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Arizona Women's Basketball - 2001-02 Season Review
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 06/22/2004
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April 2, 2002

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2001-02 IN BRIEF: There are no two ways about it -- the 2001-02 season was a rough one for the University of Arizona women's basketball team. The difficulties actually started last August, when anticipated starter Veranda James left the program for personal reasons. Then the Wildcats found out that their star recruit Shawntinice Polk, a high school All-American, didn't meet academic requirements, wouldn't be on campus until January and even then wouldn't be eligible to play until the following year. To compound the problem, sophomore guard Jenn Chesney went down with an ACL tear in September, and freshman guard Katrina Lindner, another potential starter, tore an ACL in October.

So, the Wildcats entered yet another season short-handed. Most of the year, they had 10 active players, but more than once during the season, they found themselves down to only eight. Of those 10 active players, only four had played more than one season of collegiate basketball prior this year.

The youth and general inexperience of this year's squad showed through, as Arizona played to a 14-14 overall mark, the team's worst record since the 1994-95 team went 11-19. A positive was that the Cats were 10-8 in Pac-10 play, a one-game improvement over the 2001 team's 9-9 finish, but this year's 10-8 mark was good enough only for a tie with Oregon for sixth place in the final conference standings.

 
 

By virtue of tie-breakers, Arizona earned the No. 6 seed in the inaugural State Farm Pac-10 Women's Basketball Tournament. However, the UA was pitted against No. 3 seed and eventual tournament champion Arizona State in the first round, and the Cats found their season over much earlier than they'd hoped it would be. It also ended Arizona's six-year string of consecutive post-season appearances.

ABOUT THE SEASON: The 2001-02 season looked promising enough from the outset, as the Cats ripped off three straight victories in the first six days of the season over Pepperdine, defending WNIT champion Ohio State and defending NCAA champion Notre Dame. After a loss at New Mexico in their first road game of the season on Nov. 27, things went from bad to worse.

Losing sophomore guard Candice Allen to a grade-three concussion during the first contest, the Cats dropped back-to-back games in their own Arizona Basketball Classic for the first time in the history of the tournament. A win at Rice on Dec. 8 ended what had become a nine-game road losing skid for the Cats, but they followed that up with a devastating loss at Stephen F. Austin a week later.

After being thoroughly beaten by then-No. 6 Stanford at home during the Pac-10 opener on Dec. 19, Arizona recovered to edge California just before Christmas break. Losses at Arizona State (Dec. 30), Oregon (Jan. 4) and Oregon State (Jan. 6) had the Wildcats in a true tailspin and sitting at 5-8 overall. Candice Allen, who had missed seven games with her concussion, returned to action at Oregon State but wasn't able to play enough minutes in that contest to truly make a difference.

Allen had a major impact the following weekend, though. During a sweep of the Washington schools at home, she averaged 21 points and 4.5 rebounds per game and exploded for a career-high 25 points on Jan. 12 while leading the Cats to a win over Washington. Unfortunately, the advent of the Pac-10 Tournament forced the Cats to play their final non-conference game against traditional powerhouse UC Santa Barbara just two days after the Washington schools, and the Wildcats suffered for it, dropping a game to the Gauchos for the first time since 1990.

A sweep at USC (Jan. 17) and UCLA (Jan. 19) the following weekend more than made up for that loss, however, as Arizona won its first conference road games in more than a year and swept the L.A. schools on the road for the first time since 1998. The Cats' four-game road swing continued with a loss at then-No. 3 Stanford on Jan. 24 and a win at California two days later. Arizona returned home to split with Oregon State (88-85 overtime loss) on Jan. 31 and Oregon (84-68 win) on Feb. 2. They followed that with a split at Washington (77-73 loss) and Washington State (106-60 win) during the second weekend in February.

Arizona wrapped up regular-season play with a trio of home games that included a win over UCLA on Feb. 14, a loss to USC on Feb. 16, and a victory over Arizona State on Feb. 23. Barely a week later, the Cats found themselves facing their rival ASU again in the first round of the inaugural Pac-10 Tournament in Eugene, Oregon. Arizona held 10-point lead at halftime of that game on Mar. 2, but the Cats just couldn't contain an ASU team that would eventually advance to win the tournament.

