Feb. 3, 2009
Date: January 5, 2009
Location: McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: KTUC AM 1400 (Derrick Palmer, Alysiah Bond)
Tip Off Time: Arizona returns home to start the second half of Pac-10 play this weekend as the Oregon schools visit the McKale Center. Oregon State leads off the weekend on Thursday evening before the Ducks come in on Saturday afternoon for the annual Pink Zone game. The game against Oregon wil be televised live on FSN Arizona.
Catch the Action: Entering his second season calling Arizona women's basketball games will be Derrick Palmer. He will be joined by Alysiah Bond, the Arizona women's basketball director of operations and former collegiate point guard at The Ohio State University. Wildcat games can be heard live on KTUC AM 1400. All broadcasts will start 30 minutes prior to tip-off for the pre-game show. Please visit www.arizonaathletics.com for all of your live stats, audio and video needs.
Washington State Recap: The Wildcats jumped out to a 9-point halftime lead and looked poised for their first Pac-10 sweep of the season, but Washington State hit 8-of-11 three-point attempts in the second half and outscored Arizona, 43-24, en route to a 68-58 triumph in Pullman. Ify Ibekwe led all scorers with 18 points to go along with 11 rebounds, her 11th double-double of the season. Courtney Clements came off the bench to add 15 points as she drained a trio of three-pointers while Ashley Frazier matched her career-high with 8 assists.
Head Coach Niya Butts: Not only has the Arizona playing roster seen its share of turnover, but the coaching staff is also entirely new for the 2008-09 season. On April 3, 2008, Niya Butts was named the 8th coach in the history of Arizona women's basketball. Butts comes to Tucson after spending the last five seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Kentucky. During her time with the Wildcats, she helped guide the team to a 88-72 record (.550) that included three WNIT appearances and a berth in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Prior to her time in Lexington, Butts was an assistant coach at Michigan State during the 2002-03 season. That year, the Spartans made their first NCAA appearance in six seasons after posting an overall record of 17-12. She began her coaching career at Tennessee Tech, leading the Golden Eaglettes to back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference regular season titles in 2001 and 2002.
Butts is one of many head coaches in the NCAA ranks who played for the legendary Pat Summitt at the University of Tennessee, graduating in 2000 with a bachelor's degree in social work and a minor in psychology. A four-year letterwinner with the Lady Vols, Butts was a two-time NCAA champion (1997, 1998), three-time winner of the SEC championship (1998, 1999, 2000) and was chosen the SEC Defensive Player of the Year after her 1997 freshman campaign. She also excelled in the classroom and was three times named an Academic All-SEC selection (1998, 1999, 2000).
Series Notes: Arizona is clinging to a 25-24 edge in the all-time series against the Beavers. Oregon State has won three of the past four contests, including this season's opener in Corvallis. Last season, both teams held serve on their home floors before the Beavers picked up a 46-31 win in the opening round of the Pac-10 Tournament in San Jose, Calif.
Last Meeting: Talisa Rhea was 5-of-10 from three-point range for a game-high 21 points as Oregon State claimed a 68-43 win over the Wildcats at Gill Coliseum on January 10. Oregon State outscored the Wildcats, 21-4, over the final 8:25 of the game to blow open a game that was between 8-to-12 points most of the way. Ify Ibekwe was the only Arizona to score in double figures, tallying 13 points to go along with 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots as the Cats committed 22 turnovers and shot just 35.7 percent for the contest.
Scouting the Beavers: Oregon State is currently in 7th place as the teams make the turn down the home stretch of the Pac-10 schedule after finishing 3-6 during the first half. The Beavers finished on a high note, winning battle one of the Civil War series over Oregon, 61-42, Saturday afternoon in Eugene. The Beavers dominated the boards to the tune of a 38-19 advantage while the offense got a balanced attack with four players in double figured led by Brittney Davis with 16 points. The Beavers lead the Pac-10 in free throw shooting at .740 and three-point percentage defense at .280 while checking in 3rd in three-point offense at .345.
Future Cats: Head coach Niya Butts was happy to announce the signing of the first two players for the 2009 signing class earlier in the season. Senior guard Davellyn White of St. Mary's High School in Phoenix is the first prep player to sign a National Letter of Intent to play for Butts. Whyte, the daughter of former Major League Baseball veteran Devon White, averaged 18 points per game in her junior campaign, leading the Lady Knights to a 19-9 record and the 5A Desert Valley Region championship. She was an all-state selection and was the runner-up in the region player of the year voting.
Joining Whyte with three years of eligibility remaining is Brooke Jackson, who is currently a freshman at Mesa Community College. A 5'9" shooting guard, Jackson prepped at Mountain View High School and was a two-time East Valley Region Player of the Year and two-time all-state selection. She is the 5A all-time single-season leader in scoring after tallying 849 points as a junior. Jackson also holds state 5A records for free throws made in a game (18) and season (216) as well as career steals (482). A solid outside shooter, Jackson finished her prep career with a 41 percent mark from three-point range.
