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011-06-2007 Arizona at WBCA Classic Notes
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 11/06/2007
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Complete Release as a PDF

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Coming Up:

The Arizona womenˇ?s basketball team kicks off the 2007-08 season at Penn State on Friday, Nov. 9 (7:30 p.m. EST) in the WBCA/Basketball Travelers Classic.? The Wildcats will play a total of three games in three days in University Park, Pa., also facing No. 20 Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 4 p.m. (EST), and Charlotte on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 1:30 p.m. (EST).

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Vanguard Recap:

Freshman Tasha Dickey hit a clutch three pointer late in the second half, and Arizona managed to hold off a scrappy Vanguard team down the stretch for a 76-70 exhibition win on Monday night in McKale Center.

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As a team, Arizona shot 43.8 percent from the floor (28-64) and collected 15 steals off of 23 Vanguard turnovers.? The Wildcats only shot 2-of-14 (14.3 percent) from three point range, but outscored the Lions 48-24 in the paint.? Vanguard shot 33.9 percent (21-62) from the field in the game, and was 20-of-23 (87 percent) from the free throw line.

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Individually for the Wildcats, senior Ashley Whisonant finished with a team-high 22 points to go with seven rebounds, six steals and four assists.? Junior Amina Njonkou added a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Dickey posted 10 points and two steals.? Junior Sarah Hays collected eight points and six boards.

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Senior Jessica Richter led Vanguard with 33 points.

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Arizona started the game off strong, building a 14-6 lead at the 14:31 mark.? The Wildcats had their biggest lead at 24-12 with 9:18 left in the first half, and held a 36-26 advantage with 2:44 left before the half.? Vanguard trailed Arizona 40-30 with 55 seconds left in the first, but the Lions scored five points in the final 30 seconds off of a three by Richter and a layup by Sarah Boyd to go into halftime down only 40-35.? Arizona shot 50 percent (19-38) from the field in the first half, holding Vanguard to a 32.3 percent mark (10-31).

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Vanguard rallied in the second half, cutting the deficit to 42-40 at the 16:56 mark.? Arizona led 47-44, but a three by Jaclyn Blied tied the game up at 47-47 with 13:39 left to play and sparked a 9-0 Vanguard scoring run to give the Lions a 53-47 lead over the Wildcats.? Arizona responded with six-straight points of its own to tie the game up at 53-53 with 7:22 left.?

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The Wildcats trailed 64-62 with 3:43 left when Dickey drained a three pointer from the left side to give Arizona a 65-64 advantage.? UA held on to the lead from there, icing the game from the line for a six-point win.? Arizona shot 16-of-19 (84 percent) from the free throw line in the second half to make up for a 34.6 percent mark (9-26) from the field, and held Vanguard to a 35.5 shooting percentage (11-31).

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About the Lady Lions:

The Penn State Lady Lions open their 2007-08 season hosting the WBCA/Basketball Travelers Classic, and Arizona is the first team to get a shot at them.? Penn State is coming off of a 15-16 overall record in 2006-07, finishing fifth in the Big Ten with a 7-9 mark.? PSU returns three starters and seven letterwinners from last yearˇ?s team, led by senior guard Kam Gissendanner, a 6-foot-1 two-time All-Big Ten selection who averaged 12.8 points and 3.1 rebounds a game last season.? The Lady Lions also return sophomore guard Tyra Grant who averaged 14.6 ppg and 2.5 rpg a year ago.? Penn State shot 69 percent from the floor in the second half on the way to an 82-41 exhibition win over Millersville on Oct. 31.? Head coach Coquese Washington, formerly of Notre Dame, is in her first season at the helm of the Penn State program.

