The University of Arizona women's basketball team (3-2) travels to El Paso, Texas to take on the undefeated UTEP Miners (4-0) on Sunday, Nov. 26 at 2 p.m. The Wildcats will play in El Paso for the first time since 1986, and will try to beat UTEP for the seventh-consecutive time in the series
NC STATE RECAP:
The University of Arizona women's basketball team (3-2) defeated NC State (3-2) in overtime, 68-66, on Friday night before 1,990 fans in McKale Center.
Junior Ashley Whisonant led Arizona with 19 points, senior Joy Hollingsworth scored 13 points, and sophomore Amina Njonkou added 12 points.
Freshman Rheya Neabors hit a layup with six seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 60-60 and send it into overtime.
In overtime, Arizona raced out to a 66-60 lead in the first 1:23, but NC State cut the deficit to 67-66 with 1:06 left to play on a three-pointer by Fields.
Whisonant hit a free throw with 10 seconds left to give the Wildcats a 68-66 lead, and Fields missed a layup for NC State with two seconds left as time expired to seal the win for Arizona.
A QUICK LOOK AT ARIZONA:
Arizona averages 67.2 points a game while shooting 41.7 percent (133-319) from the field, 27.4 percent (20-73) from three-point territory, and 62.5 percent (50-80) from the free throw line. The Wildcats have out-rebounded their opponents 202-188 in the first five games, and have tallied 55 steals (11 spg) off of 106 opponent turnovers. Senior Joy Hollingsworth leads Arizona with 14.6 points per game.
ABOUT THE MINERS:
The University of Texas-El Paso Miners (4-0) enter Sunday's game with the program's best season start since 1998. UTEP has won all four games at home, beating St. Mary's, UT-San Antonio, UC Irvine, and New Mexico State by an average of 19 points. UTEP shoots 42.1 percent (99-235) from the field, 35.2 percent (19-54) from three-point land, and 63.6 percent (70-110) from the free throw line. UTEP has totaled 54 steals (13.5 spg) off of 104 opponent turnovers. Junior forward Tasha Marisett leads UTEP with 14.0 ppg to go with 6.8 rpg. Head coach Keitha Adams enters her fifth year at the helm of the UTEP program.
THE UTEP-ARIZONA SERIES:
Arizona leads the all-time series with UTEP 9-3, including a 3-1 mark in El Paso. Arizona has won the last six-consecutive games in the series, with the last win coming at home against in McKale Center on Nov. 29, 2004 (79-47).
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 269-184 (.594) mark at Arizona and is 594-255 (.700) in 27 years as a head coach, needing just six 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.
SHEDDING THE SHELL:
The Wildcats had fallen into a bad routine at the start of games in the first four contests of the season, but turned things around against NC State. In the first four minutes of the game against the Wolfpack, Arizona shot 3-of-6 (50 percent) from the floor and led NC State 10-5, to break the trend of falling behind early right after tip off.
In the first four games, had been outscored 30-12 by the opposition in the first four minutes. Arizona shot 18.5 percent (5-27) from the field in the first four minutes of those games.
At the start of each game, the Wildcats surrendered a 7-4 lead to Nicholls State in the opener, a 6-0 lead to No. 25 George Washington, a 31-5 lead to No. 1 Maryland, and a 9-0 lead to TCU, before leading NC State 10-5 on Friday.
RUN IT, RUN IT:
So far this season, Arizona has shown the ability to get back into ball games with the use of scoring runs. Here is a breakdown of some of the Wildcats' major scoring-streaks in the first five games:
25 points: 30-5 scoring run over 12:50 in the first half vs. Nicholls State
16 points: 20-4 run over the final 8:11 of the game at Maryland
15 points: 15-0 run over 4:40 in the first half vs. GW
12 points: 12-0 run over 5:55 in first half vs. NC State
12 points: 18-6 run over the final 7:50 of the game vs. Nicholls State
10 points: 10-0 run over 1:47 in the second half vs. GW
Arizona's post play has powered the Wildcat offense so far this season. Arizona has scored 176 points in the paint, which is 52 percent of the team's offensive production. The Wildcats are averaging 37 points in the paint each game, and had 38 points in the paint Friday night against the Wolfpack.
ON THE REBOUND:
In the first five games, Arizona has out-rebounded its opposition 202-188. The Wildcats have grabbed 65 offensive rebounds, leading to 65 second-chance points. Arizona is averaging 13 offensive rebounds and 13 second-chance points a game.