INDIVIDUALLY IN 2001-02: Averaging 16.1 points per game, senior forward Elizabeth Pickney lead the Wildcats in scoring. Freshman guard Dee-Dee Wheeler was second in scoring, averaging 12.3 ppg, followed closely by sophomore guards Aimee Grzyb (10.8 ppg) and Candice Allen (10.0 ppg).

Senior center LaKeisha Taylor was fifth on the scoring chart, with 9.6 ppg, trailed by junior wing Krista Warren's 8.2 ppg. Fellow junior Julie Brase averaged 5.6 ppg, and freshman guard Robin Roberson registered 4.8 points per game.

Krista Warren was Arizona's top rebounder, with a career-best season average of 8.1 rpg. Pickney was a close second, averaging 8.0 rpg, followed by LaKeisha Taylor's 5.7 rpg and Dee-Dee Wheeler's 3.4 rpg.

ARIZONA IN THE PAC-10: As a team, Arizona finished the year as the Pac-10 leader in free throw percentage (.740) and was second in scoring offense (74.1 ppg), three-point field goal percentage (.366) and defensive rebounds (25.07 drpg).

Individually, Krista Warren was fifth in the conference in rebounding (8.1 rpg), Candice Allen was fifth in steals (2.10 spg) and Dee-Dee Wheeler was fifth in three-point percentage (.404). Elizabeth Pickney was fourth in blocked shots (1.21 bpg), fourth in free throw percentage (.834) and sixth in rebounding (8.0 rpg).

Arizona had four players among the top 20 in the conference in scoring. Pickney was seventh (16.1 ppg), Wheeler was 13th (12.2 ppg), Aimee Grzyb was 17th (10.8 ppg), and Candice Allen was 19th (10.0 ppg).

ARIZONA'S LAST TIME OUT: Scoring only four field goals in the second half, sixth-seeded Arizona was given an early exit from the inaugural State Farm Pac-10 Women's Basketball Tournament by rival and No. 3 seed Arizona State, 66-58, in Eugene, Ore., on Mar. 2.

Things looked promising for the Wildcats in the first half. The two squads began the contest by exchanging buckets, then Arizona used an 8-0 run to gain an eight-point (14-6) advantage five minutes into the game. ASU responded with a 9-2 spurt that cut the deficit to one (18-17) with 9:06 left in the first. The Wildcats managed to go back up by seven (26-19) three minutes later, only to see the Sun Devils tie the game at 26-all with 3:27 to play in the period. Arizona finished the half on a 10-0 run that gave it a 36-26 lead at halftime. The Cats shot 51.7 percent in the first half to ASU's 30 percent.

Arizona started the second half with three consecutive fouls, enabling the Sun Devils to score five unanswered points to begin the period. An Aimee Grzyb three-pointer, the only one of the contest for the Cats, at 15:40 in the second gave Arizona its last decent lead in the game, at eight points (41-33). Then the Cats went totally cold from the floor.

Over the next eight-plus minutes, Arizona committed five fouls and scored only seven points, while the Sun Devils put up 15 points and tied the game at 48-48 with 7:01 left. The Wildcats scrapped back out to four-point leads twice more in the waning minutes, but their sputtering offense never got back on track, as they made their last field goal of the game with 4:36 to play. Arizona finished the contest by shooting just 4-for-8 from the free throw line and committing eight fouls. The Sun Devils shot 12-for-14 down the stretch to seal the win, all while holding Arizona to a miserable 17.4 percent (4-23) performance from the floor in the second half.

Candice Allen hit 8-for-10 from the floor on her way to a game-high 19 points, seven rebounds and two steals. Aimee Grzyb tallied 15 points, while Elizabeth Pickney had 10 points and seven rebounds as the only other Wildcat to reach double digits in scoring.

Pickney drained four of her six free throw attempts to tie former Wildcat Adia Barnes (1995-98) as Arizona's career leader in free throws made. Both finished their careers with 472.