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About the Panthers:

The Pittsburgh Panthers are Beasts from the East, entering their season opening week of action ranked No. 20 in the preseason AP poll and No. 21 in the preseason ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll.? Pitt opens the season against Charlotte before playing Arizona on Saturday.? Pitt is fresh off a 24-9 record in 2006-07, including a second round appearance in the NCAA Tournament.? The Panthers return six players who got into the starting lineup, and nine players overall from last season, led by senior center Marcedes Walker.? Walker, an All-American candidate, averaged 15.9 points and 9.6 rebounds a game last season.? Pitt also returns senior guard Mallorie Winn who posted 15.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, and 4.0 apg last season.? The Panthers have played two exhibition games so far, squeaking past Premier Legends, 89-86, in overtime, and earning a 60-43 win over the Ohio Legends.? Head coach Agnus Berenato is in her fifth season at the helm of the Pitt program.

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About the 49ers:

The Charlotte 49ers open the 2007-08 season with games against Pitt and Penn State before getting to the Wildcats on Sunday.? Last season, Charlotte went 19-13 and advanced to the second round of the WNIT.? The 49ers return four starters and nine letterwinners from last season, led by senior guard Sabrina Gregory, a Team USA member who posted 14.3 points and 4.3 assists last season.? Charlotte also features Team USA member Wendy Stywalt.? Head coach Karen Aston is in her first season at the helm of the Charlotte program.

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Series Notes:

Arizona will play both Penn State and Charlotte for the first time in school history.? Arizona has faced Pitt only one other time, an 81-80 loss to the Panthers in McKale Center on Dec. 2, 2001.

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November Numbers:

Arizona is 38-19 (.667) since 1991 under head coach Joan Bonvicini in the month of November, including a 23-9 mark (.719) in the month since the start of the 1999-00 season.? Last year, Arizona went 4-3 in November.

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A Quick Look at the Cats:

Arizona returns four starters and eight letterwinners from last yearˇ?s team that finished 11-21, 4-14 Pac-10.? The Wildcats also add five newcomers to the lineup this season.

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Whoˇ?s Back:

Arizona returns a group of experienced players that accounted for 65 percent of the teamˇ?s scoring and 71 percent of the teamˇ?s rebounding last season.? The Wildcats will look for senior Ashley Whisonant to lead the way, as she is the squadˇ?s top returning scorer from 2006-07 with an 11.9 ppg average.? Junior Amina Njonkou returns after a solid sophomore year that saw her average 8.4 points and 6.7 rebounds a game, and senior Jessica Arnold enters her final year after averaging 7.5 points a game as a junior.? Healthier sophomore twins Rhaya (3.7 ppg, 2.7 ppg) and Rheya (3.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg) look for expanded roles in the lineup, and the much anticipated debut of 6-foot-7 center Beatrice Bofia will be a major storyline for the Cats after she missed the entire 2006-07 season with a torn ACL.

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Whoˇ?s New:

The Wildcats add a cast of talented newcomers to the roster this season, a group which includes three freshmen, a junior college All-American transfer, and a graduate student transfer.? Freshman Tasha Dickey joins the squad as a player destined to be a Wildcat.? Her father, Charlie, the current offensive line coach at Utah, was a former football player (1983-84) and coach (1992-2003) at Arizona, and her mother, the former Lisa Bradshaw, played womenˇ?s basketball at Arizona from 1983-85.? Freshman Ify Ibekwe comes to Arizona from a powerful high school basketball program at Narbonne in Harbor City, Calif., and looks to continue her familyˇ?s name on the hardwood.? Her oldest brother Onyekachi played collegiate basketball at Oklahoma State before finishing his career at Long Beach State, and earned an NFL contract as a rookie free agent with the San Francisco 49ers in 2006.?? Her older brother Ekene, was a four-year letterwinner at Maryland and plays professional basketball overseas, and her older sister, Chinyere, is a junior on the UCLA womenˇ?s basketball team.

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Freshman Faihza Hill is a talented walk-on from Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep in San Francisco, Calif., a perennial California high school power.? Junior Sarah Hays joins the squad after an impressive two-year stint at Chandler-Gilbert CC.? As a freshman, Hays averaged 15.9 points and 10.8 rebounds while helping the Coyotes to a 24-10 record.? That season she earned First Team All-ACCAC honors, and was named the ACCAC Freshman of the Year, including Second Team All-American honors.? Last season, she posted averages of 20.8 points and 11.1 rebounds a game and was named the ACCAC Player of the Year as well as being a First Team All-American selection.