Bouncing Back: After scoring a total of 76 points in two losses, Arizona found its scoring touch last Thursday evening and tallied a solid 65 points. The Arizona defense also returned to its stingy form by allowing only 51 points. The Wildcats have now won three contests each when scoring at least 60 points and allowing between 50 and 59 points.
Injury Update: At this point in the season, Arizona is most likely as healthy as a team with a thin bench is going to be. Reiko Thomas has played in back-to-back games since returning from an ankle injury while Courtney Clements is nearing 100 percent after sustaining a leg injury of her own. No other Wildcats have reported any injuries after the trip to Washington last weekend.
Going the Distance: With a roster depleted due to injuries, the active and healthy Wildcats have seen their share of minutes this season. Thirty times this season an Arizona player has logged at least 40 minutes of action in a game. Ashley Frazier leads the way as she has played all 40 minutes in 15-of-20 contests, including a 53-minute log during the triple-overtime win against Loyola Marymount and all 45 minutes against USC, and is averaging a Pac-10 leading 39.8 minutes per contest. Reiko Thomas (35.3), Ibekwe (33.8), Amina Njonkou (32.1), and Courtney Clements (30.0) are also logging heavy minutes for the Wildcats.
Free Throw Findings: One place the Wildcats have shown an improvement in 2008-09 versus last season is at the free throw line. After connecting at a .652 clip one season ago, the Cats currently own a 70.3 percent free throw percentage as a team. Clements leads the team with a .923 mark while Thomas checks in at .788 and Frazier has earned a .732 tally. The Cats have also limited the opportunities of the opposition, making 57 more free throws (281) than the opposition has attempted (224).
Wiping the Glass: The Wildcats continue to show their rebounding prowess as they have outrebounded the opposition in 12-of-20 contests thus far. The Cats are averaging 40.5 rebounds per game while allowing the opposition 36.8 rebounds each game. The 3.7 rebounding margin the Wildcats have enjoyed ranks the team 77th in the NCAA.
National Notables: Speaking of the NCAA statistics, Ibekwe is tops in the Pac-10 and is currently 7th in the NCAA in rebounds per game at 11.7. She is also 56th in blocked shots per game at 1.9, 94th in field goal percentage at .462 and 91st in scoring (15.7). With her 8 assists last Saturday against Washington State, Ashley Frazier jumped to 92nd in assists at 4.2 per game. The Wildcats are 17th in the NCAA in fouls committed per game with just 14.1 violations per contest.
Topping the Charts: Three times this season, Ibekwe has placed her name on the top 10 single-game rebounding list. She opened the season with 18 boards against Toledo, then grabbed 19 rebounds in a home victory against UC Santa Barbara nine days later before her 20-rebound output against Boise State. Incredible Ify: It would be impossible to overstate the impact that Ibekwe had on the Arizona victory over Boise State last month. Her 26-point, 20-rebound performance was the first 20-20 game in program history and only the third in the NCAA at that point of 2008-09. She now owns three of the top four individual single-game rebounding totals in team history and is on pace to shatter the season record for rebounds per game of 10.8 set by the late Shawntinice Polk in the 2002-03 campaign. She is also on pace to register 19 double-doubles, a total that would place her just two behind Polk's 2003 total of 21 on the Arizona single-season list.
Top of the Table: Ibekwe is among the Pac-10 leaders in a number of categories as the Wildcats reach the midway point of the season. Ibekwe leads the Pac-10 in rebounding and blocked shots, is second in scoring and fourth in steals and 10th in field goal percentage. Among her rebounding prowess, she is top of the heap in both offensive and defensive rebounds. Joining her among the league's elite is Amina Njonkou, who is third in rebounding at 8.0 per game. As a team, the Cats are 4th in field goal percentage defense, rebounding offense, blocked shots, and 5th in free throw percentage and three-point field goal percentage defense.
Accepting the Accolades: Not only was Ibekwe named the Pac-10 Player of the Week in December, she was recently named to the Naismith Award early season watch list. As one of 49 players and just three from the Pac-10 chosen to the initial list, Ibekwe will have an opportunity to remain on the semifinal list of 30 players when the Atlanta Tipoff Club has its voting members cast their ballots in February.
Unlucky Number 18: Despite the impressive individual outings by Ibekwe and Bofia in their 18-rebound efforts, the Wildcats came up on the losing end of each contest. However, the Cats made amends a week later by earning the win against UC Santa Barbara with the 19 rebounds tallied by Ibekwe. Including the other 10 games listed in the graphic above, the Wildcats are a perfect 4-0 when an Arizona player has at least 19 rebounds and 5-4 with a player tallying 18 rebounds.
