The Cats faced a rough non-conference schedule that featured three teams which spent most of the season among the top four in the national rankings. Arizona went 5-4 against those non-conference opponents, with quality losses to Purdue, Louisiana Tech and Colorado State and a big road win over UC Santa Barbara.
That tough early slate prepared the Cats for a season of Pac-10 play which showed more parity than it has in years. After getting off to a rocky 1-3 start in league play, the Cats rebounded to finish the season 11-3, with wins over Pac-10 co-champion Oregon and over perennial power Stanford.
The Wildcats then received their third consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament, earning a #6 seed in the Midwest Region. The Cats travelled to Piscataway, N.J., for the first- and second-round games, hosted by #3 seed and ninth-ranked Rutgers.
Arizona faced NCAA tourney veteran Florida in the first round of play and defeated the Gators, 87-84, in overtime to move on to the second round for the third straight year. The Cats then took on host Rutgers, only to end the season on a sour note, falling to the Scarlet Knights, 90-47.
Arizona had its most balanced offense in five years, with four players averaging in double digits in scoring, and ended its season by winning 12 of its final 16 contests. The Cats broke or tied 13 school records this year, including setting new marks in single season free throws made (520) and blocked shots (88). The Wildcats finished the year as the Pac-10 leader in free throw percentage (.721) and in assist/turnover ratio (0.86). The Cats were second in offense (74.2 ppg), assists (16.59 apg) and turnover margin (+3.79 tpg).
ON THE INDIVIDUAL FRONT: With 14.4 points per game, junior forward Angela Lackey led four Wildcats averaging in double digits in scoring. Junior guard Felecity Willis came in second with her 12.1 ppg scoring average, followed closely by freshman forward Elizabeth Pickney at 11.4 ppg. Pickney was the team's top rebounder with 5.8 per game, while Willis was the team's assists leader, averaging 5.5 apg.
Lackey was second in rebounding with 5.4 rpg,and sophomore guard Reshea Bristol posted 11.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, followed by junior guard Lisa Griffith with 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game.
Several Wildcats finished the year among the Pac-10 statistical leaders. Bristol was third in the Pac-10 in steals (2.71 spg), and Willis was third in both assists (5.52 apg) and in field goal percentage (.546). Lackey was fifth in scoring (14.4 ppg), Pickney was fifth in blocked shots (1.21 bpg), and Griffith was fifth in assists (4.79 apg).
Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini made her 13th career trip to the NCAA tournament. She has a 22-13 career record in NCAA play and has never lost an NCAA first-round game. Bonvicini is 134-98 in her eighth year at the helm of Arizona's program and holds a 459-169 mark in 20 years as a head coach.
ARIZONA'S LAST TIME OUT: In the second round of the NCAA tournament on Mar. 14, Arizona was dominated by #3 seed and ninth-ranked Rutgers, 90-47, in Piscataway, N.J. The Scarlet Knights opened the contest with a 29-7 run and never looked back as they ran their way to a 19-point (41-22) lead by halftime. Rutgers kicked off the second half with a 17-2 spurt, and the Wildcats, shooting a miserable 30 percent for the period, never had a chance as Rutgers went on to push the lead to as great as 45 points (82-37) at the 2:39 mark. Angela Lackey was the only Wildcat to reach double digits in scoring, nabbing 12 points to go with six rebounds and two steals. Felecity Willis had eight points, four steals and two assists before going down with a severe muscle spasm in her right shoulder late in the game. Elizabeth Pickney added seven points and six rebounds, and Lisa Griffith was credited with a game-high-tying seven assists.
HEAD COACH JOAN BONVICINI: In her eight years at the helm of the University of Arizona's women's basketball program, head coach Joan Bonvicini has collected an unparalleled list of accomplishments, both for the university and for her career. Now with a career win total of 459, Bonvicini is still steering the Wildcat program at full steam ahead. With a season that saw her playing five freshmen on a regular basis, Bonvicini guided the 1999 Cats to yet another NCAA tournament appearance, its third in as many years. In her eight years with the Cats, Bonvicini has posted a 134-98 (.578) mark. Prior to taking over at the UA, Bonvicini led Long Beach State to 10 consecutive NCAA appearances, including two trips to the Final Four. She registered a 325-71 mark in 12 seasons with the 49ers. Bonvicini is 459-169 (.731) in 20 years as a collegiate head coach. She also has a 22-13 record in NCAA tournament play and has never lost a first-round game in 13 appearances.
RACKING UP THE WINS: Joan Bonvicini needs only 25 more victories at the UA to collect as many wins as the six previous Wildcat coaches combined.