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Graduate senior Erin Oˇ?Bryan joins the Wildcats after a three-year career at UC Santa Barbara, where she was a major contributor to a consistent NCAA Tournament team.

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Arizona Head Coach Joan Bonvicini (17th season):

The winningest coach in Arizona women's basketball history, Joan Bonvicini has taken the Wildcat program from obscurity into the national limelight. In her 16 seasons at the helm, Bonvicini has guided the Wildcats to nine postseason appearances, including seven NCAA Tournament berths and a WNIT Championship.? Under Bonvicini's tutelage, the Wildcats have finished in the upper tier of the Pac-10 in nine of the last 11 years, and in 2003-04 won a share of the conference regular-season title for the first time in school history.

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During this time, Arizona has been nationally ranked multiple times, including a best ever ranking of No. 7 in 1998.? Bonvicini's success is mirrored in her players' accolades. She has produced one All-American, five honorable mention All-America selections, a Pac-10 Player of the Year, three Pac-10 Freshmen of the Year, 22 All-Pac-10 honorees, 17 Pac-10 All-Freshman Team choices and 18 Academic All-Pac-10 selections. Bonvicini holds a 277-203 (.577) mark at Arizona and is 602-274 (.687) in 28 years as a head coach. On Feb. 8, 2007, Bonvicini became the 18th coach in NCAA Division I women's basketball history to reach the 600 win milestone with a 65-61 victory over Oregon State in McKale Center. She has a career record of 24-17 in NCAA Tournament play and has lost just two first-round games in 17 tourney appearances.

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The Rest of the Staff:

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Kellee Barney (Idaho, 1983) enters her seventh season as an assistant with the Wildcats. Barney is the recruiting coordinator and is also responsible for scouting, floor work and assisting with the Joan Bonvicini Hoop Camp.

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Bernard Scott (Toledo, 2001) enters his first season as an assistant womenˇ?s basketball coach at Arizona.? He is responsible for player development, scouting and recruiting.

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Jonelle Streed (St. Cloud State, 2003) enters her second season as assistant coach after having spent the previous two seasons as the programˇ?s graduate assistant video coordinator. She is responsible for perimeter player development, recruiting, scouting, floor work and assisting with the Joan Bonvicini Hoop Camp.

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vs. Ranked Teams:

Arizona will face a ranked foe in No. 20 Pittsburgh on Saturday trying to reverse a recent trend.? Over the last two seasons, the Wildcats are 0-19 against ranked opponents, going 0-12 against ranked teams last year.

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Ball Thieves:

The Wildcats showed they can scratch at opponents, posting 15 steals off of 23 Vanguard turnovers on Monday.? UA also held the Lions to a 33.9 percent mark (21-62) from the floor.

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Lotta Action:

Arizona showed it has some depth on the bench against Vanguard, as eight Wildcats registered double figures in playing time, including six players with 22 minutes or more.? The only player without double figures in playing time was junior Beatrice Bofia who had nine minutes of action.

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Block Party:

The Wildcats flexed some defensive muscle against Vanguard on Monday as Arizona finished with six team blocks.? Freshman Ify Ibekwe led the way with two rejections.? Last season, Arizonaˇ?s season high for blocks in a game was five.

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AW Leads the Way:

Senior guard Ashley Whisonant will be counted on to lead at the point this season, and look for her to flourish in that position.? Last season, the 1,000-point scorer averaged 11.9 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists a game.? With an increased role, look for Whisonant to move up the all-time Arizona career scoring list where she currently stands at No. 14.? Against Vanguard, Whisonant posted 22 points, seven rebounds, six steals and four assists, scoring seven points, including a 5-of-6 mark from the free throw line in the final three minutes of the game to lead the Wildcats to a win.? In two exhibition games, Whisonant averaged a team-best 15.5 points a game to go with 5.5 rpg.