Block Party: Last season, the Wildcats were one of the prominent teams in the Pac-10 when it came to blocked shots, finishing second in the league with 106 blocks for an average of 3.53 per game. Though the team's numbers are slightly down this season, Beatrice Bofia went a long way toward pushing the Cats back up that chart as she swatted a season- and career-best six shots against Oregon State. That total was good for a share of the 3rd-highest total in program history. Shawntinice Polk holds the single-game record at nine, set March 1, 2003 against California. On two occasions Polk had eight blocks while she also tallied six blocked shots in four other contests, a number originally set by Leslie Martin on December 14, 1981.
Turn It Over: Taking care of the ball has been an up-and-down proposition for the Wildcats this season. Through the first six games of the season, the Cats were averaging 22.3 miscues per contest. However, the team then went through a six-game stretch where the squad committed 15 or fewer turnovers. During Pac-10 play, the team has reverted more toward its opening trend of the season, averaging 19.1 turnovers per contest while forcing just 15.1 from the opposition.
No Foul Play: One area on the stat sheet that does seem to be falling in the favor of the Wildcats is personal fouls. The Cats have committed just 282 fouls through 20 games with only three foul-outs. With an average of just 14.1 fouls committed per game, the propensity not to foul as well as their solid conversion rate at the free throw line has helped the Wildcats make up for the 12 points lost per game in the three-point battle.
Defending Their Home: The Wildcats have shown that the McKale Center will not be an easy place for visiting teams to come in 2008-09. In eight home contests thus far, the Wildcats are allowing a meager 56.1 points per game on Olson Court. The Cats have held the oppositon under 50 points on four occasions and allowed #9-ranked Texas A&M just 54 points while yielding only 56 to #6 California in a pair of hard-fought defeats.
Keep It Down: Arizona can look to its defense for ending its winless streak on the road in Pac-10 play as the Wildcats held the Huskies to just 51 points. During its 7-game losing skid, the Wildcats had yielded 71.2 points per contest to the opposition. After allowing just 51 points in the victory over Washington, the defense let down in the second half as Washington State tallied 43 points on the way to a 68-point output. The Cats have won just once when allowing more than 60 points this season. That win came in the triple-overtime triumph over Loyola Marymount.
Simply The Best: The Wildcats will have their hands full this season as they play a challenging 29-game regular season schedule. Looking at the most recent polls released this past week, the Wildcats are set to play seven games against teams ranked in the top 25. The Cats have two games each against #7/8 Stanford, #3/5 California and Arizona State, who only recently dropped out of the Top 25, during Pac-10 play after having already gone toe-to-toe with #10/7 Texas A&M. The Cats have also played Middle Tennessee, a team that is currently receiving votes and is undefeated in Sun Belt Conference play.
NOTE: All coaches poll references are listed with the Associated Press poll first followed by the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
Against All Odds: The difficult slate of games the Wildcats face this season includes some impressive credentials boasted by its opponents. Of the 20 teams the Cats face during the 2008-09 campaign, eight of them were postseason participants. Six of those teams took part in the NCAA Tournament and amassed a record of 10-5 that included a run by Stanford to the championship game. Two other teams each went 1-1 in the postseason NIT and three of the eight teams won at least a share of their respective regular season conference titles.
Working Their Way Up: Arizona was handed the dubious honor of being picked last among all Pac-10 teams when the Preseason Coaches Poll was released in late October. Defending champion Stanford earned the top spot, edging Bay Area rival California by just two points thanks to a 6-4 advantage in first place votes. The Cats, meanwhile, got just 16 total points, finishing four points behind Washington State for 9th position. In the recently released media poll, the Wildcats were picked to finish 9th in the conference.
Care To Speculate: Sophomore Ify Ibekwe had an outstanding freshman campaign derailed for six games midway through the season after taking an elbow to the eye. She still managed to pull down 232 rebounds, good for 4th on the single-season list for freshmen. If she had been able to play in all 30 games and maintain her 8.0 average, she would have moved up to third position and would have recorded the 7th-best single season in school history for any class. Assuming Ibekwe played in 30 games for four seasons and kept her rebounding average the same, she would finish with 960 rebounds, a total that would make her the Wildcats' all-time leading rebounder ahead of current record holder Adia Barnes at 921. This season, she has pushed that mark to 11.7 per game through 20 games, an average that would leave her at 339 through 29 games and match the single-season record set by Shawntinice Polk in 2003-04.
Up Next: Arizona is back home in less than 48 hours time to host a midday clash against Oregon with tip-off scheduled for 12 p.m. The matinee will also be the 2009 Pink Zone game, a nationwide effort to increase breast cancer awareness. Oregon will wear pink uniforms in the game while the Wildcats will don pink socks, headbands, shoelaces and provide a pink game ball. The game will also be televised live on FSN Arizona with Jim Watson and Mary Murphy providing the call.