Dec. 3, 2009
Date: December 4, 2009
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Olson Court, McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: KTUC AM 1400 (Derrick Palmer, Alysiah Bond)
Tip Off Time: The Wildcats open up a brief two-game homestand this Friday evening with a non-conference clash against Western Athletic Conference foe Nevada. Arizona will then host neighbor New Mexico on Wednesday, December 9 before heading out on the road for the next two games following final exams.
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 15 minutes prior to tip-off for the pre-game show. Please visit www.arizonawildcats.com for all of your live stats, audio and video needs. Live stats will also be availabe with a link posted on both the Arizona and San Diego women's basketball schedule pages.
Conference Matchup: A one-time member of the WAC, Arizona has an overall record of 26-29 against the teams that currently make up the Western Athletic Conference. Though the league has changed shape over the years, the Cats have done well against most of the conference with a winning mark against 5-of-8 teams. However, a 1-5 record against Louisiana Tech and 4-7 ledger against Utah State keeps the Wildcats from enjoying a record above .500. Arizona has most often played New Mexico State of the eight current schools, posting a 12-11 record against the Aggies.
Last Time Out: Arizona picked up its second win in a four-day span by knocking off host San Diego, 65-55, last Friday evening at the Jenny Craig Pavilion. Soana Lucet led all scorers with 22 points on 10-of-17 shooting while Ify Ibekwe added 15 points and 11 rebounds. The Wildcats shot a solid 46.4 percent from the field while limiting the Toreros to just a 20-of-59 (.339) clip. Brooke Jackson also chipped in with 10 points for the Cats.
Series Notes: Arizona and Nevada have met just once before with the Wildcats capturing a 79-57 triumph in McKale Center on December 11, 1994. All-time Arizona leading scorer Adia Barnes led the way for the Wildcats in that game, tallying 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting while also pulling down 11 rebounds. Jacinda Sweet kicked in 16 points to go along with 4 assists as the Cats forced 32 turnovers and recorded 20 assists on their 33 made baskets.
Head Coach Niya Butts: Second-year head coach Niya Butts took over the Arizona program on April 3, 2008 and has been leaving her mark everyday since. Butts came to Tucson after spending 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).
Welcome Back: Arizona returns four players from the 2008-09 season while also returning one more team member that sat out the entire season. Juinor all-American Ify Ibekwe heads the group of veteran Cats after leading Arizona in almost every statistical category and earning 1st-team All-Pac-10 and All-Defensive Team honors. Senior point guard Ashley Frazier also returns after averaging a conference-best and school-record 39.6 minutes per game. Fellow backcourt mates Faihza Hill and Reiko Thomas round out the foursome. Sophomore guard Tasha Dickey is back at full strength after sitting out last season to have surgery on an injured foot that did not heal properly during the off-season.
Fresh Faces: With just enough for a starting five coming back, head coach Niya Butts and her staff signed six players during the recruiting period and plan to bring a new look and attitude to Arizona basketball. Four junior college players, one four-year transfer and one high school standout make up the group of newcomers. Jennifer Kioa and Amanda Pierson are a pair of post players that give the Cats much-needed height inside as well as the ability to defend, rebound and run the floor. Soana Lucet is a versatile wing player with excellent offensive skills while guard Brooke Jackson is a three-point threat while also bringing a well-rounded overall game. Prep standout Davellyn Whyte was the Gatorade Arizona High School Player of the Year last season and is expected to make an immediate contribution. Junior point guard Shanita Arnold will redshirt after transferring to Arizona from the University of Arkansas.
Scouting the Wolfpack: Coming off a 18-14 campaign last season, Nevada is off to a 5-2 start after picking up a 101-72 win over Sacramento State on Wednesday afternoon. The Wolfpack are under the guidance of 2nd-year head coach Jane Albright, who boasts more than 25 years of total head coaching experience at the collegiate level. Nevada is led offensively by Johnna Ward, who is averaging 13.1 points per game and has hit a team-best 15 three-point shots. No other Wolfpack player is averaging in double figures, but four others all tally between 5.1 and 9.3 points per contest.
Rolling on Twenties: In just five games this season, three different players have scored at least 20 points in a game. Junior forward Soana Lucet scored a game-high 22 points against San Diego last Friday, joining Davellyn Whyte (27 vs. Iona) and Brooke Jackson (20 vs. Ole Miss) in the exclusive group. Over 31 games last season, only three players were able to accomplish that feat with Ify Ibekwe leading the way after going for 20 or more points in seven different games.
