The University of Arizona women’s basketball team hosts Grand Canyon University in an exhibition game on Monday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. in McKale Center. Monday’s matchup with the Antelopes will be the Wildcats’ final preseason tune-up before the regular-season opener against Nicholls State on Tuesday, Nov. 14.
Junior center Suzy Bofia posted 16 points and 12 rebounds, and freshman forward Rheya Neabors finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds to lead Arizona to an 87-54 win over CSU-Pueblo in an exhibition game Friday night in McKale Center.
Arizona shot 50 percent (31-62) from the field in the game, out-rebounded the Thunderwolves 46-23, and tallied 11 steals.
Sophomore Amina Njonkou posted a team-high 18 points to go with eight rebounds (six offensive), four assists and four steals, and junior Ashley Whisonant finished with 11 points and a team-high five assists.
Eight Wildcats registered 13 minutes of play or more, as 11 players totaled eight minutes of action or more.
Arizona started hot out of the gates, jumping out to an 8-0 lead over CSU-Pueblo in the first 2:32 of the game. The Thunderwolves responded with a 12-2 run to take a two-point lead over the Wildcats with 14:34 left in the first. Arizona would then take over the game, using a 17-2 run capped by a Whisonant three-point play to lead 27-14 at the 6:12 mark, and led 37-25 at halftime.
The Wildcats pulled away from CSU-Pueblo for good in the second half, using a 27-4 run over 9:24 midway to take a commanding 74-41 lead at the 6:14 mark. Arizona would lead by as many as 35 points in the second half, powered by 53.3 percent (16-30) shooting from the field, including a 57 percent (4-7) mark from three-point land.
ABOUT THE ANTELOPES:
The Grand Canyon University Antelopes will see their first action of the 2006-07 season against Arizona on Monday before opening their regular season against Western New Mexico at home on Nov. 15. Grand Canyon went 4-22 last season, with a 3-8 mark at home. The Antelopes return their top-scorer from last season in senior Brandi Steinke, a 6-3 forward/center who averaged 15.7 points and a team-best 8.7 rebounds a game a year ago. The Grand Canyon roster features two freshmen, five sophomores, two juniors, and four seniors, with five players measuring in at 6-1 or taller. Head coach Craig Wiginton is at the helm of the Grand Canyon program.
A QUICK LOOK AT THE WILDCATS:
Arizona returns four starters and 10 letterwinners from last year's team that went 8-22 and 3-15 in the Pac-10. The Wildcats feature five newcomers to the lineup, including two sets of twins.
The Wildcats will welcome back a group of experienced players that accounted for 76 percent of its scoring and 78 percent of its rebounding from a year ago. Arizona returns senior Joy Hollingsworth, the team's leading scorer and rebounder from last season at 14.4 ppg and 6.0 rpg. Junior Ashley Whisonant returns at the point after posting 13.7 points and 3.4 assists per game in 2006.
Junior Jessica Arnold, and sophomores Whitney Fields, Kelsey Burns, Malia O'Neal, and Amina Njonkou return to this year's lineup, as does senior Linda Pace, who has recovered from season-ending knee injury. Junior Shannon Hobson returns to the post after a redshirt season.
ABOUT THE NEWCOMERS:
Arizona features a talented group of newcomers, headlined by two sets a twins and a talented guard from Las Cruces, N.M. Junior college transfers Beatrice and Suzy Bofia will add much needed size to the Wildcat line up this season standing at 6-7 and 6-6 respectively.
Beatrice and Suzy, from Yaound?©, Cameroon, spent the last two seasons at Illinois Central College. Beatrice averaged 6.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in 2004-05, and 4.3 points and 3.4 rebounds last season, as Illinois Central won the NJCAA Division II national championship.
Suzy posted impressive numbers in her two seasons at Illinois Central College. In 2004-05, she average 9.5 points and 6.4 rebounds a game and was named to the all-tournament team at the NJCAA Division II national championships after averaging 10.0 points and 11.7 rebounds. Last season, she averaged 12.8 points and 9.6 rebounds a game for the national championship squad, and was named a Kodak honorable mention All-American while setting school records for rebounds in a season (328) and rebound average (9.6).
Rhaya and Rheya Neabors are also twins from Fullerton, Calif., who size in at 6-foot-1 apiece, and will add more options for the Arizona lineup in the post and on the wing. Freshman guard Marie McGee completes the group of newcomers, standing at 5-7, and will vie for playing time in the UA backcourt.
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 266-182 (.594) mark at Arizona and is 591-253 (.700) in 27 years as a head coach, needing just nine 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.
Arizona newcomers Suzy Bofia and Rheya Neabors proved to be double-trouble for CSU-Pueblo on Friday night, as both twins finished the game with double-doubles. Suzy, the twin sister of Beatrice Bofia, posted 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field to go with 12 rebounds. Last season at Illinois Central College, Suzy averaged 12.8 points and 9.6 rebounds a game. Rheya, the twin sister of Rhaya Neabors, tallied 15 points and 11 rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
Sophomore Amina Njonkou was all over the floor for Arizona on Friday night, and her performance showed up big in the box score. The 6-1 forward posted a team-high 18 points, with eight rebounds (six offensive), four assists, and four steals in 25 minutes of play. It was an impressive preseason debut for Njonkou after playing in just eight games last season.
RUN IT, RUN IT:
Arizona put together some killer runs against CSU-Pueblo to put the game out of reach from the Thunderwolves. With the Wildcats trailing 12-10 early at the 14:34 mark in the first half, Arizona used a 17-2 run over the next 8:22 to take a commanding 27-14 lead that would lead to a 37-25 halftime advantage.
The Wildcats pulled away from CSU-Pueblo for good in the second half, using a 27-4 run over 9:24 midway to take a 74-41 lead at the 6:14 mark, and would lead by as many as 35 in the second half.
Forwards Amina Njonkou and Rheya Neabors, and center Suzy Bofia supplied Arizona with plenty of punch in the post against CSU-Pueblo. The three combined for 49 of the teams 87 points (56 percent), and 31 of the Wildcats’ 46 rebounds (67 percent).
The Arizona bigs played huge in the team’s first preseason matchup, but junior Ashley Whisonant helped keep the Wildcats rolling from the point guard position. The Bowie, Md., native finished with 11 points, three steals, and team highs of five assists and 27 minutes of play.
Arizona has some depth this year, and look for the Wildcats to take advantage of it. Against CSU-Pueblo, eight Wildcats registered 13 minutes of play or more, as 11 players totaled eight minutes of action or more.
Sophomore Kelsey Burns continued her hot pace from the field after finishing with 22 points, including a 6-of-7 mark from three-point land in the second half of the Red & Blue game. Against the Thunderwolves, Burns finished with seven points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field, including a 1-of-1 mark from behind the arc in just nine minutes of action.
HE’S A LOPE:
Assistant coach Todd Holthaus will get to face his alma mater on Monday night, as Holthaus is a 1995 graduate of Grand Canyon University. At Grand Canyon, Holthaus earned GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in 1993, and won the Grand Canyon Distinguished Male Athlete Award.
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.
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.
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 preseason Top-25 rankings.
GET IT STARTED:
With Joan Bonvicini at the program's helm, the Wildcats have won 12 of their 15 season openers. Last year, Arizona defeated LMU, 74-66, on Nov. 18 in McKale Center. Arizona last lost a season opener against No. 3-ranked LSU, 71-78 in overtime, on Nov. 22, 2002 to open the 2002-03 season.
Arizona opens the 2006-07 season at home against Nicholls State on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. in McKale Center.