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Cats, Bruins Ring in New Year
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 12/31/2009
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Dec. 31, 2009

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Date: Friday, January 1, 2010

Time: 2:00 p.m. (MT)

Location: Olson Court, McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.

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

Tip Off Time: With 10 non-conference games under their belt, the Wildcats will see just how much progress they have made as the 18-game Pac-10 slate begins this Friday afternoon in a New Year's Day matinee against UCLA. The Cats wrap up the three-game homestand on Sunday afternoon against USC with both games scheduled to tip-off at 2:00 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 15 minutes prior to tip-off for the pre-game show. Please visit www.arizonawildcats.com for all of your live stats, audio and video needs. Live stats will also be availabe with a link posted on the Arizona women's basketball schedule page.

Last Time Out: The tonic for a three-game losing streak proved to be a home contest against SWAC-member Alabama A&M as the Wildcats ended their losing skid with an impressive 86-50 victory in the final game of 2009. Freshman guard Davellyn Whyte hit five 3-point shots and led all scorers with 21 points as the Wildcats shot a season-high 63.5 percent from the field, the third-best in program history. The Wildcats used a 20-2 second half run to extend a 4-point cushion into a 58-36 advantage and pulled away from there, holding the Bulldogs without a field goal for almost 10 minutes. Soana Lucet recorded her second-straight double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds while Reiko Thomas set career-highs with 7 rebounds and 7 assists to go along with 13 points in 24 minutes off the bench.

Series Notes: UCLA leads the all-time series against Arizona by a 43-19 ledger. The Bruins won both meetings last season and have captured seven of the past eight contests including the last four. Last season in McKale Center, the Wildcats scored a season-low 38 points and converted just 11 total field goals in a 48-38 setback on January 17, 2009. The last Arizona win in the series came at Pauley Pavilion on February 15, 2007 when Malia O'Neal had 12 points and 11 assists in a 66-63 triumph.

Conference Commencement: Since joining the Pac-10 for the 1986-87 campaign, Arizona is 10-13 in its initial conference game of the season. The Wildcats have lost four-straight conference lid-lifters dating back to the 2005-06 season, last winning at Washington on December 27, 2004 in a 67-63 verdict. The Cats also won their conference home opener that season over California, 80-69. Last season, California spoiled the Pac-10 debut of head coach Niya Butts in a 56-46 decision.

Head Coach Niya Butts: Second-year head coach Niya Butts took over the Arizona program on April 3, 2008 and has been leaving her mark everyday since. Butts came to Tucson after spending 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).

Not So Nice New Year: The month of January has provided a mixed bag for the Wildcats since its first contest during the opening month of the year back in 1975. The Wildcats won that game on January 17, 1975 against Utah, 46-36, but are 104-177 all-time in the month of January. Arizona posted a 32-46 record during the 2000's in the month of January, but finished it with a four-year run going just 6-28 dating back to the 2005-06 campaign. The last winning month of January for the Wildcats came in 2004-05, a 31-day stretch that saw the Cats go 5-4.

Scouting the Bruins: UCLA brings a 7-4 record into the Pac-10 opener after posting consecutive wins over Saint Mary's (83-58) and Loyola Marymount (73-52). Led offensively by freshman Markel Walker, the Bruins are outscoring the opposition by nearly 14 points per game and have allowed over 60 points just twice, yielding 61 points in losses to Illinois State and Tennessee. Walker is one of three UCLA players averaging in double figures at 12.4 per game, joined by Jasmine Dixon (11.3) and Darxia Morris (10.3). Erica Tukiainen is one of the NCAA's top sharpshooters, connecting on 52.2 percent from three-point range (24-of-46). Second-year head coach Nikki Caldwell took over for the Bruins after both playing and acting as an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee.

Volunteer Army: Both Arizona head coach Niya Butts and UCLA head coach Nikki Caldwell boast a resume that includes collegiate playing days at the University of Tennessee under legendary head coach Pat Summitt. Butts played for the Lady Vols from 1997-2000 while Caldwell logged her playing career from 1991-94. Both players won national championships during their time in Knoxville and earned various all-SEC accolades.

Preseason Picks: Arizona was picked to finish 9th in both the Coaches and Media polls that were released last week. In each vote, the Wildcats were picked to finish ahead of just Washington. Nine-time defending champion Stanford was picked to add another crown to its mantle in both polls. Junior forward Ify Ibekwe was one of five players named to the Preseason All-Pac-10 team after earning 1st-team all-Pac-10 and All-Defensive First Team honors last season.