HEAD COACH JOAN BONVICINI: The winningest coach in Arizona women's basketball history, Joan Bonvicini has nurtured the Wildcat program into an upward-rising powerhouse. In 11 seasons at the helm of the Arizona program, Bonvicini has guided the Wildcats to six post-season appearances, including four NCAA tournament berths and two in the WNIT.

Just wrapping up her 11th season with the Wildcats, Bonvicini holds a 193-131 (.596) mark at Arizona and is 518-202 (.719) in 23 years as a head coach. She is 23-14 in NCAA tournament play and has never lost a first-round game in 13 appearances.

Prior to taking over at the UA, Bonvicini led Long Beach State to 10 consecutive NCAA appearances, including two trips to the Final Four. She registered a 325-71 mark in 12 seasons with the 49ers.

DID YOU KNOW: Since Joan Bonvicini took over the Arizona program in 1991, the Wildcats have gone 103-94 against Pac-10 teams, although they have a 69-39 league mark over the last six seasons combined.

THE REST OF THE STAFF: Awarded the title of associate head coach in 1998, Denise Dove Ianello (Northern Illinois, 1992) is in her 10th year at the UA, functioning as both the team's recruiting coordinator and a perimeter coach. In his third year at the UA, assistant coach Curtis Loyd (Southern Utah, 1994) is involved with scouting and with coaching the post players and is the director of the Joan Bonvicini Hoop Camp. New assistant coach Kellee Barney (Idaho, 1983) was just added to the Wildcat staff on Feb. 11. Her duties include recruiting, scouting and floor work with the players.

NEW WILDCAT ON THE WAY: Associate head coach Denise Dove Ianello and her husband Rob, who is the UA football recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach, are expecting their first child in April 2002.

TOUGH SCHEDULE: Thirteen of Arizona's 18 opponents this year earned post-season bids. Seven teams -- Arizona State, UC Santa Barbara, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Pepperdine, Stanford and Stephen F. Austin -- were in the NCAA tournament. The others -- Holy Cross, Oregon, Oregon State, Rice, USC and Washington -- were all in the WNIT. Oregon was the most successful, winning its second WNIT championship at the end of March. Stanford was the only UA opponent that made it past the second round of the NCAA tournament, but the Cardinal were knocked off in the Sweet Sixteen.

CATS EARN PAC-10 HONORS: Wildcat guard Dee-Dee Wheeler was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year this season, and senior forward Elizabeth Pickney earned first team All-Pac-10 honors for the second straight year. Junior wing Krista Warren was an honorable mention Academic All-Pac-10 selection.

UA TEAM AWARDS: After finishing the season as the team's leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, senior forward Elizabeth Pickney was named Most Valuable Player. She also earned the team's Free Throw Percentage Leader Award, shooting 83.4 percent from the line for the season, the fourth-best free throw percentage in the Pac-10.

Freshman guard Dee-Dee Wheeler raked in her share of awards as well. She was named the team's Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. With 93 assists on the season, she also earned the Assists Leader Award.

Junior wing Krista Warren was co-recipient of the Hustle Award, along with sophomore guard Aimee Grzyb. Warren earned the Academic Achievement Award, for having the highest grade-point average on the squad, and she also received the Rebounding Leader Award, after registering a team-best 8.1 boards per game this season.

Freshman center Danielle Adefeso was selected as the team's Most Improved Player, while Pickney, senior center LaKeisha Taylor and junior guard Julie Brase were given Captain Awards for serving as the squad's tri-captains for the 2001-02 season.

FREE-WHEELIN': Freshman guard Dee-Dee Wheeler was a phenomenal rookie for the Wildcats this season. She became the first UA player to be named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year since former Wildcat Adia Barnes earned that honor in 1995. Wheeler finished the season as the top-scoring freshman in the Pac-10 and was among the conference leaders in five different statistical categories.

Wheeler reached double digits in scoring in 19 games this season. That's the highest number of double-digit scoring performances for any Wildcat freshman since current senior Elizabeth Pickney tallied 19 as a rookie during the 1998-99 season.