BONVICINI HITS 450: Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini picked up career win number 450 with the victory over Oregon State on Jan. 23. That was also her 125th win at Arizona.
THE REST OF THE STAFF: Recently awarded the title of associate head coach, Denise Dove (Northern Illinois, 1991) just wrapped up her seventh year at the UA, functioning primarily as the team's recruiting coordinator and also working with the perimeter players. In his first year at the UA, assistant coach Sam Dixon (Wooster, 1979) is involved with recruiting, scouting, academics and coaching post players. Coming to the UA from Oregon State, first-year assistant coach Karen Caires (Cal State Northridge, 1990) works with the perimeter players, assists with scouting and recruiting and directs the Joan Bonvicini Hoop Camp.
UA HONORED WITH PLAY OF THE WEEK: Reshea Bristol's buzzer-beater layup to force overtime against Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament was chosen the Compaq Play of the Week for Mar. 15. This is the first such honor for the Wildcat women.
THE CATS AND THE NCAA TOURNEY: Arizona made its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance in 1997, receiving a No. 7 seed in the West Region. The Cats defeated 25th-ranked Western Kentucky in the first round, then went on to scare host and sixth-ranked Georgia (80-74) in the second game. Last season saw the Cats enter the tournament as the No. 3 seed in the East Region. The UA swept through the first two games, picking up wins over Santa Clara and Virginia, and made it into the Sweet Sixteen, only to fall to then-third-ranked Connecticut. This year, the Cats earned a #6 seed in the Midwest Region, defeating 11th-seeded Florida, 87-84, in overtime to nab yet another first-round win. Arizona fell to #3 seed and ninth-ranked Rutgers, 90-47, in the second round of the tourney. Arizona has now been placed in a different region in each of its three years of NCAA tournament competition.
IT'S JUST A LITTLE EXTRA TIME: Arizona played in two overtime contests this season, the first time ever under head coach Joan Bonvicini that the Cats have had more than one OT game in a year. The UA is 4-1 in overtime games under Bonvicini. The Cats last played two overtime games during the 1990-91 season, gaining a win and a loss. Arizona has not had two overtime wins in the same year since the 1989-90 team won a pair of its season's four overtime games.
GONE DANCIN': Ten of Arizona's regular season opponents this year earned NCAA Tournament berths, by virtue either of winning a conference title or earning at-large bids. Purdue, Louisiana Tech, Stephen F. Austin, Nebraska, UCLA, Wisconsin-Green Bay, UC Santa Barbara, Colorado State, Stanford and Oregon all made the "Big Dance" this year. The UA went 5-8 against these opponents this season, including victories over Oregon, Stanford and UC Santa Barbara.
PLAYING WITH THE BEST: During the regular season, Arizona may have earned only a 1-6 record against ranked teams, but take a closer look at those games. The Cats lost to ranked teams by an average of only 6.6 points per game during regular season play. They lost by no more than 13 (85-72 to #2 Louisiana Tech on Dec. 6) and were as close as six points (82-76 to #18 Oregon on Feb. 21).
UA TEAM HONORS: At the team banquet on Mar. 7, the UA announced its annual team awards. Felecity Willis and Angela Lackey were named co-Most Valuable Player, and Willis received the team's Hustle Award. Reshea Bristol was selected Defensive Player of the Year, and Elizabeth Pickney was chosen Freshman of the Year. LaKeisha Taylor was named Most Improved Player.
WEDDING BELLS AND BASKETBALLS: The annual team banquet on Mar. 7 held quite a surprise for junior guard Lisa Griffith. Her long-time boyfriend, former UA football player Yusuf Scott, proposed to her in front of the entire banquet crowd. Griffith, of course, accepted.
CAN'T GET RID OF US: The Wildcats are not ones to take tournament competition of any kind lightly -- no "one-and-out" here. The Wildcats have made it past the first round of play in each of the last 11 straight tournaments (including post-season) in which they have competed. In their last six regular-season tourneys, the Cats have made it to the championship game in each, and in each of their four straight post-season appearances, the Wildcats have gotten past the first round of play.
PAC-10 HONORS: Junior guard Felecity Willis and junior forward Angela Lackey were both chosen first team All-Pac-10 this year, and freshman forward Elizabeth Pickney was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team. Junior guard Lisa Griffith earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors as well. This is the first time since the 1995-96 season that the UA has had two first team All-Pac-10 picks, and it's the first time in the program's history that the Cats have had two first teamers and an All-Freshman honoree. Arizona has had at least one first team All-Pac-10 selection every year since 1995-96.