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Amina the Bull:

Junior forward Amina Njonkou is a force down low in the paint, and her strength allows her to bull over defenders.? Last season, the 6-foot-1 Foumban, Cameroon native averaged 8.4 points and a team-high 6.7 rebounds a game, posting a team best four double-doubles.? This season, expect Njonkou to become a near double-double machine.? Against Vanguard, Njonkou posted 16 points and 13 rebounds, shooting 6-of-12 from the floor, including a 4-of-5 mark from the free throw line.? In two exhibition games, Njonkou averaged 11.0 points and 9.0 rebounds a game.

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Ms. Wildcat:

Freshman Tasha Dickey, simply put, was born to be a Wildcat.? The daughter of two former Arizona athletes, Dickey has already shown her tremendous athletic ability on the court.? Against Vanguard, the 5-foot-10 wing finished with 10 points and two steals in 16 minutes of action.? Her biggest contribution was draining a three pointer with 3:43 left in the second half to give Arizona a 65-64 lead, a shot that changed the momentum of the game in favor of the Wildcats.?

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Solid Sarah:

Junior Sarah Hays was an All-American in junior college and has shown she has the ability to play like an All-American at any level.? Against Vanguard, the 6-foot-1 Oracle, Ariz., native tallied eight points and six rebounds to go with two nifty assists in 24 minutes of play.? At Chandler-Gilbert CC, Hays averaged 18.2 points and 11.4 rebounds a game in her two-year career.

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The Tower:

Although she will be playing without her twin sister Suzy, 6-foot-7 center Beatrice Bofia is ready to start her career at Arizona after a year-long hiatus because of a knee injury.? Like the saying goes, you canˇ?t teach size, and size is what Bofia will use on the court to make her presence felt.? Against Vanguard, Bofia registered four points, making both of her baskets and pulled down two rebounds in nine minutes of action.

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JA to the Rescue:

No one plays harder on the court than senior Jessica Arnold.? Standing at 5-foot-4, the Tucson native plays more like she is 7-foot-4 in terms of her tenacity and effort.? Against Vanguard, Arnold had five points, three assists and four steals, despite shooting 0-for-5 from behind the arc.? Last season, Arnold averaged 7.5 points a game.

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Stepping her Game Up:

Sophomore Marie McGee has worked hard during the off season for more playing time this year, and expect her to see an increased role in the lineup.? Although she played in 13 games last season, McGee has proven to be a great on-ball defender and a solid offensive option.? Against Vanguard, McGee posted four points, four rebounds, three assists and a block and a steal in 22 minutes of action.

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Nice Start:

Freshman Ify Ibekwe comes from a family of distinguished athletes and she is trying to prove that she is the best yet.? The 6-foot-1 Carson, Calif., native from Narbonne HS finished the game against Vanguard with four points, three rebounds and two blocks in 14 minutes of action.

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Cats Picked To Finish Eighth in the Pac-10:

The University of Arizona womenˇ?s basketball team was selected to finish eighth in the Pac-10 Conference in a preseason vote by the conferenceˇ?s head coaches.? The Wildcats garnered 31 points in the poll, as seven-time defending Pac-10 champion Stanford was chosen as the favorite to win this yearˇ?s Pac-10 title.

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The Cardinal received eight of 10 first-place votes and 79 points, as Arizona State received a first-place nod and tallied 71 points to place second. California was tabbed to finish third with a first-place vote and 68 points, followed by fourth-place USC with 56 points and fifth-place UCLA with 44 points. Washington grabbed 41 points to place sixth, followed by Oregon (34), as Arizona (31), Oregon State (16) and Washington State (10) rounded out the poll.

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Tough Schedule:

Year in and year out, Arizona never runs away from a challenge, but rather takes on the best teams in the nation head on during the nonconference schedule before playing in the always daunting Pac-10 Conference.

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The Wildcats will play 29 games during 2007-08, 13 games in McKale Center and 16 on the road, with 14 games scheduled against teams that competed in the NCAA Tournament last year.

