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Game Notes: Feb. 28, 2009
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 02/27/2009
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Feb. 27, 2009

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Date: Feb. 28, 2009

Location: McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.

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

Tip Off Time: Arizona concludes its final homestand of the 2008-09 season this Saturday, February 28 as the Wildcats tangle with Washington. The three Arizona seniors will be recognized in a pre-game ceremony prior to tip-off against the Huskies as they play their final game in McKale Center.

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: With arguably its best player on the sidelines, Arizona knew it had a steep hill to climb against Washington State, a team that knocked off the Wildcats less than a month ago in Pullman. The task proved too daunting for a weary set of Wildcats as Washington State completed the season sweep with a 63-56 triumph. Arizona did tally four players in double figures, but only one other teammate scored and the Wildcats shot just 29.7 percent for the game. Amina Njonkou led all scorers with 16 points while Beatrice Bofia had 11 points and 12 rebounds.

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: Washington has posted an all-time record of 31-16 against the Wildcats dating back to the 1979 season. Arizona snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Huskies with a 65-51 win in Seattle last month. The last time the Wildcats were able to hold serve at home was during the 2003-04 campaign, a 89-74 decision in McKale Center that opened Pac-10 play. Shawntinice Polk had a double-double with 19 points and 15 rebounds while Dee-Dee Wheeler also tossed in 19 points in the victory.

Last Meeting: The ever-elusive first Pac-10 win finally came for the Wildcats after seven failed attempts as Arizona left Bank of America Arena with a 65-51 triumph over Washington. Amina Njonkou had 16 points and 16 rebounds in the win while Ify Ibekwe chipped in with 14 points and 8 rebounds. The win snapped a brief three-game skid for the Wildcats in Seattle.

Scouting the Huskies: Washington is holding up the bottom of the Pac-10 standings at the moment, but sit just one game behind the Wildcats for 9th position. The Huskies snapped a 12-game losing streak last weekend with a 59-49 win over UCLA but has since dropped its last two outings to USC (77-53) and Arizona State (55-32). Sami Whitcomb leads the offense for the Huskies at 12.6 points per game, but is the only Washington player averaging in double figures. The Huskies are also just 1-8 away from home, picking up their only road victory back in November over Weber State.

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 defeated Maryvale, 65-25, in the opening round of the 5A Division II State Tournament on Wednesday and battle #8-seeded Xavier on Friday evening.

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 25-4 Lady Thunderbirds. She was averaging well over 20 points per game before sustaining a knee injury last month, but has pushed her average back up to just under 17 points per contest.

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 the game on Thursday evening due to a left knee injury suffered during practice on Monday. She will miss her second-straight game on Saturday and will be questionable for next week’s games at Stanford and Cal.

Senior Salute: Arizona will honor its three seniors prior to the start of the game on Saturday who will be playing their final games inside McKale Center. Amina Njonkou is the lone four-year member of the 2009 class while both Beatrice Bofia and Sarah Hays have spent two seasons with the Wildcats. Njonkou, who has already earned one degree in Spanish, was an honorable mention all-Pac-10 selection last season and is pursuing a second degree. Bofia and Hays, who each spent two years at community colleges, have been solid contributors for the Wildcats and have each taken turns in the starting lineups at various points of their Wildcat careers.

National Notables: In the latest release 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 63rd in blocked shots per game at 1.8. Ashley Frazier has moved to 82nd in assists at 4.3 per game. The Wildcats are 18th in the NCAA in fouls committed per game with just 14.2 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.

Incredible Ify: It would be impossible to overstate the impact that Ibekwe had on the Arizona victory over Boise State on December 29. 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 15 double-doubles, a total that would place her just six behind Polk’s 2003 total of 21 on the Arizona single-season list.

Clement Time: The three wins the Wildcats have tallied over the last frew weeks can at least partially be attributed to the improved and consistent play of freshman Courtney Clements. Over the past eight games, Clements has scored 95 points, an average of 11.9 per contest. She has tallied in double figures in each of the last seven games, including back-to-back 15-point outings against Washington State and Oregon State. She has seen her per game scoring average climb a full 1.6 points to 9.2 and has made all 17 of her free throw attempts.

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 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 Ashley Frazier, who is tied for second 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.

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 370 fouls through 26 games with only six foul-outs. With an average of just 14.2 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 10.5 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 13 home contests thus far, the Wildcats are allowing a meager 56.5 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 hits the road to complete the 2008-09 regular season with a trip to the Bay Area. The Wildcats will open their trip with a visit to Maples Pavilion and #2-ranked Stanford on Thursday, March 5 at 7 p.m. The Cats will then conclude their season on the other side of the Bay as they take on 4th-ranked California on Saturday afternoon 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.

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