run early in the second half to take control of the game en route to a 69-64 win Sunday over No. 4 Gonzaga in Phoenix. The Cats held Gonzaga to 39 percent shooting and forced eight turnovers in the second half in leading by as many as nine points. Arizona did not trail over the final 17:31. It was UA's first win over a top-five ranked program since November 2001. Nic Wise scored 13 of his career-high 21 points in the first half, while Jordan Hill added 22 points, three blocks and three steals.

SCOUTING UNLV: The Runnin' Rebels enter today's contest with an 8-2 record following Sunday's 70-61 win over Western Michigan. Each of UNLV's last three victories have been by nine points or less. On the season the Rebs shoot 41.7 percent (239-of-573) from the field, are outrebound by a 2.0 rebounds per game margin, and outscore opponents by 7.4 points per game. Today's game is UNLV's first home game in December. Three Rebs average in double figures, led by Wink Adams' 14.2 ppg clip. Rene Rougeau leads the club with an 8.2 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Today's game is the 16th meeting of the two schools with UNLV holding a 9-6 advantage in the series, which dates back to Dec. 28, 1972. The Wildcats have won two straight in the series, including the last meeting, 52-49 , last Dec. 19 in Las Vegas. All-time, Arizona is 4-1 in series games played in Tucson, 1-6 in Las Vegas, Nev., and 1-2 in neutral-site games. See page 93 in the Arizona basketball media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Arizona 52, UNLV 49, Dec. 19, 2007: With all else awry, Arizona relied on its defense and rebounding to secure another come-from-behind win. The Cats forced the Runnin' Rebels to miss 14 of its last 16 field goals in the game to erase as much as an eight-point, second-half deficit. UA limited UNLV to just 31 percent shooting and posted a +17 rebound margin in what turned out to be Arizona's first-ever win in Las Vegas. Jordan Hill totaled 16 points and 19 rebounds, while Jawann McClellan buried a trey with 26 seconds to go to secure the win.

AGAINST THE MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE: All-time, Arizona is 185-132 (.584) against teams that currently make up the Mountain West Conference. Over the last five-plus seasons, the Wildcats are 9-0 against Mountain West foes. On Dec. 10, UA defeated San Diego State, 69-56, in its lone appearance to date against a MWC opponent.

WILL IT BE LIKE THE LAST TIME?: Almost a year ago to the day (Dec. 19), these same two teams met at the Thomas & Mack Center each with 7-2 records. The Cats and Rebs entered the contest with a combined scoring average of better than 150 points (153.5), and what we saw could most positively be described as a defensive struggle. The teams combined to hit just 36-of-110 shots (.327) and struggled to break the cumulative century mark in the 52-49 Wildcat win.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Jordan Hill, a 6-foot-10, 235-pound, junior forward from Atlanta, Ga., was named U.S. Bank Pac-10 Player of the Week Monday after averaging 23.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.5 blocks in a pair of victories last week. He connected on 60.7 percent (17-of-28) of his field goal attempts to go with four assists, four steals and one double-double. His week began by posting career-high totals of 25 points, four assists and six blocks to go with 14 rebounds in the Dec. 10 win over San Diego State. The double-double was his sixth this season. Hill followed that up with 22 points, six boards, three blocks and a career-high three steals in the win Sunday over No. 4 Gonzaga. It was his fifth 20-point scoring effort this season. Hill is the first Arizona player to earn Pac-10 Player-of-the-Week honors this season. It is the second time Hill has earned the distinction in his career, and the 72nd such award for an Arizona player.

SELECTIVITY: The Wildcats have proven to be a selective bunch, and one not reliant on the three-point shot. Yes, UA is shooting .507 (38-of-75) from three-point range over the last five games to boost the season-long percentage from distance to .467 (56-of-120). But Arizona has done so without taking a lot of attempts. On the season, the Cats have made almost the same number of treys (56) as the opposition (59), but have done so in 72 fewer attempts. All told, Arizona averages 13.3 long-range attempts per game, while opponents are averaging 21.3 attempts.

AMONG THE BEST: Through nine games, Arizona has proven itself to be a good shooting team, as witnessed by its .517 (244-of-472) field goal percentage, a mark that ranks fourth nationally (Utah State/.541). Five times in those nine games, Arizona has shot better than 50 percent from the floor, and the squad is 4-1 in those games. Additionally, the Wildcats are shooting .467 (56-of-120) from three-point range. That figure ranks second nationally behind only California (.517).