Youth is Served: With just four returning players with Pac-10 experience plus one year of service from Tasha Dickey, Arizona is the fourth-youngest team in all of NCAA Division I. Both Tennessee-Martin and Tennessee Tech return just four seasons of top-level experience while Central Arkansas brings back only five seasons of play. Rounding out the top five was Monmouth, which claims eight seasons.

By The Numbers: Despite their relative youth, the Wildcats still returned a fair amount of its production from the 2008-09 season. On a percentage basis, the Wildcats have brought back 57.8 percent of their scoring, 44.5 percent of the rebounds and 70.3 percent of the assists.

Looking Ahead: While Arizona continues its quest to rejoining the NCAA's elite company, the future looks bright for the Wildcats as one of its future members recently achieved an impressive career milestone. Candice Warthen, a guard at Warren County High School in Warrenton, Georgia, eclipsed the 2,000-point mark for her prep career after tallying 29 points in a win for the Screaming Devils against rival Thomson. She also had eight rebounds, six steals and four assists in the game. Warthen is currently averaging 29.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.6 steals and 2.8 assists per game for the 7-4 Devils. Most recently, she tallied 39 points, 10 steals, 9 rebounds and 4 assists in a 75-35 win over Glascock County. Last season, she scored a school-record 743 points while averaging 25.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 5.7 steals and 4.0 assists per game as a 1st-team all-state honoree.

Defending Their Turf: The Wildcats have continued to make it quite difficult for opposing teams to put the ball in the basket since head coach Niya Butts took over prior to the 2008-09 campaign. Visiting teams averaged just 56.9 points per game while shooting a paltry .375 from the field last season. The Cats allowed 70 or more points only twice, one of those coming in an overtime game, and held the opposition under 59 points in over half of their contests that included four sub-50-point allowances. This season, the Wildcats have allowed an average of 61.8 points per game after limiting Nevada and Alabama A&M to .294 and .266 shooting percentages, respectively.

Power Surge: After struggling through a three-game losing streak that saw the Wildcats score an average of just 54 points per game, the team exploded for 86 points in Tuesday evening's win over Alabama A&M. The Cats set season-highs in field goal percentage, field goals made and assists while matching the 10-game best for blocked shots. The .635 shooting mark was the 4th-best for a single-game in program history, falling .024 behind the school record of .659 set against USC in January of 2004. The Wildcats have won all three games this season when scoring 80 or more points and is 4-0 during the Niya Butts era when eclipsing the 80-point plateau.

Conference Standouts: Following games played on December 30, Ify Ibekwe continues to lead the Pac-10 in rebounding at 11.6 per contest while Soana Lucet is 9th at 7.1. Davellyn Whyte is 7th in the league in scoring at 14.6 per contest while Lucet is 17th at 12.4 per game. Ibekwe is also 2nd in steals with a 2.9 average and 3rd in blocked shots with 1.7 while Brooke Jackson is 7th in 3-point field goal percentage at .391. As a team, the Wildcats are 5th in scoring defense at 63.1 per game, 3-point field goal percentage at .325, 3-point field goals made with 50 and field goal percentage defense at .367. Arizona is also tied for 5th with the Bruins with a .678 free throw percentage. A .425 shooting percentage is good for 3rd in the Pac-10 while the Cats check in at 4th in blocked shots at 4.3 per outing.

New Year's Day: For just the second time in its history, Arizona will be playing on New Year's Day when it tips off the 18-game Pac-10 slate against UCLA on Friday afternoon in McKale Center. Arizona lost its only other game on January 1 against Colorado back in 1991, a 75-69 loss to the Buffaloes in McKale Center.

Nothing Ify About Ibekwe: Junior forward Ify Ibekwe had one of the most impressive seasons in 2008-09 in recent Arizona history. She led the Wildcats in scoring (15.7), rebounds (11.6), field goals (173), free throws (109), blocked shots (52) and steals (60) while earning 1st-team all-Pac-10 and Associated Press All-America honorable mention recognition. She was the only player in the Pac-10 to average a double-double and finished tied for 6th nationally in rebounds. This season, she leads the Wildcats in rebounds, free throws, blocked shots, steals and assists.

Glass Eater: After posting three of the top four single-game rebounding totals in Arizona history last season, Ibekwe improved upon her own personal best by grabbing 22 rebounds in the season-opening win over Iona. Last season, she registered the first known 20-20 game in Arizona history with 26 points and 20 rebounds on December 29, 2008 in a win at Boise State, then matched that total on the boards against in-state rival Arizona State in McKale Center on February 21, 2009. Already the school record holder for single-season rebounding average, she holds second place all alone, sitting five rebounds behind school-record holder Jill Longanecker, who nabbed 25 rebounds against West Texas State on January 12, 1979.