LOVE THOSE TV GAMES: Arizona garnered a perfect 6-0 record in televised games this season. During those contests, the Cats averaged 84.5 points per game, out-scored their opponents by an average of 16.3 ppg and shot 46.5 percent from the floor, 38.1 percent from three-point range and 82.8 percent from the free throw line.

NEWS FROM BEYOND THE ARC: During Pac-10 play this year, the Wildcats set a new school record for the most three-point field goals made in league action. This year's squad amassed 102 three-pointers in conference action, breaking the previous mark of 95 made by the 1995-96 team.

The Wildcats also fell just one 3-pointer shy of the school single-season record. They made 161 three-pointers this season, and the record is 162, set by the 1999-2000 squad.

GOTTA PLAY DEFENSE: Arizona was 11-2 this year when holding opponents to 69 points or less.

PICKNEY IS CAREER STARTS LEADER: With her start against Arizona State on Feb. 23, Elizabeth Pickney became Arizona's new career leader in games started, finishing with 112 in her four-year career. She surpassed former Wildcats Adia Barnes (1995-98) and Lisa Griffith (1997-2000), who both started 110 games in their careers.

HALFTIME TELLS IT ALL: This season, Arizona was 11-3 when leading at halftime, but the Cats went 2-10 when they trailed at the break. They went 1-1 in games that were tied at halftime.

MUSICAL LINEUPS: Although she had only 10 active players available all season, Wildcat head coach Joan Bonvicini used nine different starting lineups this year. The lineup that appeared most frequently was Krista Warren, Elizabeth Pickney, Dee-Dee Wheeler, Aimee Grzyb and Julie Brase, used in 10 games with a 6-4 mark. The most successful lineup, with a 3-1 record, was Warren, Pickney, Grzyb, Brase and LaKeisha Taylor.

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW: During the first 13 games of the season, the Wildcats averaged only 69.2 points per game and shot only 40.2 percent from the floor, including 32.9 percent from three-point range, while garnering a paltry 5-8 record. However, over their final 15 games, the Cats averaged 78.4 ppg and shot 45.8 percent from the floor and 39.9 percent from beyond the arc while collecting a 9-6 mark.

PUT UP SOME POINTS: The Cats were 6-3 this season when Elizabeth Pickney scored 20 points or more.

GOING POLLING: Seven of the 18 opponents on the Cats' 2001-02 schedule were either ranked or received votes for ranking in the final polls of the season.

In the Mar. 11 Associated Press Poll, Stanford was the only team ranked, standing at No. 5. Arizona State, Notre Dame, UC Santa Barbara, New Mexico and Pepperdine all received votes for ranking.

In the April 1 USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll, Stanford was ranked No. 8. Arizona State, Notre Dame, UC Santa Barbara, Oregon and Pepperdine were all among the teams receiving votes for ranking.

CLOSE BUT...: Fifteen of Arizona's 28 games this season were decided by nine points or less, with eight of those being decided by five points or less.

CHECKING THE RECORD BOOK: Wildcat senior Elizabeth Pickney finished her career among the Arizona leaders in 16 different career statistical categories. Pickney is first in career blocked shots (147), first in games started (112), tied for first in free throws made (472), second in scoring (1620), second in free throws attempted (614), second in field goals made (570), second in total rebounds (736), third in career rebounding average (6.1 rpg), fourth in scoring average (13.4 ppg), fourth in double-doubles (11), fourth in field goals attempted (1159), tied for fourth in free throw percentage (.769) and fifth in total minutes played (3328).

Julie Brase is third in career three-point percentage (.369), tied for sixth in career three-pointers made (83) and is seventh in three-pointers attempted (225). Aimee Grzyb is fourth in three-point percentage (.362), fourth in three-pointers made (100) and fourth in three-pointers attempted (276).

THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Although the McKale Center has historically been kind to the Cats, they logged six losses at home this season, their most losses in McKale since the 1994-95 team dropped seven home games.