A NOTEWORTHY WIN: Sunday's win over then-fourth-ranked Gonzaga was the Wildcats' first win of the season against a ranked opponent. Additionally, it was the program's first win over an opponent ranked in the top five since Nov. 8, 2001, when Arizona defeated No. 2 Maryland, 71-67, in the opening game of the Coaches vs. Cancer IKON Classic in New York City. A day later, the 2001-02 Cats also defeated No. 5 Florida, 75-71.

FOR THE LEAGUE: Arizona's win over Gonzaga was notable not just because UA moved to 1-0 against ranked foes. UA's 69-64 win was the first for a Pac-10 team against a ranked opponent this season. Prior to Sunday, the Pac-10 was a combined 0-9 against ranked teams in 2008-09.

RUNNING AWAY: Two Kyle Fogg free throws with 17:31 remaining ignited a 10-0 UA run Sunday and gave the Wildcats a 47-38 lead, one it would not relinquish. Arizona was 4-of-5 from the field during the run and limited Gonzaga to 0-of-6 shooting in that span of 2:57. On the season, Arizona has outscored opponents by an average of 7.9 points per game in the second half.

BALL SECURITY: Arizona helped itself Sunday by committing just 10 turnovers in Sunday's win, marking the fourth time this season that the Cats have tallied 10 or fewer turnovers in a game. Incidentally, Arizona's miscue tally was nearly nine fewer than what Gonzaga was forcing on average (18.6) entering Sunday's game. The Cats are 5-0 this season when it has fewer turnovers than the opposition.

GOOD STARTS PROVE HELPFUL: The Wildcats helped itself Sunday by getting off to a good start Sunday, as the club led 8-5 at the first media timeout and 19-15 with 10 minutes remaining in the opening half. This season, Arizona is 6-1 when leading at the 10-minute mark and 4-1 when leading at the break. On average, UA outscores its opponents, 35.3-31.0, in the opening period of basketball.

ALMOST A CERTAINTY: Forward Jordan Hill enters Saturday's game just six rebounds shy of 500 for his career. In his 72-game career, the 6-foot-10 native of Atlanta, Ga., has 494 rebounds, good for a 6.9 rebounds per game average. Over the last 15 games dating back to last season, Hill has grabbed less than six rebounds only once - 3, at Oregon on March 8, 2008. In his last appearance at the Thomas & Mack Center, Hill collected 19 rebounds.

A CAREER HIGH: Junior guard Nic Wise scored a career-high 21 points in the win over Gonzaga, which was the 20th career game in double figures for the Houston, Texas, product. It wasn't the only career best for Wise, as he also drained four treys, shot nine free throws and was credited with two blocked shots. Seven of Wise's 20 games in double figures have come this season.

IN A FOGG: Freshman Kyle Fogg played a key role yet again for the Cats in the win over Gonzaga, as the guard tallied all six of his points in the second half (including UA's first four points of the period) to go with two rebounds. Most impressively, the Brea, Calif., native passed out a career-high four assists against zero turnovers in 31 minutes Sunday. Overall, Fogg averages 4.1 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.8 assists on the year, to go with a 72.2 (13-of-18) field goal percentage. He is the only freshman to see action in all nine games to date.

CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS: Arizona has started to heat up from the free throw line, connecting on 76.2 percent (48-of-63) of its attempts over the last four games, which has boosted UA's season total to 119-of-168 (.708). Arizona still outscores the opposition by an average of 4.8 points per game from the line and has made more free throws (119) than the opposition has attempted (107).

DEFENSIVE EFFORT: Arizona limited Gonzaga to 39.3 percent shooting (11-of-28) in the second half Sunday, which led the Bulldogs to a season-low .429 FG percentage. The Wildcats outshot the Zags to improve to 7-1 this year when shooting better than the opposition. In the last five games, opponents are shooting a combined .397 (114-of-287) from the field and are averaging just 60.2 points per game.

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: After this afternoon's game, Arizona returns home to host Kansas in the Desert Diamond Fiesta Bowl Classic on Tue., Dec. 23. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. MST and can be seen nationally on Fox Sports Net.

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