The University of Arizona women’s basketball team hosts Colorado State, Pueblo in an exhibition game on Friday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. in McKale Center. The game will be the Wildcats’ first of two preseason contests before the season opener against Nicholls State on Tuesday, Nov. 14.
RED & BLUE GAME RECAP:
The Arizona women’s basketball Red Team defeated the Blue Team, 100-61, in the program’s annual Red & Blue Game on Wednesday night in McKale Center, the Wildcats’ first official scrimmage of the 2006-07 season.
The Red Team, comprised entirely of Arizona players, shot 59.7 percent from the field (37-62), including a 14-of-24 (58.3 percent) mark from three-point land, to go with 19 assists. The Blue Team out-rebounded the Red Team, 44-35.
Individually, junior Ashley Whisonant led the Wildcats with 23 points on 10-of-15 (66.7 percent) shooting from the field, while dishing out five assists. Sophomore Kelsey Burns finished with 22 points (20 in the second half), senior Joy Hollingsworth tallied 18 points, and sophomore Malia O’Neal finished with nine points and seven assists.
The Red Team jumped out to an early lead in the first half, racing out to a 16-2 advantage over the Blue Team in the first 6:38 of the game. The Blue Team rallied down 25-9, putting together a 16-5 run over 4:42 to cut the deficit to 30-25. A Hollingsworth trey for the Red would end the run and give Red Team an eight-point lead that would last until half time at 46-38.
The Red Team caught fire late in the second half, outscoring the Blue Team 28-6 in the final 8:19 of the game for the 39 point win. The Red Team also shot 9-of-12 (75.0 percent) from beyond the arc in the second half.
ABOUT THE THUNDERWOLVES:
The Colorado State University-Pueblo ThunderWolves enter Friday’s matchup with Arizona fresh off a successful 2005-06 campaign. The Pack went 19-12 last season, winning its first-ever Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout, and making an appearance in the NCAA Division II National Tournament. Despite losing five players, including its leading scorer and starting point guard from last year’s squad, the ThunderWolves were picked to finish first in West Division of the RMAC in the preseason coaches’ poll. Senior Kelly Lewis was second on the team in scoring last season with 9.9 ppg, while posting 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.
The CSUP roster is made up of two seniors, four juniors, six sophomores, and four freshmen, with six players measuring in at 6-0 or taller. Head coach Kip Drown is in his second season at the helm of the program.
A QUICK LOOK AT THE WILDCATS:
Arizona returns four starters and 10 letterwinners from last year’s team that went 8-22 and 3-15 in the Pac-10. The Wildcats feature five newcomers to the lineup, including two sets of twins.
The Wildcats will welcome back a group of experienced players that accounted for 76 percent of its scoring and 78 percent of its rebounding from a year ago. Arizona returns senior Joy Hollingsworth, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder from last season at 14.4 ppg and 6.0 rpg. Junior Ashley Whisonant returns at the point after posting 13.7 points and 3.4 assists per game in 2006.
Junior Jessica Arnold, and sophomores Whitney Fields, Kelsey Burns, Malia O’Neal, and Amina Njonkou return to this year’s lineup, as does senior Linda Pace, who has recovered from season-ending knee injury. Junior Shannon Hobson returns to the post after a redshirt season.
ABOUT THE NEWCOMERS:
Arizona features a talented group of newcomers, headlined by two sets a twins and a talented guard from Las Cruces, N.M. Junior college transfers Beatrice and Suzy Bofia will add much needed size to the Wildcat line up this season standing at 6-7 and 6-6 respectively.
Beatrice and Suzy, from Yaound?©, Cameroon, spent the last two seasons at Illinois Central College. Beatrice averaged 6.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in 2004-05, and 4.3 points and 3.4 rebounds last season, as Illinois Central won the NJCAA Division II national championship.
Suzy posted impressive numbers in her two seasons at Illinois Central College. In 2004-05, she average 9.5 points and 6.4 rebounds a game and was named to the all-tournament team at the NJCAA Division II national championships after averaging 10.0 points and 11.7 rebounds. Last season, she averaged 12.8 points and 9.6 rebounds a game for the national championship squad, and was named a Kodak honorable mention All-American while setting school records for rebounds in a season (328) and rebound average (9.6).
Rhaya and Rheya Neabors are also twins from Fullerton, Calif., who size in at 6-foot-1 apiece, and will add more options for the Arizona lineup in the post and on the wing. Freshman guard Marie McGee completes the group of newcomers, standing at 5-7, and will vie for playing time in the UA backcourt.
ARIZONA HEAD COACH JOAN BONVICINI:
The winningest coach in Arizona women’s basketball history, Joan Bonvicini has taken the Wildcat program from obscurity into the national limelight. In her 15 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 10 years, and in 2003-04 won a share of the conference regular-season title for the first time in school history. 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, 21 All-Pac-10 honorees, 16 Pac-10 All-Freshman Team choices and 11 Academic All-Pac-10 selections. Bonvicini holds a 266-182 (.594) mark at Arizona and is 591-253 (.700) in 27 years as a head coach, needing just nine wins to become the 13th coach in NCAA history to reach 600 career wins. She has a career record of 24-17 in NCAA Tournament play and has lost just two first-round games in 17 tourney appearances.
