Feb. 20, 2009
Date: February 20, 2009
Location: McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: KTUC AM 1400 (Derrick Palmer, Alysiah Bond)
Tip Off Time: Arizona completes its trip through Los Angeles on Sunday, February 15 as the Wildcats take on USC in a Pink Zone game. The Galen Center will also be the host site of the 2009 Pac-10 Tournament, running March 12-15.
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.
UCLA Recap: Arizona followed up one of its best performances of the season with a near carbon copy of one of its most disappointing as UCLA claimed a 58-39 win over the Wildcats. Arizona shot a season-low 22 percent from the field, connected on just three second half field goals and were beaten at a 49-32 clip on the boards. Ify Ibekwe tallied her 12th double-double of the season, claiming team-highs of 12 points and 10 rebounds to go along with five steals and two blocked shots. Courtney Clements also chipped in with 10 points, all coming in the first half. Erica Tukiainen led UCLA with 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting.
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: Arizona State owns a 43-25 lead in the all-time series between the two in-state rivals. Most recently, the Sun Devils have won seven-straight meetings against the Wildcats, including the last three contests in McKale Center. The last Arizona victory came during the 2004-05 season, a 56-49 triumph in Tucson as Jessica Arnold led the way with a game-high 14 points to go along with five rebounds.
Last Meeting: The excitement of Arizona making its 2008-09 regional television debut did not translate into a noteworthy performance as the Wildcats would just assume not think about that game at all. Arizona State jumped out to a 29-12 halftime lead and ran away with a 75-38 triumph. Ify Ibekwe was the only Arizona player in double figures with 13 points as the Wildcats committed 26 turnovers and shot a woeful 26.9 percent from the field.
Scouting the Sun Devils: No team in the Pac-10 is hotter than Arizona State, a team in the midst of a 11-game winning streak. Since dropping three-straight games during the holiday period, ASU is unblemished and won the first nine by double digits before earning a pair of three-point wins over USC and UCLA, respectively. Dymond Simon leads the way for the Sun Devils at 14.1 points per game while Briann January contributes 12.6 points, 4.7 assists and a 47.4 three-point field goal percentage.
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 22-2, have won 18-straight games and are ranked #2 in the state.
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 16.9 points per game and is shooting over 47 percent from beyond the arc for the 22-4 Lady Thunderbirds. She was scorign well over 20 points before sustaining a knee injury last month.
Do the Math: Though the Wildcats were pleased with their overall effort in the win last Sunday against USC, some of the numbers that showed up in the box score were quite puzzling. Arizona allowed 30 offensive rebounds, committed 28 turnovers, allowed 82 total field goal attempts and hoisted up just 43 total shots. The Cats played five games this season when not allowing 30 total rebounds. Remarkably, the 28-turnover tally was the second of the season for Arizona, both leading to victories (the first coming in the triple-overtime triumph over Loyola Marymount on November 15. The Cats also allowed 82 shots to the Lions in that tournament game in Hawaii. The 43 field goal attempts were the 2nd-fewest of the season and the fewest in an Arizona victory since attempting 49 shots in a 64-57 Pac-10 Tournament victory over Oregon at the end of the 2005-06 season.
Going the Distance: With a roster depleted due to injuries, the active and healthy Wildcats have seen their share of minutes this season. Thirty 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 16-of-24 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 39.5 minutes per contest. Ibekwe (34.2), Reiko Thomas (33.0), Amina Njonkou (31.1), and Courtney Clements (29.9) 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 71.0 percent free throw percentage as a team, good for 89th in the NCAA. Clements leads the team with a .935 mark while Thomas checks in at .798 and Frazier has earned a .756 tally. The Cats have also limited the opportunities of the opposition, making 62 more free throws (333) than the opposition has attempted (271).
Nearly Perfect: Other than a 1-for-3 free throw shooting line against Arizona State on January 24, freshman Courtney Clements has gone perfect at the charity stripe in every other game of the campaign. She made her first 19 attempts of the season, then missed back-to-back offerings against the Sun Devils. Since then, she has made 10-straight free throws to post a 29-for-31 mark. Though she will have to significantly increase her attempts to reach the minimum standard to qualify for the school record books, a percentage over .900 would best the school mark of .893 (100-for-112) set by Kirsten Smith in 1986.
Wiping the Glass: The Wildcats continue to show their rebounding prowess as they have outrebounded the opposition in 13-of-24 contests thus far. The Cats are averaging 39.0 rebounds per game while allowing the opposition 36.8 rebounds each game. Arizona boasts a 8-5 record when outrebounding the opposition. National Notables: Speaking of the NCAA statistics, Ibekwe is tops in the Pac-10 and is currently 7th in the NCAA in rebounds per game at 11.2. She is also 63rd in blocked shots per game at 1.9, 90th in scoring at 15.8 per contest and 97th in field goal percentage at .459. Ashley Frazier has moved to 84th in assists at 4.3 per game. The Wildcats are 16th in the NCAA in fouls committed per game with just 14.0 violations per contest.
Topping the Charts: Three times this season, Ibekwe has placed her name on the top 10 single-game rebounding list. 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.
Incredible Ify: It would be impossible to overstate the impact that Ibekwe had on the Arizona victory over Boise State. 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 recent 3-3 stretch of play by the Wildcats can at least partially be attributed to the improved and consistent play of freshman Courtney Clements. Over the past six games, Clements has scored 69 points, an average of 11.5 per contest. She has tallied in double figures in each of the last five games, including back-to-back 15-point outings against Washington State and Oregon State. She has also improved her accuracy from the field, connecting on 48 percent (24-of-50) in that stretch and 8-of-22 (.364) from three-point range. She has seen her per game scoring average a full 1.2 points to 8.8 and has made all five 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, second in scoring and blocked shots, tied for third 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 tied for 5th in rebounding at 7.7 per game. As a team, the Cats are 3rd in field goal percentage defense, and 4th in rebounding offense, blocked shots and free throw percentage.
Accepting the Accolades: Not only was Ibekwe named the Pac-10 Player of the Week in December, she was recently named to the Naismith Award early season watch list. As one of 49 players and just three from the Pac-10 chosen to the initial list, Ibekwe will have an opportunity to remain on the semifinal list of 30 players when the Atlanta Tipoff Club has its voting members cast their ballots in February.
Turn It Over: Taking care of the ball has been an up-and-down proposition for the Wildcats this season. Through the first six games of the season, the Cats were averaging 22.3 miscues per contest. However, the team then went through a six-game stretch where the squad committed 15 or fewer turnovers. During Pac-10 play, the team has reverted more toward its opening trend of the season, averaging 19.1 turnovers per contest while forcing just 16.9 from the opposition.
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 337 fouls through 24 games with only four foul-outs. With an average of just 14.0 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 11.0 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 eight home contests thus far, the Wildcats are allowing a meager 55.6 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 9-4 when allowing less than 62 points.
Up Next: Arizona continues its three-game homestand next Thursday, February 26 when Washington State comes to McKale Center with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m. The Wildcats will then play their final home contest of the season two days later, celebrating Senior Day against Washington at 2 p.m.