The Wildcats have won 29 of their last 38 home games and are 51-14 on their home court over the last four seasons combined. During Joan Bonvicini's 11 seasons at Arizona, the Wildcats have posted a 116-49 mark in McKale Center. Arizona has an all-time record of 182-157 on its home court since the 1976-77 season.

80 IS THE MAGIC NUMBER: It seems that the 80-point mark almost always means adding another to the "win" column for the Wildcats. In the 30-year history of UA women's basketball, the Cats have posted a 140-21 record when scoring 80 points or more in a game. Under Bonvicini, the Wildcats have gone 100-14 when topping that 80-point plateau.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Cats hit five or more 3-pointers in 19 of this season's 28 games... Arizona had 15 or more assists in 16 games... The Cats had 10 or more steals in 10 games... Arizona forced its opponent into 20 or more turnovers in 11 contests... The UA scored 80 points or better in eight games.

KEYS TO THE WIN: This season, Arizona was... 6-0 when shooting 80% or better from the line... 6-4 when forcing more turnovers than it committed... 11-3 when leading at halftime... 13-5 when scoring 70 points or more... 11-4 when shooting better than its opponent from the free throw line... 11-2 when holding its opponent to 69 points or less.

BUT ON THE LOSING END...: The Cats were... 0-6 when giving up 80 points or more... 3-10 when shooting worse from the free throw line than the opponent... 2-10 when trailing at halftime... 4-8 when making fewer three-pointers than the opponent... 8-14 when shooting less than 80% from the line... 1-9 when scoring 69 points or less... 4-10 when three or fewer players reach double digits in scoring... 3-9 when shooting under 40% from the floor.

PICKNEY BECOMES UA CAREER BLOCKS LEADER: With a career-high-tying five blocks at New Mexico on Nov. 27, Elizabeth Pickney took over as Arizona's career blocked shots leader. She has 147 career blocks, placing her ahead of former career leader Marte Alexander (1995-98), who had 121. Her blocks total also places her eighth on the Pac-10 career list in that category.

CAT SCRATCHES: The Arizona women's basketball program has a 352-419 (.457) all-time record, however it is 156-83 (.653) from 1994 to present... Joan Bonvicini has a 194-107 career record against Pac-10 teams.

ON LOCATION: This year, Arizona was 9-6 at home, 5-7 on the road and 0-1 in neutral games. Last season, the Wildcats were 15-2 at home, 4-9 in road games and 1-1 in neutral contests.

CATS HIRE NEW ASSISTANT COACH: New assistant coach Kellee Barney (Idaho, 1983) was added to the Wildcat staff on Feb. 11. She has 16 years of Division I coaching experience, including six years as head coach at Gonzaga. She assists with recruiting, scouting and floor work with the players. Barney replaced former assistant Karen Caires, who resigned last December.

KNOCKING 'EM DOWN: Elizabeth Pickney drained 15 of her 16 free throw attempts against Oregon on Feb. 2, tying a school record for most free throws made in a game. The record was previously set by former Wildcat Angela Lackey at home against Stanford on Jan. 8, 2000.

RANKED OPPONENTS: Standing at No. 3 when the Wildcats played the Cardinal on Jan. 24, Stanford was the highest-ranked opponent Arizona has faced since playing then-No. 2 Tennessee on Mar. 20, 2000, in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Stanford was the highest-ranked regular season opponent the Cats have faced since then-No. 2 Louisiana Tech on Dec. 6, 1998.

BOMBS AWAY: Against UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 14, the Wildcats were 12-for-32 from three-point land, just one 3-pointer made away from the school record of 13. The 32 attempts set a new record, however, erasing the earlier mark of 29 set against Stanford on Jan. 12, 1998.

WHAT A GAME!: After six straight games of averaging barely 60 points a contest, the Wildcats went off for a 107-57 win over Washington State on Jan. 10. It was Arizona's biggest victory over a Division I opponent since drilling Cal State Fullerton, 87-33, on Dec. 8, 1995. The 107 points was Arizona's highest offensive output since scoring 107 in a victory over UC Santa Barbara (107-74) on Nov. 23, 1997.

