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22nd-Ranked Wildcat Women Open Season Against Northern Arizona
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 11/18/2003
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Nov. 18, 2003

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WHAT'S HAPPENING: Putting its 13-game home win streak on the line, the University of Arizona women's basketball team (No. 22 AP/No. 22 USA Today) will officially tip-off the 2003-04 season against Northern Arizona this week. The Wildcats will face the Lumberjacks on Saturday, Nov. 22, at 2 p.m. in the McKale Center. Admission is $6 for adults, $6 for UA faculty and staff, $4 for senior citizens, and $1 for youth (high school and younger). Tickets for UA students are $4, or students with a Zona Zoo pass can get in for free.

SATURDAY IS KIDS' DAY: The Wildcats' season opener against Northern Arizona on Saturday will be Kids' Day in McKale Center. Festivities start with free games and activities on the outer concourse on the north side of McKale at 12 p.m. Youth admission to the game that day is just $1.

POSSIBLE STARTERS:
#5 - CoCoa Sanford (F, 6-0, So., Inglewood, Calif.)
#00 - Shawntinice Polk (C, 6-5, So., Hanford, Calif.)
#11 - Dee-Dee Wheeler (G, 5-6, Jr., Chicago, Ill.)
#13 - Aimee Grzyb (G, 5-7, Sr., San Jose, Calif.)
#23 - Natalie Jones (G, 5-10, So., Anchorage, Alaska)

OFF THE BENCH:
#44 - Danielle Adefeso (C, 6-2, Jr., Los Angeles, Calif.)
#15 - Anna Chappell (F, 6-1, So., Qualicum Beach, B.C.)
#30 - Jessica Duger (G/F, 5-10, Sr., Lake Havasu City, Ariz.)
#50 - Shannon Hobson (F/C, 6-2, Fr., Perris, Calif.)
#21 - Katrina Lindner (G, 5-6, So., Glengowrie, Australia)
#10 - Linda Pace (G, 5-9, Fr., San Diego, Calif.)
#25 - Rachael Schein (G/F, 5-11, Fr., Las Vegas, Nev.)

SCOUTING ARIZONA: Ranked No. 22 in the preseason USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll, the Wildcats moved up one spot in the Associated Press poll this week, going from No. 23 in the preseason (Nov. 10) poll to No. 22 this week.

Arizona returns 10 letterwinners from a 2003 squad that went 22-9 overall and 13-5 in the Pac-10. The Wildcats were the runners-up in last year's Pac-10 Tournament after finishing in a tie for second with Washington during regular-season conference play. They also earned an at-large berth in the 2003 NCAA tournament, their first appearance in the Big Dance since the 1999-2000 season.

Playing without injured guard Aimee Grzyb, the Cats dropped an exhibition game, 81-77, in overtime to Athletes in Action last Thursday. Arizona finished 1-1 in exhibition play this season, including an 87-52 win over the Latvian Select team on Nov. 4.

During exhibition play, All-America candidate Shawntinice Polk led the Cats with 16.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. She also shot 59.1 percent (13-22) from the floor in the two contests. Junior guard Dee-Dee Wheeler averaged 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game in exhibition action, and freshman forward Shannon Hobson put up averages of 10.0 ppg and 7.5 rpg.

As a team, the Wildcats shot 40.8 percent (64-157) from the floor during the two exhibition contests and out-rebounded their opponents by an average of 17.5 boards per game.

HOME WIN STREAK STANDS AT THIRTEEN: The Cats have won 13 games in a row at home, tying the second-longest home win streak in the program's history. The last time the Wildcats won that many consecutive home games was when they logged 13 straight home victories from Nov. 18, 2000, to Feb. 18, 2001. The school record for longest home win streak is 15 games from Jan. 4, 1999, to Jan. 6, 2000.

GOOD BEGINNINGS: With Joan Bonvicini at the program's helm, the Wildcats have won nine of their 12 season openers. They had a streak of seven straight season-opening wins snapped with a close 78-71 overtime loss to then-No. 3 LSU at the start of last season.

THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: The Wildcats have won 22 of their last 29 home games and are 98-22 on their home court over the last seven seasons combined. Under head coach Joan Bonvicini, the Wildcats have posted a 129-50 mark in McKale Center. Arizona has an all-time record of 195-158 on its home court since the 1976-77 season.

SCOUTING NORTHERN ARIZONA: The Lumberjacks return three starters and six letterwinners from a team that went 13-15 overall and was sixth in the Big Sky Conference last year with a 6-8 mark. NAU boasts a very young roster, featuring 10 freshmen and sophomores. Northern Arizona also went 1-1 in exhibition action, defeating the Latvian Select team (72-64) on Nov. 5 and falling to Athletes in Action (97-96) in double overtime on Nov. 14.

Senior guard Lacey Tolbert was NAU's second-leading scorer last year, averaging 13.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Also returning are senior forward Alexis Rhodes (8.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and sophomore forward Courtney Jackson (3.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg).