DID YOU KNOW: Since Bonvicini took over the Arizona program in 1991, the Wildcats have gone 72-72 against Pac-10 teams, although they have a 38-16 league mark over the last three seasons combined.
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL: The 1999 Wildcats ended the season with an average of only 19.3 turnovers per game. That is the lowest turnover average ever for a Bonvicini-coached team at the UA and is the lowest since the 1986 team committed only 17.3 turnovers per game. The Wildcats had a mere nine turnovers in their win over Stanford on Feb. 27, the lowest turnover total since committing only eight against USC on Feb. 17, 1996.
"TOEING" THE LINE: Over the final 11 games of the year, Arizona averaged 5.2 more free throws made per game than its opponents. In their last 15 games, the Cats shot 75.8 percent (291-384) from the line, including 10 performances of 77 percent of better. On the season, Arizona hit 72.1 percent from the line, making this squad the first since the 1993-94 team to shoot better than 70 percent from the stripe. That squad also shot 72.1 percent for the year.
AND THE RECORDS FALL: With 520 free throws made this year, the Wildcats have set a new school record in that category, surpassing the previous total of 508 by the 1991 team. The Cats' season total of 88 blocked shots is also a new school record. The old mark was 83, set by the 1998 team.
SQUEAKERS: The outcome of 11 of the UA's 18 Pac-10 contests this season was settled by a spread of 10 points or less. For the year, Arizona had a total of 16 out of 28 games decided by 10 points or less.
MUSICAL LINEUPS: Arizona used six different starting lineups this season. The most frequently used, and most recent, lineup was Bristol, Lackey, Pickney, Griffith and Willis, used for 13 games. Switching around of the starting lineups is no new thing for the UA, though. The Wildcats used 10 different lineups in the 1997-98 season.
LACKEY TAKES OVER: Junior forward Angela Lackey became the "big gun" for the Wildcats in the latter part of the season, especially over the last 13 contests. Lackey averaged 12.4 ppg against non-conference opponents during the regular season and lifted that average to 14.7 ppg against Pac-10 teams. Lackey also lifted her free throw percentage from .605 in non-conference play to .777 against Pac-10 opponents. However, over the final 13 games of the year, she averaged 16.5 ppg, including her season high of 29 points against Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Mar. 12, and grabbed 6.3 rebounds per game. During that stretch, Lackey also hit .818 (63-77) from the free throw line. Lackey ended the season on a string of 17 straight free throws made, and over the final five games of the year, she hit .912 (31-34) from the line.
WHAT A RELIEF: Freshman guard Julie Brase seemed on the verge of breaking out for the Cats when she suffered a broken nose in practice on Dec. 17. For five games from Dec. 27-Jan. 9, Brase had to wear a protective face mask, and it obviously hampered her play, as she averaged only 4.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.0 assists per game during that stretch. She also hit a paltry .286 (8-28) from the floor. Brase was able to return to play without the mask against Arizona State on Jan. 16, and in the 16 games from that point on, she put up averages of 8.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg and 2.0 apg. She also hit 48.5 percent (48-99) from the floor.
GOTTA CRASH THE BOARDS: Arizona was outrebounded by an average of 7.1 boards per game over the last 17 contests of the year. Pac-10 opponents grabbed an average of 5.4 rebounds per game more than the Cats. The UA outrebounded its opponent in only seven games this year.
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER: Maybe the Cats should have played all of their Pac-10 games on Saturdays this year... Arizona posted a 6-3 record in Saturday Pac-10 games this season. During those contests, the UA outscored its opponents by an average of 8.6 ppg and shot 44.6 percent from the floor. On the other hand, Arizona went 4-2 in Thursday Pac-10 games, outscoring opponents only by 3.4 ppg. The Cats shot only 42.8 percent from the floor on Thursday nights.
COMING INTO HER OWN: Freshman center LaKeisha Taylor began to have an impact for the Cats over her last 14 games of the season. During that span, she averaged 5.5 points and 3.1 rebounds per game and shot .557 (34-61) from the floor. That's quite an improvement over 2.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg and .344 field goal percentage during her first 13 games. Taylor nailed her season high of 12 points, including a crucial layup during the overtime period, against Florida on Mar. 12 to help the Cats to a victory in the first round of the NCAA tourney.
JUST LIKE DAYS OF OLD: The 1998-99 Wildcats may have been practically a new team, but they still resembled the UA teams of recent past in one respect -- they forced turnovers like crazy. Pac-10 opponents averaged 24.8 turnovers per game against the UA this season, while the Cats committed only 17.9 in league games. On the season, opponents averaged 23.2 turnovers per contest, and Arizona averaged a 13-year low of only 19.3 turnovers to go with 11.1 steals per game.