Preseason Picks: Arizona was picked to finish 9th in both the Coaches and Media polls that were released last week. In each vote, the Wildcats were picked to finish ahead of just Washington. Nine-time defending champion Stanford was picked to add another crown to its mantle in both polls. Junior forward Ify Ibekwe was one of five players named to the Preseason All-Pac-10 team after earning 1st-team all-Pac-10 and All-Defensive First Team honors last season.
Youth is Served: With just four returning players with Pac-10 experience plus one year of service from Tasha Dickey, Arizona is the fourth-youngest team in all of NCAA Division I. Both Tennessee-Martin and Tennessee Tech return just four seasons of top-level experience while Central Arkansas brings back only five seasons of play. Rounding out the top five was Monmouth, which claims eight seasons.
Defending Their Turf: The Wildcats have continued to make it quite difficult for opposing teams to put the ball in the basket since head coach Niya Butts took over prior to the 2008-09 campaign. Visiting teams averaged just 56.9 points per game while shooting a paltry .375 from the field last season. The Cats allowed 70 or more points only twice, one of those coming in an overtime game, and held the opposition under 59 points in over half of their contests that included four sub-50-point allowances. The Cats started their 2009-10 home slate with another solid defensive performance, limiting Ole Miss to just 59 points and a stingy 32.4 field goal percentage.
Roster Update: Junior guard Faihza Hill recently informed the coaching staff that she will no longer be part of the women's basketball program. Hill played in two games this season.
Injury Update: All 9 Arizona players should be ready for action on Friday evening against San Diego. The team suffered no new injuries against the Rebels and are only dealing with a few nagging injuries that will not keep any players out of action.
National Notables: With the first set of NCAA statistics released earlier this week, the Wildcats have dotted the Arizona name in several categories among the Top 100. The Cats are currently the top three-point shooting team in the Pac-10 and 26th nationally at 40.0 percent from distance. Arizona is also 24th in field goal percentage defense (.333), 56th in blocked shots per game (4.4) and 64th in three-point field goal percentage defense (.265). In the individual tally, Ify Ibekwe leads both the Pac-10 and the NCAA in rebounds per game (15.0) and is 28th in steals per game (3.0). Brooke Jackson is 23rd in three-point field goal percentage (.524).
Setting the Schedule: Once again, the Wildcats will embark on a 29-game regular season schedule that will prove to be one of the most difficult in the Pac-10. The Cats will play eight games against teams that participated in last season's NCAA Tournament, including visits to Mountain West champion San Diego State on November 21 and a trip to ACC-member Georgia Tech on December 20. The Wildcats will also play road games at San Diego and UC Riverside following the season-opening tournament at Iona. At home in McKale Center, Arizona will entertain SEC-foe Ole Miss, Nevada, New Mexico and Alabama A&M prior to the beginning of Pac-10 play.
Nothing Ify About Ibekwe: Junior forward Ify Ibekwe had one of the most impressive seasons in 2008-09 in recent Arizona history. She led the Wildcats in scoring (15.7), rebounds (11.6), field goals (173), free throws (109), blocked shots (52) and steals (60). She was the only player in the Pac-10 to average a double-double and finished tied for 6th nationally in rebounds. Despite a slow start that saw her play just seven minutes against Fort Lewis in the first half, Ibekwe finished with 11 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, four steals and three blocked shots.
Glass Eater: After posting three of the top four single-game rebounding totals in Arizona history last season, Ibekwe improved upon her own personal best by grabbing 22 rebounds in the season-opening win over Iona. Last season, she registered the first known 20-20 game in Arizona history with 26 points and 20 rebounds on December 29, 2008 in a win at Boise State, then matched that total on the boards against in-state rival Arizona State in McKale Center on February 21, 2009. Already the school record holder for single-season rebounding average, she holds second place all alone, sitting five rebounds behind school-record holder Jill Longanecker, who nabbed 25 rebounds against West Texas State on January 12, 1979.
National Notable: Her impressive numbers also landed Ibekwe on the Associated Press All-America honorable mention list. She became just the 7th player in Arizona history to be named to one of the All-America teams and the first since Dee-Dee Wheeler and Shawntinice Polk earned the honor following the 2004-05 campaign. Ibekwe was also a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award, given annually to the best player in collegiate women's basketball and was chosen to attend the USA Basketball Women's World University Games Trials over the summer.