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The UA will take on 10 teams that competed in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, with non-conference matchups against Middle Tennessee State, Pittsburgh, Boise State, New Mexico, NC State, and UW-Green Bay, along with Pac-10 series against California, Stanford, Washington and Arizona State.

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Rank This:

Arizonaˇ?s tough schedule is apparent when you take a look at this yearˇ?s preseason rankings.? In the WBCA/USA Today/ESPN and AP Preseason poll, five of the top 25 teams in the nation will play the Wildcats during the regular season.? Arizona will face No. 9 Stanford, No. 12 Arizona State, No. 14 California, No. 21 Pittsburgh and No. 25 NC State.? Additionally, six other Arizona opponents (Middle Tennessee, USC, New Mexico, UCLA, Boise State and Wisconsin-Green Bay) each received votes in the poll.

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Get It Started:

With Joan Bonvicini at the programˇ?s helm, the Wildcats have won 13 of their 16 season openers.? Last year, Arizona defeated Nicholls State, 83-41, on Nov. 14 in McKale Center to open the 2006-07 season.

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Up Next:

Arizona will play its season home opener against Portland on Friday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. in McKale Center.

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2007-08 Arizona Womenˇ?s Basketball Season Preview:

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When most college basketball teams were taking a break this past summer, the Arizona womenˇ?s basketball team was on the other side of the globe preparing for the 2007-08 season.

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During May, the Wildcats embarked on a two-week journey in Italy, a trip that might prove to be the turning point for a program looking to return to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year hiatus.? Not only did Arizona become immersed in a new culture, the Wildcats also learned a lot about themselves on the court, becoming a new-and-improved team in a different country.

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Team work, unity, passion and the ability to play winning basketball are a few of the most important souvenirs the Wildcats returned home with from Italy.

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ˇ?I really believe that our trip to Italy was very positive for our team,ˇ± head coach Joan Bonvicini.? ˇ?Our players were able to create a very special bond on the trip that will help them succeed on the court this season.ˇ±

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Even though Arizona was limited to a roster of seven players, and often traveled on a bus for more than two hours to reach the gym before each game, the Wildcats posted a perfect 5-0 record against FIBA competition, winning those contests by an average of 35.6 points.

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ˇ?Our team developed a bond and a closeness during the Italy trip, but the thing that most impressed me with our team that I saw in Italy was that we developed a killer instinct,ˇ± Bonvicini said.? ˇ?I really believe that winning is a habit, and when you win, you do the right things.? But when you win a lot, you find a way to win, and our team liked that winning feeling they experienced in Italy.ˇ±

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After a season plagued by injuries, the 2007-08 Wildcats are ready to establish their winning ways and their killer instinct on the court this season.

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ˇ?We are very much looking forward to this year,ˇ± Bonvicini said.? ˇ?The last couple of seasons have been difficult for us.? But the good part is that we saw some light at the end of the tunnel as we played significantly better during the last month of last season, which carried over to our trip to Italy.ˇ±

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With eight returning letterwinners, including four returning starters from last yearˇ?s roster, Arizona will make a strong push to return this program back to what it is used to being ?C a consistent winner.

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ˇ?We have a lot of players coming back from injuries that are now healthy, and we are adding some talented new players to our roster,ˇ± Bonvicini said.? ˇ?I am most excited about being successful again.? We have had our struggles and have had a lot to deal with emotionally.? But the main thing for us is to remain healthy and to compete in the Pac-10, and get back into the NCAA Tournament.ˇ±

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The following is a breakdown of the 2007-08 Arizona Wildcats.

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Backcourt

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From Adia Barnes to Dee-Dee Wheeler, the Arizona program has always been stacked with talent guards.? This year will be no different with seniors Ashley Whisonant and Jessica Arnold patrolling the backcourt for the Wildcats.

