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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    PG Wise sparks Arizona offense

    UA guard Nic Wise drives to the hoop in Arizonas 75-62 over Florida Atlantic in McKale Center on Monday night. Wise scored 19 points and dished out 9 assists as the Wildcats spark plug.
    UA guard Nic Wise drives to the hoop in Arizona’s 75-62 over Florida Atlantic in McKale Center on Monday night. Wise scored 19 points and dished out 9 assists as the Wildcats’ spark plug.

    Point Guard U, please welcome the Nic Wise Era.

    Wise and his supporting cast of guards sparked the Wildcats (1-0) to a 75-62 season-opener victory Monday night over Florida Atlantic (0-1) in the 2008 Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tipoff.

    Arizona plays tonight at 9:30 against Alabama-Birmingham for a chance to go to New York City next Wednesday.

    “”Nic’s our point guard – any point guard on our team needs to be the team leader on the floor,”” said UA forward Chase Budinger. “”He’s our guy that gets us going and we’re kind of just following his stride. When he has games like this, we’re going to be tough to beat.””

    Wise pushed the tempo, aggressively drove to the basket and sparked the offense with 19 points, 9 assists and 2 steals.

    The Wildcats used a routine regimen throughout the second half to out-score a jump-shooting oriented Florida Atlantic. UA forward Jordan Hill rebounded, then dished it to an active, high-tempo Wise.

    At that point, the formula was set.

    “”That’s been my job pretty much all my career,”” Wise said. “”When a team’s down, just get us going and run the show. When I see (Chase) making shots, it gets me hyped.””

    Added UA interim head coach Russ Pennell: “”Nic is really an unbelievable basketball player. One of the things we’re really been pushing him to do is really take leadership of this team. It’s nice when your point guard can be your leader.””

    Additionally, Pennell gave Wise the green light to call the plays during the second half.

    “”Again, I want him to take ownership,”” Pennell said. “”We work on stuff to run it in games. I thought tonight he was outstanding, and I love it when the ball is in his hands.””

    Budinger seemingly snapped out of a mediocre preseason where he went 5-for-19 from the floor in two exhibition games.

    Monday night, in front of 13,006 fans, Budinger debuted the regular season with a game-high 21 points and 5 rebounds.

    When asked if the 6-foot-7 junior rediscovered his stroke after opening the game with back-to-back 3s, Budinger responded with, “”it never went away.””

    “”I was able to hit my couple shots, and that gave me some confidence. We got the win – anytime you get a win, you’re happy.

    “”A lot of people had doubts about us,”” Budinger added. “”This was a game to kind of show people we can still play.””

    Then there was Kyle Fogg, the unproven freshman who gave Pennell a tip for those late first-half struggles: Play him.

    Literally, it was his poke that awoke the Arizona men’s basketball team from a lackluster first-half start.

    Fogg’s mid-court deflection sparked a 21-13 run to finish the half, complementing another solid debut from fellow freshman guard Garland Judkins, who scored 7 points with 2 steals in 26 minutes.

    While pressing on his first possession in the game, Fogg deflected a pass, stole the ball and converted the layup to cut Arizona’s deficit to 22-18.

    “”I saw that they were moving the ball a lot on the bench, and I thought they were doing a good job of ball movement, so I just tried to get in the passing lane and I ended up getting my hand out there and getting the steal,”” Fogg said. “”I was pretty pumped up after that. The nervousness was out of the way after that. I was ready to play.””

    Added forward Fendi Onobun, who registered a rebound and steal in 16 minutes: “”Kyle did some good things, man – he had a great game. Big ups to Kyle, getting those shots, getting that steal. Those three guys, especially Garland and Nic, they’re just a havoc on the ball.””

    On back-to-back offensive possessions following Fogg’s steal, Horne and Budinger answered after defensive stops with monster dunks to ignite McKale Center’s inaugural crowd.

    “”It’s just one of those plays where I saw the gap that opened up, so I just went at it,”” Budinger said. “”You’re going to have to do those kind of plays against good teams. I just got to do that.””

    Florida Atlantic lingered throughout the first half, sparked from 23 points by guard Paul Graham III and a double-double (15 rebounds, 10 points) from forward Chris Watson.

    Florida Atlantic out-rebounded the Wildcats 37-28 and earned 14 second-chance points. But the size and power of UA forward Jordan Hill contributed heavily to Arizona’s 30 points in the paint.

    Hill finished the night with a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) but only played 25 minutes after picking up a quick two fouls in the first half.

    This gave Pennell an opportunity to experiment with a smaller lineup. Late in the first half, Pennell fielded three guards (Wise, Judkins and Fogg) and two swingmen (Budinger and Horne).

    Horne scored 10 points and registered 4 rebounds in 36 minutes for the Wildcats.

    “”When you win games it doesn’t matter how it looks: The bottom line is getting the job done,”” Pennell said.

    Pennell’s coaching debut

    Pennell opened his press conference proclaiming, “”Well we’re undefeated, so I guess that’s good.””

    Monday night in McKale Center resumed Pennell’s coaching career right where it left off: Tucson.

    As an assistant coach for ASU, Pennell coached his last game on March 7, 2004 against the Wildcats. He lost and resigned the next day.

    “”The only time I really thought about it was right before the game,”” Pennell said. “”To be the interim head coach was kind of an interesting moment for me. Once I got out there on the floor, it was just another basketball game.””

    And 1

    Arizona showed its best defensive effort, Pennell said, as a whole team. After allowing Florida Atlantic to shoot 50 percent from both the floor and beyond the arc, Arizona shut down the perimeter game by stopping all 10 second-half attempts from Florida Atlantic.

    “”I thought tonight our guys played probably as hard as I’ve seen them play,”” Pennell said. “”We still have a ways to go, and that’s a big step for us.

    “”I thought tonight’s game was kind of a grind,”” he added. “”At times we played well, at times it was kind of ugly. When push came to shove, I thought we fought it.”” …

    Longtime head coach Mike Jarvis, who is in his first year at Florida Atlantic, had nothing but praise for the Arizona basketball program.

    Jarvis led his 1993 George Washington squad to the NCAA Sweet 16 – a journey that passed through McKale Center throughout the early tournament rounds.

    “”One of my all-time favorite stops (is) in McKale Center,”” Jarvis said. “”Even when you lose, sometimes it’s kind of special.

    “”When we had an opportunity to come in this tournament, I was personally really looking forward to being on the opposite side of the bench so I could someday tell whoever it is that I had a chance to coach against Lute Olson,”” Jarvis added.

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