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Game Notes: Feb. 26, 2009
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 02/25/2009
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Feb. 25, 2009

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Date: Feb. 26, 2009

Location: McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.

Radio: KTUC AM 1400 (Derrick Palmer, Alysiah Bond)

Tip Off Time: Arizona continues its final homestand of the 2008-09 season this Thursday, February 26 as the Wildcats tangle with Washington State. The Cats play their final regular season home contest two days later as Washington comes to McKale Center on Senior Day. The three Arizona seniors will be recognized in a pre-game ceremony prior to tip-off against Washington on Saturday afternoon.

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.

Arizona State Recap: A spirited Arizona squad pushed #25-ranked Arizona State to the limit on Saturday afternoon, but a second half scoring drought allowed the Sun Devils to escape Tucson with a 60-53 victory over the Wildcats. Sophomore Ify Ibekwe tallied 10 points and posted career-highs of 20 rebounds and four assists. Ashley Frazier tallied a career-high 13 points and shared team-high scoring honors with Courtney Clements. Amina Njonkou also chipped in with 11 points.

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 currently holds a 25-20 lead in the all-time series against Washington State dating back to the 1987 season. Washington State has won back-to-back contests over Arizona after the Cats had taken three-straight meetings. Arizona won nine games in a row over the Cougars from 2002-05 before the most recent 3-3 stretch of games. Arizona last defended its home floor two seasons ago, winning a 59-57 decision as Amina Njonkou had 13 points and 9 rebounds.

Last Meeting: Coming off its first Pac-10 win of the campaign, Arizona jumped out to an early double-digit lead and carried that into the early stages of the second half. However, the offense sputtered down the stretch and Washington State hit 8-of-11 three-point shots after intermission to capture a 68-58 win over the Wildcats in Pullman. Arizona cut the deficit to four with 2:11 to play, but Jazmine Perkins hit a three-pointer that sealed the fate of the Wildcats. Ibekwe led the way with 18 points and 11 rebounds while Clements chipped in with 15 points in 29 minutes off of the bench.

Scouting the Cougars: Washington State sits one-half game behind the Wildcats in the Pac-10 standings heading into the final two weeks of the regular season. Were the teams to post similar records down the stretch, they would more than likely meet in the first round of the 2009 Pac-10 Tournament on March 12 at the Galen Center on the USC campus. Perkins leads the offense for the Cougars at 14.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game while April Cook checks in at 13.4 points.

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. Whyte and the Lady Knights are currently 23-2, have won 19-straight games and are ranked #2 in the state. The Lady Knights hosted Maryvale in the opening round of the 5A Division II State Tournament last night and were victorious.

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. Jackson is averaging 15.8 points per game and is shooting over 43 percent from beyond the arc for the 24-4 Lady Thunderbirds. She was averaging well over 20 points per game before sustaining a knee injury last month.

Total Turnaround: Though the Wildcats came up on the losing end of Saturday’s rivalry game against Arizona State, the team can take heart in the massive turnaround since the last time the two teams met. Back on January 24 in Tempe, the Wildcats scored season lows of 12 first half points and 38 total, committed 26 turnovers and shot just 26.9 percent for the game. Fast forward nearly a month and Arizona had a season-low 10 turnovers, tallied three more field goals than the Sun Devils and limited them to just nine offensive rebounds.

Going the Distance: With a roster depleted due to injuries, the active and healthy Wildcats have seen their share of minutes this season. Thirty-two 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 17-of-25 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 39.6 minutes per contest. Ibekwe (34.4), Reiko Thomas (32.5), Amina Njonkou (31.2), and Courtney Clements (30.2) 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 71.0 percent free throw percentage as a team, good for 96th in the NCAA. Clements leads the team with a .943 mark while Thomas checks in at .798 and Frazier has earned a .766 tally. The Cats have also limited the opportunities of the opposition, making 51 more free throws (340) than the opposition has attempted (289).

Nearly Perfect: Other than a 1-for-3 free throw shooting line against Arizona State on January 24, freshman Courtney Clements has gone perfect in every other game of the campaign. She made her first 19 attempts of the season, then missed back-to-back offerings against the Sun Devils. Since then, she has made 12-straight free throws to post a 31-for-33 mark. Though she will have to significantly increase her attempts to reach the minimum standard to qualify for the school record books, a percentage over .900 would best the school mark of .893 (100-for-112) set by Kirsten Smith in 1986.

National Notables: Speaking of the NCAA statistics, Ibekwe is tops in the Pac-10 and is currently 5th in the NCAA in rebounds per game at 11.5. She is also 64th in blocked shots per game at 1.8 and 100th in field goal percentage at .457. Ashley Frazier has moved to 91st in assists at 4.2 per game and Reiko Thomas is 98th in free throw percentage at .798. The Wildcats are 16th in the NCAA in fouls committed per game with just 14.1 violations per contest.

Topping the Charts: With her latest dominating rebounding effort against Arizona State, Ify Ibekwe has placed her name on the top 10 single-game rebounding list four separate times this season. 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. She matched her performance against the Broncos on Saturday against Arizona State, providing just the third single-game performance with 20 or more rebounds.

Hunting History: Ify Ibekwe is rapidly approaching the end of a historical campaign with some lofty goals within reach. She had an outstanding freshman campaign derailed for six games midway through the season after taking an elbow to the eye, yet still managed to pull down 232 rebounds, good for 4th on the single-season list for freshmen. This season, she has already grabbed 288 rebounds, third-best for a single-season all-time and 2nd-best by any sophomore. If she was to maintain her current average of 11.5 rebounds through the final four regular season games and at least one Pac-10 Tournament contest, Ibekwe would eclipse the single-season record of 339 set by Shawntinice Polk in 2003-04.

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 56.0 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 in Pac-10 play as the Wildcats held Washington and Oregon to an average of just 47.5 points per game. 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 put the clamps on Oregon and allowed a season-low 44 points. The Cats are 9-5 when allowing less than 62 points.

Up Next: Arizona will honor the contributions of its three seniors on Saturday, February 28 in a ceremony prior to its 1 p.m. tip-off against Washington. Beatrice Bofia, Sarah Hays and Amina Njonkou will all be honored before the game as the Wildcats play their final home game of the 2008-09 season.

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