80 IS THE MAGIC NUMBER: Seems that the 80-point mark almost always means adding another to the "win" column for the Wildcats. In the 27-year history of Arizona women's basketball, the Cats have posted a 109-15 record when scoring 80 points or more in a game. Under Joan Bonvicini, the Wildcats have gone 69-8 when topping that 80-point plateau.
BALANCED ATTACK: Arizona had five regular players average better than nine points in scoring this year. Angela Lackey led with 14.4 ppg, followed by Felecity Willis (12.1 ppg), Elizabeth Pickney (11.4 ppg), Reshea Bristol (11.4ppg) and Lisa Griffith (9.7 ppg). The Cats finished the season with four players in double digits, the most well-balanced scoring for the UA since the 1993-94 team had six players with double figure averages.
BENCH CONTRIBUTIONS: The UA bench was rather productive this season, averaging 15.2 ppg for the year.
LONG RANGE BOMBING: After struggling from three-point range through the first 14 games of the season, the Wildcats broke loose for a 5-of-7 performance from long range against Oregon on Jan. 21. In the 15 games after that time, Arizona shot 36.7 percent (62-169) from three-point range, averaging 4.1 made per game. The Cats also did a better job of defending the perimeter, allowing opponents to shoot 34.7 percent (70-202) from out there. During that early 14-game stretch, the Cats hit only 27.8 percent (42-151) from beyond the arc, an average of only 3.0 made per game. In those 14 games, the Wildcat opponents shot 39.1 percent (109-279) from three-point range.
KEYS TO THE WIN: This season, Arizona was... 13-0 when leading at the half... 6-1 when outrebounding the opponent... 13-4 when four or more players reached the double-digit mark in scoring... 16-3 when shooting better from the floor than the opponent... 18-6 when hitting over 40% from the field... 13-4 when shooting better from the free throw line than the opponent... 16-6 when hitting the 70-point mark or higher.
RECORD WATCH: Junior guard Lisa Griffith has surpassed former Stanford player Vanessa Nygaard to become the Pac-10 career leader in three-pointers made, with 212. Griffith became Arizona's all-time leader in three-pointers made on Feb. 6. She is also the UA leader in career three-pointers attempted, with 573. Griffith has moved up to #14 on the UA's top-20 all-time leading scorers' list. With 915 career points, she needs only 10 more points to move into the #13 spot. Griffith has also joined the career top-10 list for games started, coming in at #4 with 86 career starts. She recently moved up to sixth on the career assists list, with 349. Felecity Willis stands in eighth in career three-pointers attempted (141) and in 3FG made (38). She stands in fifth place on the all-time assists chart, with her 372 career dishes putting her 47 out of fourth place.
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: During Joan Bonvicini's tenure at Arizona, the Wildcats have posted an 80-38 mark in McKale Center, including a 49-10 record over the last four seasons combined. Arizona has a record of 147-146 on its home court since the 1976-77 season.
SPREADING THE WEALTH: Arizona had three or more players score in double digits in 26 of the season's 29 games.
BLOCK PARTY: The Wildcats swatted eight shots twice this season, most recently against Florida on Mar. 12. That's the highest block total since collecting eight at Arizona State on Feb. 8, 1997. As a team, Arizona averaged 3.0 blocks per game for the season, and the year's 88 blocked shots is a new UA school record.
ON LOCATION: Arizona posted an 11-3 mark at home, was 5-8 on the road and notched a 2-0 record in neutral contests this season. The Cats went 14-1 at home last year, were 7-4 on the road and were 2-2 in neutral games.
CAT SCRATCHES: Under head coach Joan Bonvicini, the Cats have gone 23-16 in games settled by five points or less, including a 7-4 mark in games settled by one or two points... The Arizona women's basketball program has a 293-389 (.430) all-time record, however it is 97-53 (.647) from 1994 to present... Joan Bonvicini has a 162-86 career record against Pac-10 teams... Over the last eight seasons, Bonvicini's Arizona teams have won 46 games by spreads of 20 points or more.
IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME: Arizona's win at Arizona State on Feb. 13 marked the Cats' first overtime game since an 85-79 win at San Francisco on Nov. 15, 1996, during the first round of the Preseason WNIT. It was also only the second overtime game for the Cats in the last five years.
CATS LOSE TATUM BROWN: In mid-January, junior forward Tatum Brown was ruled ineligible for the remainder of the 1998-99 season. Brown played in 13 games for the Wildcats, averaging 9.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game. She was permitted to continue practicing with the team but was not allowed to play or to travel. Brown will be returning to play next season.
