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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Pennell’s ‘slow burn’ turns into long day in McKale Center

    Current Pacific 10 mens basketball standings
    Current Pacific 10 men’s basketball standings

    Hoops Notes

    It was no secret Russ Pennell was very upset with the Arizona men’s basketball team’s lack of effort in Sunday’s 76-60 loss at Stanford.

    In fact, he was on a “”slow burn,”” as he put it.

    Instead of getting the day off on Monday, as is custom after an away game played five days prior to the next game, the Wildcats went straight to work when they got back to Tucson on Monday afternoon.

    “”We got off the plane, we went right to the film room, then we went to the weight room, then we went to the gym,”” Pennell said. “”We were here for five or six hours.

    “”Stanford, I just thought our effort was horrible,”” Pennell added. “”I didn’t like what I saw and it was unacceptable. So it’s my job that we point those things out and get them corrected.””

    The extra practice during the holiday break (there are no NCAA restrictions during the time between the fall and spring semesters) was no doubt an attention getter for the players, but Pennell, who is know for his ability to get his points across to the team without raising his voice or cursing toward them, was in no way punishing the Wildcats (9-5, 0-2 Pacific 10 Conference).

    Rather, the two-hour film session, weight lifting and practice – which was instructed much like practices after Arizona lost to Alabama-Birmingham and Texas A&M, in which the coaches had the players reenact crucial plays from the games – were put into place to help the players.

    “”We’re not brow beating them at all. That’s not our style,”” Pennell said. “”But it is accountability. If you don’t do something right, do it again, do it again, do it again, so it becomes the new habit. We’ll bounce back, I’m sure. I’m optimistic. I’m not discouraged at all.””

    As for the way the players responded, Pennell didn’t ask them.

    “”And it really didn’t matter to me,”” Pennell said. “”I think there’s an obligation that players have to play hard. There’s always this talk, do players need to get paid? They do get paid. They get a scholarship, and they get their tuition paid, and they get their room and board paid, and they travel basically first class, stay in great hotels, and the least they can do is give an unbelieveable effort in a basketball game.

    “”Nobody ever asked them to win,”” Pennell said. “”Winning’s a byproduct when they do things correct. But when your effort’s sub-par, you gotta be called on that. So (Monday) I was in no mood to ask any questions. (Monday) I was, this is the way we’re gonna do it.””

    Pennell’s positive energy seemed to rub off on junior Jordan Hill. When asked what he learned about the team over the weekend, he paused for quite some time before his answer.

    “”Even though we didn’t play as good as we could, at the end of the game, we still were fighting. We were down by 10, 15, we never gave up and kept fighting.

    “”The turnovers (20 against Stanford) is really what killed us, and we tried hard to take care of the ball, but still it was getting out of hand,”” Hill added. “”But as I look at the film, we kept fighting and we kept fighting.””

    Hill: Confidence low for veterans

    After starting 0-2 in conference play, the confidence level of the Wildcats’ upperclassmen has diminished, Hill said.

    “”For the older guys – I know about me, Nic (Wise), Chase (Budinger), Fendi (Onobun) – we feel kind of low because we know we were better than that. We beat the No. 4 team in the country (Gonzaga), we beat Kansas. And we come out to Stanford and Cal and lose that bad. We know we’re a good team.””

    Hill, who leads the team in points (17.5 per game) and rebounds (13. 5 per game), said he and the other vets may need to help the younger players get acclimated to Pac-10 play more.

    “”Some of the young guys, they still don’ t know what’s going on,”” Hill said. “”They’re freshmen. So we just got to walk with them, and talk with them, and let them know, ‘Hey, we could be one of the best teams in the country, but you’ve got to fight, and it ain’t going to come easy, so we’ve got to work hard at it.'””

    Turnovers are killer

    The Wildcats had 12 turnovers that resulted in 16 California points on Friday. Then on Sunday, they turned the ball over 20 times, which led to 20 points for Stanford, to go with 16 second-chance points.

    The miscues were Pennell’s biggest concern, he said.

    “”The 3-point shot is not what’s beating us. It’s turnovers,”” Pennell said. “”Against Stanford, we gave up 20 points off of our turnovers, and 16 points of second-chance opportunities. That meant we were turning the ball over and we weren’t boxing out. Thirty-six points. Well, we might have well walked up to the scorer’s table before the game and said, ‘Mark them down for 36 and we’ll start now.’ You can’t play that way.””

    Internet critics

    Pennell has received an influx of e-mails from people criticizing the coach about the two losses in the Bay Area. According to the content in his inbox, he’s not the same coach he was after the Wildcats beat then-No. 4 Gonzaga.

    “”No, I’m much the same coach after UAB,”” he said smiling weakly.

    The e-mails don’t, however, stoke Pennell’s emotional flames much.

    “”Usually I just disregard them. I understand people are passionate, and (the e-mails) really don’t affect me,”” he said. “”I know that sounds simplistic, but they really don’t. … You just do the best you can and people will have their opinions, and that’s fine, and that’s what makes the sport great.””

    New photos

    Coaches wore suits and ties and the UA players dressed out in their white game jerseys Tuesday afternoon to take a team photo on Lute & Bobbi Olson Court. The photo was likely a retake of sorts, said UA team information director Rich Paige, as the Wildcats originally took a team shot for the season with Lute Olson, who retired before the season began.

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