First-year head coach Laurie Kelly (St. Thomas, Minn., 1993) has a career record of 104-39 in five seasons, all spent at Binghamton, where she guided the program through a transition from Division II to Division I.

THE SERIES vs. NORTHERN ARIZONA: Arizona has an overwhelming 27-6 lead in the series with Northern Arizona and has won five in a row over the Lumberjacks. The series with NAU is one of the oldest for Wildcat women's basketball, with the two teams first facing off on Feb. 10, 1973, at the State Intercollegiate Championships in Phoenix, Ariz. In their first year as a varsity program, the Cats won that contest with a score of 36-30. (No, that is not a typo.) The Wildcats and NAU haven't met since Dec. 1, 1997, when Arizona handed the Lumberjacks an 89-66 drubbing in Flagstaff.

ARIZONA'S LAST TIME OUT: Playing without the services of injured starting guard Aimee Grzyb, Arizona fell to Athletes in Action, 81-77, in overtime during an exhibition game at home on Thursday night.

The contest was a tight one right from the start, and AIA opened the game with a 13-7 spurt. The Cats scrapped back to within two (13-11) at 12:44, but less than a minute later, they were down by six (17-11) again. Arizona clamped down defensively and scored 10 unanswered points to go ahead by four (21-17) with 9:24 to go in the half.

Athletes in Action responded with a 16-5 run to gain a seven-point (33-26) lead at 5:41, and the closest the Cats came for the rest of the half was three points. AIA held a 40-34 advantage at the break.

The Wildcats came out on fire at the start of the second half, ripping off 11 unanswered points in the first five minutes of the period to take a five-point (45-40) lead. AIA chipped away at the Cats' cushion, though, and regained a one-point (57-56) lead with 7:19 to go in the game. Over the final seven minutes of regulation, there were four ties and five lead changes, and at the buzzer, the two squads were knotted at 69-69.

Arizona opened the overtime with a bucket that was quickly answered by AIA. Dee-Dee Wheeler drained two free throw attempts to give the Cats a two-point (73-71) edge with 3:50 to go. The Wildcats had a meager one-point (75-74) lead with 2:07 left, then missed five straight shots while AIA rebuilt a comfortable six-point (81-75) advantage. Wheeler made a bucket with just three seconds left to give the game its final margin of four.

Four Wildcats reached double digits in scoring, let by Shawntinice Polk's double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds. Wheeler just missed a double-double of her own with 15 points and nine rebounds, while racking up eight assists. Shannon Hobson came off the bench for 11 points and three boards, while junior center Danielle Adefeso added 10 points and five rebounds.

As a team, Arizona committed 31 turnovers in the game, obviously missing Grzyb's ball-handling skills.

ARIZONA 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 her 13 seasons at the helm of the Arizona program, Bonvicini has guided the Wildcats to seven post-season appearances, including five NCAA tournament berths and two in the WNIT.

Entering her 13th season with the Wildcats, Bonvicini holds a 214-139 (.606) mark at Arizona and is 539-210 (.720) in 23 years as a head coach. She has a career record of 23-15 in NCAA tournament play and has lost in the first round only once 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 117-99 against Pac-10 teams, although they have an 93-51 mark against conference teams over the last eight seasons combined.

THE REST OF THE STAFF: Assistant coach Kellee Barney (Idaho, 1983) enters her third season with the Wildcats, having gained the additional duties of recruiting coordinator during the off-season. Barney's responsibilities also include scouting, floor work with the players and assisting with the Joan Bonvicini Hoop Camp.

In his fifth year at the UA, assistant coach Curtis Loyd (Southern Utah, 1994) is involved with scouting, instructing the post players and assists with recruiting.

The newest member of the staff is first-year assistant Shimmy Gray (Michigan, 1994), who helps with recruiting, scouting and on-floor coaching of both guards and post players for the Wildcats. She also assists in the operations of the Joan Bonvicini Basketball Camp.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Wildcats hit the road for the first time this season during Thanksgiving week. Arizona plays at No. 18 UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday, Nov. 25, at 7 p.m. PST.

The Cats leave directly from Santa Barbara to fly to Honolulu, Hawai'i, where they will play in the Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine Classic on Nov. 28-30. In the first round on Friday, Nov. 28, the Wildcats will face Virginia at 2:40 p.m. HST (5:40 p.m. Tucson time). The second round on Saturday, Nov. 29, will see Arizona take on either Navy or No. 2 Texas at 1:10 p.m. HST (4:10 p.m. MST) or 5:30 p.m. HST (8:30 p.m. MST). The championship game will be on Sunday, Nov. 30, at 5:30 p.m. HST (8:30 p.m. MST).

INJURY REPORT: Senior guard Aimee Grzyb missed the Athletes in Action exhibition game with a bone bruise in her right knee. She is currently listed as day-to-day and is expected to play this weekend.

Sophomore guard Phakisha Peterson is redshirting this year after the discovery of stress fractures in both her lower legs during the summer.