The Cats scored 61 points in the second half against WSU, the highest point total for any half since the team collected 62 points in the second half at Providence on Dec. 30, 1995. The Wildcats also shot 53.9 percent from the floor against the Cougars, the UA's best shooting percentage in 20 games and its first time over 50 percent for this season.

ROUGH START: The Cats' 4-5 start was the worst start ever for a Bonvicini-coached team at Arizona and is the program's worst record through the first nine games since the 1988-89 season.

THE CATS AND PAC-10 OPENERS: Under Joan Bonvicini, Arizona has a 7-4 mark in Pac-10 openers and has won its first conference contest in seven of the last nine years.

CRASHING THE BOARDS: Junior wing Krista Warren pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds at Stephen F. Austin on Dec. 16. That's the highest individual rebound total for any Wildcat since Adia Barnes grabbed her career high of 18 against Arizona State on Jan. 7, 1995.

JOAN BONVICINI COACHES HER 700th GAME: The Dec. 16 contest at Stephen F. Austin was the 700th game of Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini's career.

WILDCAT PICKPOCKETS: The Wildcats racked up an astounding 19 steals in their 81-80 loss to Pittsburgh at home on Dec. 2. That's the highest single-game steals total since the team collected 22 steals in a losing effort at Oregon (68-66) on Jan. 24, 1998.

CHALLENGING START: Over these first 15 days of the 2002 season, the Wildcats played six games, including five opponents that saw post-season action in 2001. That slate included last year's WNIT champion Ohio State, the NCAA champion Notre Dame and the WNIT runner-up New Mexico.

PICKNEY NAMED PAC-10 PLAYER OF THE WEEK (Nov. 26): Senior forward Elizabeth Pickney was named the Pac-10 Women's Basketball Player of the Week for Nov. 18-25.

Pickney averaged 21.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in leading Arizona to a 3-0 start, including an upset win of defending national champion and 15th-ranked Notre Dame. On the week, Pickney shot 95.8 percent (23-of-24) from the line and hit 57.1 percent (20-of-35) from the floor.

In an 81-77 season-opening win over Pepperdine on Nov. 18, Pickney notched 12 points and six rebounds. On Nov. 21, she shot a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line en route to a game-high 24 points and seven rebounds as Arizona downed defending WNIT champion Ohio State, 90-76. Pickney was 8-for-13 from the floor against the Buckeyes.

In the 72-70 win over the Fighting Irish on Nov. 24, she scored a game-high 27 points and posted a team-high eight rebounds. She shot 8-for-13 from the floor and was a perfect 11-for-11 from the line, contributing to the Cats' 20-for-20 school-record performance at the stripe. Pickney scored 21 of UA's 43 second-half points, nailing a lay-up at the buzzer to lift the Cats to a two-point win.

The Player of the Week honor was the fourth of Pickney's career and the 24th all-time selection for Arizona.

CATS INK THREE DURING FALL SIGNING PERIOD: The Wildcats signed three players during the fall signing period this year. Shawntinice Polk (Hanford, Calif./Hanford HS), Svjetlana Papcevic (Sarajevo, Bosnia/Pratt Kans. CC) and Natalie Jones (Anchorage, Alaska/East Anchorage HS) all signed National Letters of Intent.

Polk originally signed with Arizona last year, but her NLI was rendered void when she failed to meet academic requirements for this school year. She signed a new letter during the early signing period last fall.

GOOD BEGINNINGS: With Joan Bonvicini at the program's helm, the Wildcats have won seven straight season openers and nine in the 11 years she has been at the UA.

CLARK WITHDRAWS FROM SCHOOL: Guard Mandakova Clark, who would have sat out this year after transferring from Rutgers, withdrew from the University of Arizona at the end of October and will not be returning to the school.

ITALY TOUR 2001: On May 18-June 2, 2001, the Wildcats went to Italy for the program's third foreign tour. The tour began in Venice then advanced to Verona, Como, Milan, Lucca, Pisa, Florence and concluded in Rome. The Cats went 5-1 against club teams in many of these cities and visited a multitude of historical sites along the way.

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