March 3, 2009
Date: March 5, 2009
Location: Maples Pavilion, Palo Alto, Calif.
Radio: KTUC AM 1400 (Derrick Palmer, Alysiah Bond)
Tip Off Time: Arizona opened and will end its 2009 Pac-10 slate against two of the top teams in the country with a trip to Northern California to battle Stanford and California. The Wildcats will visit the Cardinal on Thursday, March 5 in a 7 p.m. matchup, then head across the bay to take on the Golden Bears in a Saturday matinee set to start at 12:30 p.m.
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 Recap: It was Senior Day at McKale Center last Saturday, but it was a trio of Arizona freshmen who stole the headlines as the Wildcats posted a 72-62 victory over Washington. First-year players Courtney Clements, Reiko Thomas and Malia Nahinu combined for 48 points and made 15-of-29 field goal attempts to lead the Wildcats to a season sweep over the Huskies. Arizona erased a 12-point first half deficit by outscoring the Huskies, 43-16, over 18 minutes of play to earn the comeback victory.
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: The Cardinal have enjoyed four wins to every loss against the Wildcats, posting a 48-12 all-time mark in the series dating back to 1979. The Cardinal have won the last 12 meetings against Arizona and the last seven at Maples Pavilion. Arizona last earned a victory over Stanford on February 5, 2004, a 88-83 win in McKale Center.
Last Meeting: Stanford watched a 25-point lead evaporate down to eight over a matter of just 4:31, but Arizona ran out of time in its comeback effort as the Cardinal left McKale Center with a 70-61 win over the Wildcats. Arizona scored 17-straight points late in the game to send Stanford into a brief bit of panic, but four-straight free throws by Rosalyn Gold-Onwude sealed the win. Ify Ibekwe led the way for Arizona with 23 points, 13 rebounds and 4 steals for the Wildcats in the loss.
Scouting the Cardinal: Thanks to a 71-56 upset win by UCLA over then-4th-ranked California, Stanford holds a one-game lead atop the Pac-10 standings with two games to play. The road will not be easy for the Cardinal, however, as they were pushed to the limit by both Arizona schools in the opening weekend of Pac-10 play. All-Pac-10 center Jayne Appel leads the Cardinal at 15.2 points and 9.0 rebounds while shooting a robust 63 percent from the field. The Cardinal outscore the opposition by an average of over 11 points per contest and own a rebounding margin of +12.2. Stanford has won 11 in a row since a 57-54 defeat at Cal on January 18 and has won 29-straight home contests dating back over two-plus seasons.
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 top-seeded Lady Knights have picked up wins over Maryvale (65-25) and #8-seeded Xavier (72-53) in the 2009 AIA 5A Division I state tournament. St. Mary’s will face #4-seeded Gilbert on Wednesday evening at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale starting at 4:15 p.m. with a berth in the state championship game on the line.
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 18.2 points per game and was recently named the ACCAC Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. She is shooting over 44 percent from beyond the arc for the 26-4 Lady Thunderbirds while also connecting on 86 percent of her free throws while dishing out 3.8 assists per game and swiping 2.7 steals per game. Mesa is the top seed in the NJCAA Region I Division II Playoffs and hosts 4th-seeded Glendale in semifinal action on Tuesday, March 3.
Injury Update: While any player that goes down with an injury is considered a significant loss at this late point in the season, the Wildcats could truly ill-afford to lose sophomore Ify Ibekwe. The team’s leader in points, rebounds and blocked shots missed both games last week against the Washington schools. She has, however, received a brace to help stabilize her knee and her status will be re-evaluated later in the week. She is currently questionable for the game on Thursday evening at Stanford.
Going the Distance: With a roster depleted due to injuries, the active and healthy Wildcats have seen their share of minutes this season. Thirty-three 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 19-of-27 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 (32.1), Amina Njonkou (30.7), and Courtney Clements (30.6) 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 72.1 percent free throw percentage as a team, good for 74th in the NCAA. Clements leads the team with a .936 mark while Thomas checks in at .812 and Frazier has earned a .755 tally. The Cats have also limited the opportunities of the opposition, making 63 more free throws (379) than the opposition has attempted (316).
Nearly Perfect: One miss in eight attempts was enough to end an impressive free throw streak put together by Courtney Clements over the past month. Following a 1-for-3 free throw shooting line against Arizona State on January 24, Clements had been perfect at the line. She made her first 19 attempts of the season, then missed back-to-back offerings against the Sun Devils. Since then, she had made 18-straight free throws before missing her first attempt against the Huskies on Saturday. She went on to make seven-straight to finish the game, giving her a chance to start a new streak through the rest of the season.
Looking Glass: For the first time this season, Arizona tallied the same amount of rebounds as its opponent in a game. Both Arizona and Washington pulled down 35 boards on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats had earned a victory on that column of the stat sheet in 14-of-26 previous contests. Arizona holds a 8-6 record when posting a rebounding advantage over its opponent, but is just 2-10 when the opposition claims that victory.
National Notables: In the latest release of the NCAA statistical leaders, Ibekwe is tops in the Pac-10 and is currently 6th in the NCAA in rebounds per game at 11.5. She is also 66th in blocked shots per game at 1.8 and 99th in field goal percentage at .457. Ashley Frazier has moved to 94th in assists at 4.2 per game. Reiko Thomas is 87th in free throw shooting with her .812 clip. The Wildcats are 18th in the NCAA in fouls committed per game with just 14.1 violations per contest.
Clement Time: The four wins the Wildcats have tallied over the last month can at least partially be attributed to the improved and consistent play of freshman Courtney Clements. Over the past nine games, Clements has scored 117 points, an average of 13.0 per contest. She has tallied in double figures in each of the last eight games, including back-to-back 15-point outings against Washington State and Oregon State and a career-high 22 points on Saturdaya against Washington. She has seen her per game scoring average climb a full 2.1 points to 9.7 while making 24-of-25 free throws.
Top of the Table: Ibekwe is among the Pac-10 leaders in a number of categories as the Wildcats head down the final stretch of the regular season. Ibekwe leads the Pac-10 in rebounding, is second in scoring and blocked shots, fourth in steals and 11th 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 Ashley Frazier, who is 3rd in assists, and Amina Njonkou, who is 5th in rebounding. As a team, the Cats are 3rd in field goal percentage defense, and 4th in rebounding offense, blocked shots and free throw percentage.
Up Next: Arizona will conclude the 2008-09 regular season against 9th-ranked California on Saturday, March 7 at 12:30 p.m. With just a few days to rest up, the Cats will then head back to the Golden State for the 2009 Pac-10 Tournament, staged March 12-15 at USC’s Galen Center. Based on the current standings, Arizona will play one of two opening round games on Thursday, March 12. Game times can be found on page 2 or at www.pac-10.org.