WATCH YOUR POCKETS:
Sunday's game is an intriguing matchup of two teams that excel at picking the pockets of the opposition. In the first five games, Arizona has tallied 55 steals (11 spg) off of 106 opponent turnovers. Arizona has converted 99 points (19.8 ppg) off of turnovers so far this season. UTEP has totaled 54 steals (13.5 spg) off of 104 opponent turnovers in its first four games of the season. Senior Joy Hollingsworth leads Arizona with a mark of 3.6 spg, while junior Ashley Whisonant averages 2.0 spg.
Arizona's depth is certainly displayed in the team's bench play, as reserves have totaled 97 bench points in five games (19.4 ppg). Arizona has posted double-figures in bench points in each game, notching 32 bench points against Nicholls State, 12 points against GW, 21 points against Maryland, 22 points against TCU, and 10 points against NC State. The Arizona bench has accounted for 29 percent of the team's 336 points.
GOTTA HAVE IT:
So far this season, Arizona is shooting 62.5 percent (50-80) from the free throw line, while opponents have posted a 71.4 percent (65-91) mark from the line. The Wildcats have shot better than 70 percent from the line twice this season.
Arizona has some depth this year, and look for the Wildcats to take advantage of it. In the first five games, nine players are averaging double-figures in playing time. Against NC State on Friday, eight players played 15 minutes or more.
OVERTIME IS OUR TIME:
Arizona has a motto this season, "overtime is our time," and so far the Wildcats have lived up to it. Arizona's last two wins have been of the extra-play variety, as the Wildcats notched wins against TCU and NC State. UA outscored TCU and NC State 16-11 in overtime, while shooting 6-for-11 (55 percent) from the floor in extra play. Arizona success in overtime can be credited to outscoring the opposition 8-0 in the first 1:30 of the extra period.
OVERTIME OVER TIME:
Friday's overtime win marked a milestone in the Arizona women's basketball program history. The win over NC State gave the Wildcats back-to-back overtime wins for the first time in school history. Arizona last played consecutive overtime games in 1980, losing to San Diego State, 66-65, at home, and defeating Northern Arizona on the road, 80-79. Including last season, Arizona has won three-consecutive overtime games. Before last season, Arizona was 0-7 in overtime contests from 2000-04.
Sophomore Amina Njonkou has been a monster with her play in the paint so far this season. The 6-foot-1 forward is averaging 9.8 points and 6.6 rebounds a game, to go with eight steals and five assists on the season. Njonkou recorded the first double-double of her career with career-highs (and game highs) of 17 points and 11 rebounds against Nicholls State. Against NC State, Njonkou posted 12 points and five rebounds. Most impressively, Njonkou is 9-for-10 from the free throw line this season, as she shot 50 percent (6-12) from the charity stripe last year.
Junior Ashley Whisonant has helped led the Arizona offense from the point guard position, as she is averaging 11.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.0 steals in the first five games of the season. Against NC State, Whisonant was huge for Arizona, posting a game-high 19 points to go with four assists and four steals.
GIVE HER THE ROCK:
Senior Joy Hollingsworth has proven she can put the ball in the basket during her career, and she is continuing her scoring ways this season. The 5-10 guard is averaging a team-best 14.6 points a game, as she is the only Wildcat to score in double-figures each contest. She is also averaging 6.0 rebounds and 3.6 steals a game.
Freshmen Rheya and Rhaya Neabors have shown their ability to contribute to the Arizona lineup in the first five games. Individually, Rheya Neabors is averaging 7.0 points and 4.6 rebounds in 27.0 minutes a game, and Rhaya Neabors is posting 2.6 ppg, and 3.0 rpg in 21.2 mpg. Combined, the sister duo is averaging 9.6 points and 7.6 rebounds a game.
Rheya Neabors hit a clutch layup against NC State with six seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 60-60 and send it into overtime.
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.
Arizona was also selected to finish seventh in the Pac-10 Media Poll released Nov. 7.
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.
So far this season, Arizona is 0-2 against ranked opponents.
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 Top-25 rankings.
Arizona is 36-18 (.667) since 1991 under Joan Bonvicini in the month of November, including a 24-11 (.686) mark in the month since the start of the 1999-2000 season.
Arizona will travel College Station, Texas to face No. 12/13 Texas A&M on Tuesday, Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. (CST).