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1998-99 Season Review
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 06/22/2004
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Felecity Willis
Decimated by graduation and injuries, it was a very young and relatively inexperienced Arizona women's basketball team which took the court last November. The Wildcat roster on opening day featured six freshmen and sophomores and four juniors, two of whom were newcomers to the program. There were no active seniors. But the recruiting class, ranked fourth in the nation, lived up to its billing and bolstered the group of only three returnees, helping the team log an 18-11 overall mark and a third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Arizona faced a rough non-conference schedule that featured three teams which spent most of the season among the top four in the national rankings. The UA went 5-4 against those non-conference opponents, with quality losses to eventual national champion Purdue, Final Four participant Louisiana Tech and Colorado State, along with a big road win over UC Santa Barbara.

That tough early slate prepared the Cats for a season of Pac-10 play which showed more parity than it had in years. After getting off to a rocky 1-3 start in league play, the Cats rebounded go 11-3 over the remainder of the season, with wins over Pac-10 co-champion Oregon and over perennial power Stanford. Arizona finished the year with a 12-6 Pac-10 record, good enough for fourth place behind co-champions Oregon and UCLA and the third-place Stanford.

The Wildcats received their third consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament, earning a #6 seed in the Midwest Region. The Cats traveled to Piscataway, N.J., for the first- and second-round games, hosted by #3 seed and ninth-ranked Rutgers.

Arizona faced NCAA tourney veteran Florida in the first round of play and defeated the Gators, 87-84, in a thrilling overtime barn-burner to move on to the second round for the third straight year. The Cats then took on host Rutgers, only to end the season with a 90-47 loss to the Scarlet Knights, who would advance to the Elite Eight before falling to Purdue.

Arizona had its most balanced offense in five years, with four players averaging in double digits in scoring, and ended its season by winning 12 of its final 16 contests. The Cats broke or tied 13 school records, including setting new marks in single season free throws made (520) and blocked shots (88).

The Wildcats finished the year as the Pac-10 leader in free throw percentage (.721) and in assist/turnover ratio (0.86). The Cats were second in offense (74.2 ppg), assists (16.59 apg) and turnover margin (+3.79 tpg).

Individually, junior forward Angela Lackey and junior guard Felecity Willis were both named to the All-Pac-10 Team, and the two were selected as Arizona's co-Most Valuable Players. Junior guard Lisa Griffith earned Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 laurels, and forward Elizabeth Pickney was chosen to the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team. She was also named Arizona's Freshman of the Year. Sophomore guard Reshea Bristol was the UA's Defensive Player of the Year, and freshman center LaKeisha Taylor earned the honor of being Arizona's Most Improved Player.

Lackey led the UA in scoring with 14.4 points per game, while Willis came in second with her 12.1 ppg scoring average, followed closely by Pickney at 11.4 ppg. Pickney was the team's top rebounder with 5.8 per game, and Willis was the team's assists leader, averaging 5.5 apg. Lackey was second in rebounding with 5.4 rpg, and Bristol posted 11.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, followed by Griffith with 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game.

Several Wildcats finished the year among the Pac-10 statistical leaders. Bristol was third in the Pac-10 in steals (2.71 spg), and Willis was third in both assists (5.52 apg) and in field goal percentage (.546). Lackey was fifth in scoring (14.4 ppg), Pickney was fifth in blocked shots (1.21 bpg), and Griffith was fifth in assists (4.79 apg).

Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini made her 13th career trip to the NCAA Tournament. She has a 22-13 career record in NCAA play and has never lost an NCAA first-round game. Bonvicini advanced her record to 134-98 in eight years at the UA and holds a 459-169 mark in 20 years as a head coach.

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