Dec. 4, 2008
Game 7: Arizona (3-3) at Louisiana Tech (2-4)
Date: Saturday, December 6 - 7:00 p.m. (CST)
Location: Thomas Assembly Center - Monroe, La.
Radio: KTUC AM 1400 (Derrick Palmer, Alysiah Bond); Pre-game show starts at 6:30 p.m. (CST)
Tip Off Time: Arizona wraps up its quick two-game road swing through the South with a return game to Louisiana Tech this Saturday evening. The two teams met two seasons ago in the McKale Center with the Wildcats earning a 74-59 victory. This game in Ruston completes their two-game contract and there are currently no plans of extending that agreement.
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 30 minutes prior to tip-off for the pre-game show. Please visit www.arizonaathletics.com for all of your live stats, audio and video needs.
Middle Tennessee Recap: A combination of hot shooting and high pressure defense was a combination that Arizona was not ready to handle on Friday evening as the Wildcats suffered their worst loss of the young season in Murfreesboro, 77-57. Reiko Thomas led the Wildcats with 19 points while Ify Ibekwe added 16 points and 12 rebounds, her third double-double of the season. The Wildcats suffered through 29 turnovers and did not make a three-point shot for the second-straight game while Middle Tennessee was 13-of-28 from beyond the arc.
Head Coach Niya Butts: Not only has the Arizona playing roster seen its share of turnover, but the coaching staff is also entirely new for the 2008-09 season. On April 3, 2008, Niya Butts was named the 8th coach in the history of Arizona women’s basketball. Butts comes to Tucson after spending the last 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).
In November: The opening month of the basketball season has been kind to the Wildcats through their history as they have an overall record of 61-48 including the 3-3 start the current team has amassed. After posting no less than a .500 record since the 1994-95 season, the 2007-08 Wildcats were the first team to have a losing record in the month of November after finishing 2-4.
Series Notes: Lousiana Tech holds a 4-1 advantage in the brief series between the two schools. The Wildcats went head-to-head against the Lady Techsters two seasons ago with the Wildcats picking up their first-ever win over Louisiana Tech, 74-59. The only player still around since that game was played, Amina Njonkou had five points and eight rebounds in the victory.
Scouting the Lady Techsters: Lousiana Tech is currently 2-4 after dropping a 72-42 decision at Mississippi State on Wednesday evening. A member of the Western Athletic Conference, Tech is paced on the inside by junior forward Shanavia Dowdell, who is averaging 14.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest. The Lady Techsters have struggled from the field overall, making just 35.7 percent of their shots, but they average just under 50 rebounds per game and have forced 22 more turnovers than the opposition.
Turn Back the Clock: Of the five previous meetings between the two teams, one of them happened to also fall on a December 6, exactly 10 years ago. In that game, then #2-ranked Louisiana Tech earned a 85-72 win over Arizona in the Insight.com Bowl Basketball Classic here in Tucson. Angela Lackey came off the bench to hit 8-of-10 field goals and score 20 points to lead the Wildcats. Tamicha Jackson had a game-high 30 points, including 7 three-pointers, to pace the Lady Techsters.
Bayou Bummer: The Wildcats are just 3-7 all-time against teams from the state of Louisiana. The Cats are 1-3 in games against Louisiana State and 1-0 against Nicholls State. The Wildcats will be in search of their first win in the state of Louisiana, having dropped all three of its previous games in the Pelican State.
Injury Update: Slowly but surely the Wildcats seem to be gaining more and more pieces back to their roster. Freshman guard Courtney Clements made her Arizona debut against Texas A&M last Tuesday evening and is averaging five points per game in two reserve outings. However, the Wildcats were without the services of Jhakia McDonald against Middle Tennessee after suffering an injury to the arch in her right foot. She is not expected to be ready to go against the Lady Techsters. Other than the season-ending surgery to Tasha Dickey, the last wounded Wildcat is freshman Malia Nahinu, who continues to nurse her right leg injury and isn’t expected back before the start of Pac-10 play.
Clement Time: The debut of freshman guard Courtney Clements brought some life and much-needed offensive spark to the Wildcats over the past two games. Though she is still working her way back into 100 percent fitness, Clements has still been able to score 10 points over the two games and also grabeed three rebounds against Middle Tennessee in 17 minutes on Friday evening.