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ˇ?We have always had good guards in our program,ˇ± Bonvicini said. ?ˇ?Ashley Whisonant returns for her senior year after playing at an elite level at the end of last season.? She had a great summer in Italy and I think she is going to be a more improved and confident player this season.ˇ±

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Last season, Whisonant averaged 11.9 points a game, the 15th-best mark in the Pac-10, and ranked eighth in the conference with a team-best 3.6 assists per contest.? She also became the 15th player in Arizona history to reach the 1,000 point milestone, scoring her 1,000th point against Stanford in the Pac-10 Tournament season finale, and enters this season with 1,003 career points and plenty of room to move up the all-time Arizona scoring charts.

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Arnold, a 5-foot-4 Tucson native, returns for her senior season as one of the most experienced Wildcats on the roster.

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ˇ?Jessica Arnold has played injured the last few seasons and is finally healthy, Bonvicini said.? She looks really good on the court and we expect her to have a great senior season.ˇ±

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In 2006-07, Arnold averaged 7.5 points a game, and led the team with a 76.3 percent mark from the free throw line.? An always dangerous shooter from behind the arc, Arnold enters her final season as a Wildcat with 89 career three pointers.

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Although Arizona returns two talented and experienced guards in Whisonant and Arnold, the Wildcats will have to elevate their play to fill the hole left by the loss of graduating senior guard Joy Hollingsworth.? Hollingsworth led the Wildcats in scoring the last two seasons, and averaged a team-high 16.2 points a game last year.?

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To fill that gap, the Wildcats will have plenty of viable options.

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The Wildcats will also rely on improved depth in the backcourt, as the UA returns sophomore Marie McGee and adds freshmen Tasha Dickey and Faihza Hill, and graduate senior Erin Oˇ?Bryan into the mix.

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ˇ?I think the combination of guards we have brings great depth and experience to our lineup,ˇ± Bonvicini said.? ˇ?All of our guards are smart and quick, and ready to take this team to the next level.ˇ±

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McGee played limited minutes last season, but proved over the summer that she can be a formidable defensive stopper around the perimeter.? Dickey is a very athletic guard who figures to be in the mix for a spot in the six-to-seven player rotation right away, and Hill is a hard-working player who has a winning background as a prep star.? Oˇ?Bryan, a transfer from UC Santa Barbara, is an experienced and proven three-point specialist, who could add a tremendous boost to Arizonaˇ?s perimeter game.

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ˇ?Our guards help us out the most because they can impact games both offensively and defensively,ˇ± Bonvicini said.? ˇ?But for us to be successful, we have to have a great balance between our guard and post play.ˇ±

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Posts

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Even though the battle on the court is won in the backcourt, the war on the court is always won in the paint, and that is where the Wildcats will try to improve their ability to win games this season.

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With an often depleted front line due to injuries last season, the Wildcats were beaten down low in the paint by opponents.? But donˇ?t expect that to happen too often this season.

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Even though the Wildcats will be without senior Suzy Bofia, Arizona will benefit from an increased depth down low with the return of 6-foot-7 redshirt junior Beatrice Bofia, who sat out the entire season last year because of a knee injury.

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ˇ?Beatrice has returned from her knee injury and has worked hard to get back into shape,ˇ± Bonvicini said.? ˇ?We are hoping she can become a dominant force on the court.? Obviously, you canˇ?t teach height, and she provides incredible size for us around the basket.ˇ±

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Despite the disappointing setback Bofia experienced last season, her much anticipated debut for the Wildcats this season will provide Arizona with a sizable advantage over opponents in the post.

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ˇ?Beatrice has an array of inside moves and can finish like none other in collegiate basketball,ˇ± Bonvicini said.? ˇ?She will add a different dimension to our team.ˇ±

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Joining Beatrice Bofia down low is junior Amina Njonkou, one of Arizonaˇ?s most improved and consistent players.

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ˇ?Amina is playing with a lot of confidence and I think she has the talent to be dominant in the paint for us,ˇ± Bonvicini said.? ˇ?With her size and strength, she is a legitimate threat to post double-doubles for us night in and night out.ˇ±

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In her sophomore season, Njonkou averaged 8.4 points a game and a team-high 6.7 rebounds a game, finishing the season with four double-doubles and shooting 45.6 percent from the field.