THE REST OF THE STAFF:
Kellee Barney (Idaho, 1983): Enters her sixth 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.
Todd Holthaus (Grand Canyon, 1995): Enters his second season with the Wildcats after serving as the head coach at Flowing Wells High School for seven years. He is responsible for post player development, recruiting, scouting, floor work and assisting with the Joan Bonvicini Hoop Camp.
Jonelle Streed (St. Cloud State, 2003): Enters her first season as assistant coach after having spent the previous two seasons as the program’s graduate assistant video coordinator. She is responsible for perimeter player development, recruiting, scouting, floor work and assisting with the Joan Bonvicini Hoop Camp.
Arizona was on fire in the Red & Blue game, as the Red Team, comprised entirely of Wildcats finished with 100 points in the game. The Red Team shot 59.7 percent (37-62) in the game, while dishing out 19 assists. Last season, Arizona’s highest mark from the field as a team was 50.7 percent (36-71) against Furman. If you were wondering, the last time Arizona posted 100 points or more in a regular season game was Dec. 22, 2002 at UNLV in a 101-73 win.
Last season, Arizona set school records as a team with 176 three-point field goals made, and 559 three-point field goals attempts. Although the Wildcats are stacked in the paint, look for UA to drop some treys on the opposition this season as shown in the Red & Blue game. The Red Team made 14 three-pointers on 24 attempts, good for a 58.3 percent clip. Last season, Arizona made 10 or more threes four times. The school record for three-pointers made in a game is 13 against Stanford in 1998.
Junior point guard Ashley Whisonant showed her ability to put up points in the Red & Blue game. The Bowie, Md., native posted 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field, to go with five assists. Last season, Whisonant was third on the team in scoring with 13.7 ppg, while leading the team in assists with a 3.4 apg average.
BURNING IT UP:
Sophomore Kelsey Burns burned up the nets in the Red & Blue game, to say the least. The Seattle native finished with 22 points in the game, but caught fire after half time. Burns posted 20 points in the second half, shooting 6-of-7 from three-point land. Burns averaged 4.1 points a game last season, and shot .315 (26-71) from behind the arc as a freshman.
Sophomore Malia O’Neal showed how versatile she can be on the court in 24 minutes of play in the Red & Blue game. The 5-5 guard finished the game with nine points, seven assists, four rebounds, and three steals while playing for both the Red and Blue Teams.
CATS PICKED TO FINISH SEVENTH IN PAC-10:
The University of Arizona women’s basketball team was selected to finish seventh in the Pac-10 Conference in a preseason vote by the conference’s head coaches on Oct., 16. The Wildcats garnered 32 points in the poll, as defending Pac-10 champion Stanford was chosen as the favorite to win this year’s Pac-10 title.
The Cardinal received nine of 10 first-place votes and 81 points, as Arizona State received the remaining first-place nod and tallied 70 points to place second. USC was tabbed to finish third with 63 points, followed by California and Washington with 53 points for a tie for the fourth-place slot. UCLA grabbed 46 points to place sixth, followed by Arizona (32), as Oregon (22), Washington State (16) and Oregon State (14) rounded out the poll.
Like every season, Arizona competes against some of the toughest competition in the nation. This year will be no different. The Wildcats will face a strong non-conference slate to go along with the always-difficult Pac-10 Conference season. Arizona will play 20 games this season against 12 teams that participated in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats will face defending national champion Maryland and NCAA Tournament teams George Washington and TCU in the first week of the season. Arizona also hosts NC State, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico, and travels to Texas A&M and Utah. After the brutal non-conference slate, Arizona must throw blows with its Pac-10 Conference foes, including Arizona State, California, Stanford, Washington, USC, and UCLA, all tournament teams from a year ago.
Arizona’s tough schedule is apparent when you take a look at this year’s preseason rankings. In the WBCA/USA Today/ESPN Preseason Top-25 Poll, nine of the top 25 teams in the nation will play the Wildcats during the season. Defending champs Maryland tops the list at No. 1 in the nation, followed by No. 4 Stanford, No. 12 Arizona State, No. 14 Texas A&M, No. 20 New Mexico, No. 21 California, No. 22 USC, No. 23 UCLA, and No. 25 Washington. Additionally, five other Arizona opponents (George Washington, Utah, TCU, Louisiana Tech, and NC State) received double-digit votes in the poll.
Last season, the Pacific-10 Conference placed six teams in the NCAA Tournament (Stanford, Arizona State, California, USC, UCLA, Washington) the most ever fielded in one postseason in conference history. Those same six teams from the Pac-10 are listed in the preseason Top-25 rankings.
GET IT STARTED:
With Joan Bonvicini at the program’s helm, the Wildcats have won 12 of their 15 season openers. Last year, Arizona defeated LMU, 74-66, on Nov. 18 in McKale Center. Arizona last lost a season opener against No. 3-ranked LSU, 71-78 in overtime, on Nov. 22, 2002 to open the 2002-03 season.
Arizona hosts Grand Canyon in an exhibition game on Monday, Nov. 6 in McKale Center at 7 p.m.