Double Trouble: Ibekwe is currently in third place in the Arizona record books with 27 double-doubles after accomplishing the feat in each of the five games this season. The 16 she had last season was the second-highest total in school history behind the 21 tallied by Shawntinice Polk during the 2002-03 season. She is currently 9 double-doubles behind second-place Adia Barnes while Polk holds the career mark at 46, a number Ibekwe could pass this season at her current pace with no fewer than 25 games remaining.
Milennium Milestone: With a total of 768 points for her career, Ibekwe is on track to become the 16th player in Arizona history to amass 1,000 points. She would need to average just over 10 points per game to accomplish the feat by the end of the regular season. She is currently averaging 12.6 points per game after tallying 15.7 per contest last season. Ibekwe is 199 points from entering the Top 20, a spot held by Felecity Willis at 967 points.
Agent Zero: Taking a cue from former Wildcat Gilbert Arenas by wearing #0, freshman guard Davellyn Whyte has showed the all-around skills that made her the first prep player signed by head coach Niya Butts. The 2009 Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year was named the Most Valuable Player of the Iona College Tip-Off Tournament last weekend. Whyte logged 44 minutes in her Arizona debut, tallying a game-high 27 points while adding 8 rebounds in the 75-70 overtime win against Iona. She then scored 11 points against Miami (Ohio) and finished the weekend shooting almost 52 percent from the field while hitting 7-of-16 three-point attempts (.438). Whyte is one of four Arizona players currently averaging in double figures at 11.8 points per game and is shooting a solid 38.5 percent from three-point range.
Opening Act: Few players have had a bigger impact in their first-ever game as freshmen than Whyte did for the Wildcats against Iona. Over the past 10 seasons, only one player has scored more points in their Arizona debut. Shawntinice Polk bested Whyte by two points, registering 29 points in her first-ever Wildcat game on November 22, 2002 against LSU. It was also the highest point total by any Pac-10 player on the opening weekend of play.
Action Jackson: Sophomore guard Brooke Jackson has shown a tremendous all-around game in her brief time wearing a Arizona uniform. She scored 13 points in each of her first two games and also averaged 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per contest. She has thus far scored in double figures in 4-of-5 games, including a season-best 20 points against Ole Miss. Jackson is currently second on the Wildcats in scoring at 12.2 points per game and has hit on 11-of-21 attempts from beyond the arc, an incredible 52.4 percent. .
Three For All: After connecting on just 95 three-pointers last season, Arizona has already dialed long distance 28 times through the first five games for an average of almost six per game. With Jackson and Whyte combining to shoot over 40 percent from threedom, the Cats are shooting almost as well from behind the arc than in two-point range (.417-.400). Last season, Arizona shot only 27.9 percent from distance while allowing the opposition to hit 113 more three-pointers and shoot .333 outside the arc.
More About The Three Ball: The Cats are hoping to challenge the 1996 season, the best statistically in program history in regards to three-point shooting. That team hit 176 for the season and connected at a .382 clip. If the current Wildcats average six made three-pointers through the season and play 31 games like last season, the team would finish with a school-record 186 treys..
Long Way From Home: The Wildcats have had a number of players in the program from foreign countries in recent years, but none has had to come further to Tucson than junior forward Soana Lucet. The transfer from the College of Southern Idaho is a native of New Caledonia, a collection of islands located in the Southwest Pacific Ocean. The non-self-governing nation is a territory of France and is approximately half the size of Taiwan at just over 7,100 square miles. Lucet is the first female from New Caledonia to play collegiately in the United States and was named her country's best Under-18 player two years ago. Lucet had her best game with the Wildcats last Friday against San Diego with 22 points on 10-of-17 shooting and is averaging 12.0 points per game.
Family Ties: Several members of the Wildcats have ties to either other Arizona teams, other colleges or professional clubs. The father of Tasha Dickey is currently an assistant football coach at Kansas State while Devon White, the father of Davellyn Whyte, is on staff with the Washington Nationals and was a Major League Baseball all-star during his career. Brooke Jackson welcomed younger sister, Cami, to the Arizona track and field team this season.
Up Next: The Cats wrap up this brief homestand next Wednesday, December 9 against New Mexico as part of a doubleheader with the men's program with tip-off set for 6:00 p.m. The Cats will then have 11 days away from game play before heading to Atlanta to take on #23-ranked Georgia Tech on Saturday, December 20. The Cats will wrap up the pre-Christmas slate with a quick turnaround on Wednesday, December 23 at UC Riverside, both of those final two games set to tip-off at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern and Pacific, respectively).