POLKEY EARNS A SLEW OF PRESEASON HONORS: The preseason honors rolled in for sophomore center Shawntinice Polk this year. She was named a preseason All-American by Street & Smith's, Athlon Sports and Women's Basketball News Service. She was also named to the list of top 30 preseason candidates for the John R. Wooden Women's Award, and she was a preseason candidate for the Wade Trophy. Polkey was selected for the five-member Preseason All-Pac-10 Team, and most recently, she was chosen as one of the nation's "Top Five Centers" by ESPN.com.

COUNTDOWN TO 1,000: Two Wildcats should reach the 1,000-point plateau in career scoring this season. Senior guard Aimee Grzyb has amassed 867 career points, just 133 away from 1,000. Junior guard Dee-Dee Wheeler has scored 844 points in her career, needing 156 points to reach 1,000. Whenever one of these players reaches that 1,000-point mark, she will be the first new addition to the UA "1,000-Point Club" since both Elizabeth Pickney and Reshea Bristol joined that list during the 2000-01 season. The "1,000-Point Club" at Arizona is currently comprised of 10 former Wildcats.

ARIZONA'S NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE RANKS AMONG BEST: In the preseason WBCA-Summerville RPI ratings, Arizona's non-conference strength of schedule is ranked No. 13 out of more than 300 women's basketball teams across the nation. The Cats are scheduled to face such traditional powers as UC Santa Barbara, Virginia, New Mexico and LSU during non-conference action this year. Arizona could also potentially face Final Four participant Texas at the Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine Classic.

GOING POLLING: Thirteen of Arizona's 2003-04 opponents are either nationally ranked or received votes for ranking in the latest polls.

According to this week's Associated Press poll, Texas is No. 2, Stanford is No. 6, LSU is No. 12, UC Santa Barbara is No. 18, and Oregon is No. 24. Virginia, Washington, Brigham Young, Arizona State, New Mexico and Montana were all among the teams that received votes for ranking.

In the preseason USA Today/ESPN/WBCA Coaches Poll, Texas was No. 3, Stanford was No. 7, LSU was No. 10, UC Santa Barbara was No. 18 and Virginia was No. 24. Washington, New Mexico, Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA, Brigham Young and Montana were among a multitude of teams that received votes for ranking.

HIGH-POWERED OFFENSE: During Joan Bonvicini's tenure at Arizona, Wildcat teams have won 68 games by margins of 20 points or more. Ten of those blowouts happened last season alone.

LOVE THOSE TV GAMES: Dating back to the 2001-02 season, Arizona has won 12 of its last 18 televised contests. The Wildcats were 6-0 in televised games during 2001-02, but were just 6-6 on TV last year.

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 31-year history of UA women's basketball, the Cats have posted a 148-21 record when scoring 80 points or more in a game. Under Bonvicini, the Wildcats have gone 108-14 when topping that 80-point plateau.

CURRENT CATS ON THE UA CAREER LISTS: Wildcat senior guard Aimee Grzyb is third in career three-pointers made (148), third in three-pointers attempted (415), fifth in three-point percentage (.357) and fifth in minutes-played average (30.8 mpg). She needs just seven more points to join Arizona's top 20 all-time leading scorers' list.

Junior guard Dee-Dee Wheeler is third in career three-point percentage (.366), third in career scoring average (14.4 ppg), tied for third in minutes-played average (31.0 mpg), is seventh in three-point field goals made (89) and seventh in three-pointers attempted (243).

CAT SCRATCHES: The Arizona women's basketball program has a 374-428 (.466) all-time record, however it is 178-92 (.659) from 1994 to present... Joan Bonvicini has a 208-112 career record against Pac-10 teams.

ON LOCATION: Last year, Arizona was 13-1 at home, 7-6 on the road and 2-2 in neutral games.

CATS PRESEASON RANKED FOR FIRST TIME IN FOUR YEARS: Arizona is ranked No. 23 in this year's preseason AP Poll and No. 22 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. This marks the first time since the 1999-2000 season that the Wildcats have been preseason ranked in either poll.

Arizona didn't even receive votes for ranking in last year's preseason polls, nor in the 2001-02 polls. The Wildcats earned 71 votes in the 2000-01 preseason Coaches Poll and 15 votes in that year's AP poll. The Cats were last preseason ranked No. 24 in the USA Today poll and No. 25 in the AP poll heading into the 1999-2000 season.

The Cats have been listed among the top 25 teams in seven of the nine preseason polls released so far this year. The Wildcats are preseason ranked No. 16 by ESPN.com, No. 17 by Lindy's, No. 20 by Women's Basketball News Service, No. 21 by Full Court Press, No. 22 by the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll, No. 23 by Athlon Sports and No. 23 by the Associated Press.

ARIZONA PICKED TO FINISH SECOND IN PAC-10: Both the Pac-10 women's basketball coaches and the conference women's basketball media picked Arizona to finish second in the Pac-10 standings this year, behind Stanford.

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