All-American Girl: Her impressive numbers also landed Ibekwe on the Associated Press All-America honorable mention list. She became just the 7th player in Arizona history to be named to one of the All-America teams and the first since Dee-Dee Wheeler and Shawntinice Polk earned the honor following the 2004-05 campaign. Ibekwe was also a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award, given annually to the best player in collegiate women's basketball and was chosen to attend the USA Basketball Women's World University Games Trials over the summer.

Double Trouble: Ibekwe is currently in third place in the Arizona record books with 28 double-doubles after accomplishing the feat in 6-of-10 games this season. The 16 she had last season was the second-highest total in school history behind the 21 tallied by Shawntinice Polk during the 2002-03 season. She is currently 8 double-doubles behind second-place Adia Barnes while Polk holds the career mark at 46, a number Ibekwe could pass this season if she can post the double digits in 9 of 10 games on average the rest of the way.

Milennium Milestone: With a total of 807 points for her career, Ibekwe is on track to become the 16th player in Arizona history to amass 1,000 points. She would need to average just over 10 points per game to accomplish the feat by the end of the regular season. She is currently averaging 11.3 points per game after tallying 15.7 per contest last season. Ibekwe is 160points from entering the Top 20, a spot held by Felecity Willis at 967 points.

Agent Zero: Taking a cue from former Wildcat Gilbert Arenas by wearing #0, freshman guard Davellyn Whyte has showed the all-around skills that made her the first prep player signed by head coach Niya Butts. The 2009 Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year was named the Most Valuable Player of the season-opening Iona College Tip-Off Tournament. Whyte logged 44 minutes in her Arizona debut, tallying a game-high 27 points while adding 8 rebounds in the 75-70 overtime win against Iona. She then scored 11 points against Miami (Ohio) and finished the weekend shooting almost 52 percent from the field while hitting 7-of-16 three-point attempts (.438). Whyte currently leads the Wildcats in scoring at 13.9 points per game while shooting .340 from three-point range, .452 from the field and grabbing 4.7 rebounds per contest.

Opening Act: Few players have had a bigger impact in their first-ever game as freshmen than Whyte did for the Wildcats against Iona. Over the past 10 seasons, only one player has scored more points in their Arizona debut. Shawntinice Polk bested Whyte by two points, registering 29 points in her first-ever Wildcat game on November 22, 2002 against LSU. It was also the highest point total by any Pac-10 player on the opening weekend of play.

Action Jackson: Sophomore guard Brooke Jackson has shown a tremendous all-around game in her brief time wearing a Arizona uniform. She scored 13 points in each of her first two games and also averaged 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per contest. She has thus far scored in double figures in 6-of-10 games, including a season-best 20 points against Ole Miss. Jackson is currently fourth on the Wildcats in scoring at 10.7 points per game and has hit on 18-of-46 attempts from beyond the arc, a sparkling 39.1 percent, while making 81.0 percent of her free throw attempts (17-of-21).

Three For All: After connecting on just 95 three-pointers last season, Arizona has already dialed long distance 50 times through the first 10 games for an average of five per game. With Jackson and Whyte combining to shoot almost 40 percent from threedom, the Cats have increased their clip from distance by almost 50 percentage points from last season after shooting only 27.9 percent.

More About The Three Ball: The Cats are hoping to challenge the 1996 season, the best statistically in program history in regards to three-point shooting. That team hit 176 for the season and connected at a .382 clip. If the current Wildcats average six made three-pointers through the season and play 31 games like last season, the team would finish with a school-record 186 treys..

Long Way From Home: The Wildcats have had a number of players in the program from foreign countries in recent years, but none has had to come further to Tucson than junior forward Soana Lucet. The transfer from the College of Southern Idaho is a native of New Caledonia, a collection of islands located in the Southwest Pacific Ocean. The non-self-governing nation is a territory of France and is approximately half the size of Taiwan at just over 7,100 square miles. Lucet is the first female from New Caledonia to play collegiately in the United States and was named her country's best Under-18 player two years ago. Lucet had her best game with the Wildcats against San Diego with 22 points on 10-of-17 shooting and is averaging 12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

Family Ties: Several members of the Wildcats have ties to either other Arizona teams, other colleges or professional clubs. The father of Tasha Dickey is currently an assistant football coach at Kansas State while Devon White, the father of Davellyn Whyte, is on staff with the Washington Nationals and was a Major League Baseball all-star during his career. Brooke Jackson welcomed younger sister, Cami, to the Arizona track and field team this season.

Up Next: The current three-game homestand comes to a close as the Cats conclude a stretch of three games in six days when they host USC on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. Arizona will then hit the road for its first Pac-10 road trip, battling Washington State on Thursday, January 7 at 6:00 p.m. (PT) before visiting Washington on Saturday afternoon at 12:00 p.m. (PT)

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