FEELING CHARITABLE: Arizona set a new school record with 37 free throws made and tied a school record with 46 free throws attempted against Oregon State on Jan. 23. The Cats' shooting percentage for that game was 80.4, giving the UA back-to-back 80 percent free throw shooting performances, after hitting 80.8 percent against Oregon on Jan. 21. That has not happened since the Cats hit 80 percent against Cal on Jan. 26, 1991, then hit 83.3 percent against Oregon on Jan. 31, 1991.
FEELING CHARITABLE, PART DEUX: The Wildcats had a very good night from the charity stripe during a contest against Washington on Feb. 4. Arizona hit 89.7 percent (26-29) from the line, by far their best performance of the season to date and their top performance since hitting 90.6 percent (29-32) at San Francisco in the first round of the Preseason NIT on Nov. 15, 1997.
GROWING PAINS: This was Arizona's roughest start (8-7) since the Wildcats started at 7-8 in the 1994-95 season. That 1995 squad played eight freshmen and sophomores and only one senior and finished the year at 11-19 overall. Compare to this season's team, which was fielding six freshmen and sophomores and no seniors at all.
BRISTOL NAMED PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Reshea Bristol was named Pac-10 Player of the Week on Jan. 25 after leading the Cats to the sweep of the Oregon schools on Jan. 21 and 23. Bristol averaged 17.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 3.0 assists per game and shot 14-for-16 (.875) from the free throw line in the two games. The honor is the first of Bristol's career and the 15th all-time for Arizona.
YOU DROPPED A BOMB ON ME: After averaging barely three treys a game this year, the Cats broke out for a 5-of-7 performance from beyond the arc against Oregon on Jan. 21. Percentage-wise (.714), it was the UA's best performance since hitting a perfect 4-for-4 from three-point range at USC on Jan. 4, 1998. On Feb. 6, Arizona ran off 7-of-10 three-pointers, its most treys of the season to date and most since knocking down eight against UConn in the Sweet Sixteen on Mar. 21, 1998.
LACKEY NAMED PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Junior forward Angela Lackey was named Pac-10 Player of the Week on Dec. 21 after leading the Wildcats to a 78-71 come-from-behind win at UC Santa Barbara the weekend before. Lackey snagged 19 points, including 11 in the second half, the lead the UA to the win. The honor was a first for Lackey, who is a junior college transfer, and was the first for an Arizona player this season.
HONORED, I'M SURE: Freshman guard Julie Brase and junior guard Lisa Griffith were named to the Insight.com Bowl Basketball Classic All-Tournament Team last weekend after averaging 13.5 ppg and 12.0 ppg, respectively. This is the second all-tournament team honor of the season for Griffith, who was previously named to the Nebraska CableVision Classic All-Tournament Team.
IT'S A FIRST: The Wildcats faced #2 Louisiana Tech in the championship game of the Insight.com Bowl Basketball Classic on Dec. 6. The contest marked the first time in school history that the UA hosted both the #1 and #2 ranked teams in the same season. Arizona played host to Purdue on Nov. 19 when it was ranked #1.
SHOOTING THE LIGHTS OUT: Arizona's 60.7 percent shooting performance from the floor against Sam Houston on Dec. 4 was its best in nearly three years. The last time the Cats shot that well from the floor was a 61.8 percent performance in an 89-85 loss at UCLA on Jan. 20, 1996.
CLEANING THE GLASS: On Dec. 4, Arizona outrebounded Sam Houston State by 23, the largest rebounding margin the Cats have had since setting the school record with a +37 margin against Cal State Fullerton in 1996.
"NEWBIES": The Wildcats showed their age -- or maybe lack thereof this year. Of the nine active players on the 1998-99 roster, six were freshmen and sophomores, however six of the nine were first-year players in the Arizona program. Also, neither of the team's two seniors was active this season, with Shontey Hambrick out for the year due to an upper respiratory infection and Monika Crank out with an ACL injury.
GOOD BEGINNINGS: Under head coach Joan Bonvicini, the Wildcats have won four straight season openers and a total of six in the eight years she has been at the UA.
WHAT COLOR WAS THAT SHIRT?: Three Wildcats redshirted this year. Senior guard Monika Crank sat out the season because of a knee injury, and freshman guard Tysell Bozeman redshirted as well. Senior forward Shontey Hambrick was added to that redshirt list, as she was attempting to fight a bout of Valley Fever.
FUTURE WILDCAT: During the early signing period last November, Arizona inked a very promising recruit--Krista Warren from Cloverdale (Calif.) High School. The 6-2 guard was the Northern California Player of the Year in both basketball and volleyball as a junior last year and was a Scholastic All-CIF selection in both sports as well.