Going the Distance: With a roster depleted due to injuries, the active and healthy Wildcats have seen their share of minutes through the first three games of the season. Ten times an Arizona player has logged at least 40 minutes of action in one of the games. Ashley Frazier leads the way as she has played all 40 minutes on four occasions, including a 53-minute log during the triple-overtime win against Loyola Marymount, and is averaging 39.0 minutes per contest. Jhakia McDonald (36.8), Reiko Thomas (35.8) and Amina Njonkou (35.0) are all logging heavy minutes in their starting roles for the Wildcats.
Free Throw Findings: One are the Wildcats have shown an improvement through the first six games of 2008-09 versus last season is at the free throw line. After connecting at a .652 clip one season ago, the Cats currently own a 71.8 percent free throw percentage as a team. Njonkou, Thomas and Frazier are all shooting over 80 percent. The Cats have also limited the opportunities of the opposition, making more free throws (94) than the opposition has attempted (91).
Double Trouble: Last season, the Wildcats recorded 20 double-doubles and returned 19 of those to the fold with Njonkou and Beatrice Bofia returning for their senior seasons. Along with Ify Ibekwe, the trio have already amassed a combined six double-doubles, including a 23-point, 18-rebound output by Ibekwe in the season-opening loss to Toledo.
Board Members: Speaking of double-doubles, the Wildcats bring back two of the most ferocious rebounders in the Pac-10 in the form of Njonkou and Ibekwe. Njonkou held the total team lead and finished 4th in the conference with 221 rebounds while Ibekwe was 9th in the league with 192 boards despite missing six games due to an eye injury. On a per game basis, however, Ibekwe was 4th with an 8.0 average while Njonkou was one place behind her at 7.4 per contest.
Wiping the Glass: The rebounding prowess has remained intact through most of the first fifth of the season as the Wildcats have outrebounded the opposition in five of the first six contests. The Cats are averaging just under 43 rebounds per game while allowing the opposition 36.3 rebounds each game. The 6.5 rebounding margin the Wildcats have enjoyed is good enough for 57th in the NCAA and 6th in Pac-10, a stat led both locally and nationally by UCLA at 18.4.
National Notables: Speaking of the NCAA statistics, Ibekwe is tops in the Pac-10 and is currently 11th in the NCAA in rebounds per game at 11.7, almost one full rebound ahead of her sister, Chinyere, who is a senior at UCLA and is averaging 10.8 per game. Njonkou is also among the best, sharing 84th position nationally at 8.8 rebounds per game. As a team, the Wildcats are also 81st in free throw shooting at 71.8 percent. On defense, the Cats are 4th in the Pac-10 and check in at #103 in the NCAA with a field goal percentage defense of .373.
Topping the Charts: Twice this season and three times this calendar year two different Wildcats have had an individual rebounding effort that has ranked as one of the best in program history. Beatrice Bofia was the first to do so, pulling down 18 boards against Oregon State back on January 3 in Corvallis. This season, Ibekwe has already twice etched her name among the top 10 all-time. She opened the season with 18 boards against Toledo, then grabbed 19 rebounds in a home victory against UC Santa Barbara.
Unlucky Number 18: Despite the impressive individual outings by Ibekwe and Bofia in their 18-rebound efforts, the Wildcats came up on the losing end of each contest. However, the Cats made amends a week later by earning the win against UC Santa Barbara with the 19 rebounds tallied by Ibekwe. Including the other 10 games listed in the graphic above, the Wildcats are a perfect 4-0 when an Arizona player has at least 19 rebounds and 5-4 with a player tallying 18 rebounds.
Around the Clock: In all six games the Wildcats have played this season, one team or the other has jumped out to a considerable lead in the opening minutes. In four of those contests, the Wildcats came racing out of the gates, but have won just two of the four contests. However, the Cats have also dug a deep hole on two occasions and managed an impressive comeback to earn the triple-overtime victory against Loyola Marymount. The Wildcats have managed to play their opponents three points to the good in the first half, but their lack of depth has hurt them in the second half, trailing 187-172 in total points scored.
Turn It Over: One area the Wildcats need to show some quick improvement is in the turnover column. The Wildcats are giving the ball away an average of 22.3 times per contest. They turned the ball over a season-high 29 times in the loss to Middle Tennessee last Friday, allowing the Blue Raiders to score 33 points off of those Arizona miscues. Having turned the ball over 40 more times than its opponents, the Wildcats have also been hurt on the offensive end with 55 fewer field goal attempts. They have made up some ground, however, with 40 more free throw attempts.
Dial 3: Three-point shooting continues to be a point of weakness for the Wildcats through the first six games of the season. As a team, the Cats have connected on just 11 three-point shots, less than two per game, while the opposition is averaging over six made three-pointers per game.