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If Njonkou builds off of the way she played in Italy, opponents will have their hands full trying to stop the player often referred to as ˇ?The Bull.ˇ±? During the Italy trip, Njonkou led the team by averaging 23.8 points and 10.2 rebounds a game, including tour highs of 32 points and 11 rebounds against Virtus-Venezia.

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Arizona also returns redshirt senior Shannon Hobson, an experienced post player who had her best season as a Wildcat last season. Although Hobsonˇ?s use will be limited because of back injuries, she is a valuable teammate in the Arizona program.? ˇ?Shannon has always been a very reliable player,ˇ± Bonvicini said. ˇ?She is a great team player and her experience and leadership will help guide the young group of players we have on our team.ˇ±

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Last season, the 6-foot-2 Hobson averaged 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game, playing in all 32 games while making 19 starts. She was second on the team with a 46.7 percent (49-105) field-goal percentage, and led the team in rebounding three times. Hobson also earned Pac-10 Womenˇ?s Basketball All-Academic honorable mention honors.

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Also returning to the Arizona front line in a much healthier form after impressive freshmen seasons are the Neabors twins ?C Rhaya and Rheya.? At 6-foot-1 apiece, these identical twins provide the Wildcats with two quick, versatile options in the post who can contribute on the court with their unparalleled basketball fundamentals, and high basketball IQ.?

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ˇ?Rheya had an outstanding season last year as a freshman despite her injury,ˇ± Bonvicini said.? ˇ?She is a lefty who is so versatile on the court.? Rhaya is a very consistent player who possesses a great deal of versatility.? Those two have a sixth-sense out on the court from being around each other, and are fun to watch play the game.ˇ±

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Rhaya played in all 32 games last season, averaging 4.4 points and 3.4 rebounds a game, while Rheya posted 3.7 points and 2.7 rebounds a game, making 14 starts.? Arizona will look for an increase in both points and rebounds from these two this season.

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Also helping to bolster the Arizona post is 6-foot-1 freshman Ify Ibekwe, and 6-foot-1 junior transfer Sarah Hays, two players who will have an immediate impact in the Wildcat rotation.

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ˇ?Sarah Hays is a great player around the basket,ˇ± Bonvicini said.? ˇ?The addition of Sarah and Ify, who is a very athletic player, will help provide more depth for us in the post right away.ˇ±

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Schedule

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Year in and year out, Arizona never runs away from a challenge, but rather takes on the best teams in the nation head on during the nonconference schedule before playing in the always daunting Pac-10 Conference.? This season will continue the UA tradition of playing a tough schedule, as the Wildcats will take on a formidable list of opponents tough enough to challenge any of the top teams in the nation.

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ˇ?Our schedule is always competitive, and we are going to play some very tough teams from the very start,ˇ± Bonvicini said.? ˇ?We play Penn State to open the season which will be a huge test for us on the road.ˇ±

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ˇ?We are going to be prepared by playing some of the top teams in the nation, Bonvicini said.ˇ±

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The Wildcats will play 29 games during 2007-08, 13 games in McKale Center and 16 on the road, with 14 games scheduled against teams that competed in the NCAA Tournament last year.

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The UA will take on 10 teams that competed in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, with non-conference matchups against Middle Tennessee State, Pittsburgh, Boise State, New Mexico, NC State, and UW-Green Bay, along with Pac-10 series against California, Stanford, Washington and Arizona State.

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The Pac-10 will be as strong as ever, as the Wildcats will face improved teams around the conference.

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ˇ?The Pac-10 is going to be a challenge for every team in the conference,ˇ± Bonvicini said.? ˇ?Stanford is one of the top teams in the nation and Arizona State has had some recent success nationally.? USC will be much improved and UCLA is bringing in a top recruiting class.? Cal has been remarkable the past few seasons, and the rest of the Pac-10 will be competitive and much improved.ˇ±

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The Pac-10 Tournament will be held at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., from March 7-10.

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