Up and In: A reliance on the frontcourt has seen the Wildcats record a solid .411 field goal percentage through their first six games while holding the opposition to just a .373 clip. Ibekwe and Njonkou are shooting .537 and .500, respectively, while Bofia has also done yeoman’s work off the bench with a .471 percentage.
Queen Bea: Reserve center Beatrice Bofia has emerged as an important role player for the Wildcats off the bench in her senior season. After averaging just 3.3 points and 3.6 rebounds for the Cats last season, she has almost doubled both of those numbers through the first six games of the season. Bofia is currently averaging 5.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest while averaging almost 20 minutes per outing. She made a huge splash for the Wildcats during the Bank of Hawaii Classic, posting 17 points and 11 rebounds against Loyola Marymount before tallying 14 points and 17 rebounds against Hawaii.
High-Faih: Another player to jump off the bench and make a significant impact for the Wildcats in Hawaii was sophomore walk-on Faihza Hill. Making her regular season debut after joining thte team midway through last season, Hill promptly stepped onto the floor and knocked down her first career field goal attempt, a three-pointer that stopped the 22-6 start to the Loyola Marymount game. In all, she made her first four shot attempts, two from behind the arc, and finished with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting in 21 minutes of play. A day later, she was 2-of-4 from the field, making both of her three-point shots, and added six points and a rebound in 16 quality minutes off the bench. She is still shooting .500 overall from the floor and from three-point range.
Simply The Best: The Wildcats will have their hands full this season as they play a challenging 29-game regular season schedule. Looking at the most recent polls released this past week, the Wildcats are set to play seven games against teams ranked in the top 25. The Cats have two games each against #4/5 Stanford, #3/3 California and #25/25 Arizona State during Pac-10 play after having already gone toe-to-toe with #5/4 Texas A&M. The Cats have also played Middle Tennessee, a team that is off to a 5-1 start and continues to receive more votes each week.
NOTE: All coaches poll references are listed with the Associated Press poll first followed by the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
Against All Odds: The difficult slate of games the Wildcats face this season includes some impressive credentials boasted by its opponents. Of the 20 teams the Cats face during the 2008-09 campaign, eight of them were postseason participants. Six of those teams took part in the NCAA Tournament and amassed a record of 10-5 that included a run by Stanford to the championship game. Two other teams each went 1-1 in the postseason NIT and three of the eight teams won at least a share of their respective regular season conference titles.
Working Their Way Up: Arizona was handed the dubious honor of being picked last among all Pac-10 teams when the Preseason Coaches Poll was released in late October. Defending champion Stanford earned the top spot, edging Bay Area rival California by just two points thanks to a 6-4 advantage in first place votes. The Cats, meanwhile, got just 16 total points, finishing four points behind Washington State for 9th position. In the recently released media poll, the Wildcats were picked to finish 9th in the conference.
1,000 Point Club: Last season, senior Ashley Whisonant vaulted up the Arizona all-time scoring list, finishing her career in 5th place with 1,451 points. This season, senior Amina Njonkou has a considerable chance at becoming the 16th player in team history to reach the 1,000-point plateau. Njonkou amassed 691 points in her first three seasons with the Wildcats, including a 392-point tally last season, and has scored 79 points in three games to run her total to 770. Her current scoring average of 13.2 per game would push her over the 1,000-point mark in 18 more games, or in a televised game on February 15 at USC.
Care To Speculate: Sophomore Ify Ibekwe had an outstanding freshman campaign derailed for six games midway through the season after taking an elbow to the eye. She still managed to pull down 232 rebounds, good for 4th on the single-season list for freshmen. If she had been able to play in all 30 games and maintain her 8.0 average, she would have moved up to third position and would have recorded the 7th-best single season in school history for any class. Assuming Ibekwe played in 30 games for four seasons and kept her rebounding average the same, she would finish with 960 rebounds, a total that would make her the Wildcats’ all-time leading rebounder ahead of current record holder Adia Barnes at 921. This season, she has pushed that mark to 11.7 per game through the first fifth of the season, an average that would leave her at 339 through 29 games and match the single-season record set by Shawntinice Polk in 2003-04.
Up Next: The Wildcats return home on Sunday and start a three-game holiday homestand against West Coast teams starting on Thursday, December 11 against the University of San Diego. The Cats will then play host to Long Beach State (Dec. 14) and UC Riverside (Dec. 17) before taking six days off through Christmas.