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Cats Take Break From Pac-10 Play
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 02/15/2010
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Feb. 15, 2010

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Date: Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Time: 7:00 p.m. (MT)

Location: Olson Court, McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.

Radio: KTUC AM 1400 (Derrick Palmer, Alysiah Bond)

Tip Off Time: Arizona is back home to play its final non-conference game of the 2009-10 regular season on Tuesday, February 16 when it hosts Big West Conference foe Cal State Northridge with tip-off scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

Catch the Action: Entering his third 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 15 minutes prior to tip-off for the pre-game show. Please visit www.arizonawildcats.com for all of your live stats, audio and video needs. Live stats will also be availabe with a link posted on the Arizona women's basketball schedule page.

Coaches Show: The Niya Butts Show will broadcast once again this Monday evening on the flagship station for Arizona women's basketball, KTUC AM 1400 in Tucson, starting at 7:00 p.m. Play-by-play man Derrick Palmer will host the show and ask questions to Arizona's 2nd-year head coach about the most recent games as well as the upcoming opponents and get her opinions about the play of the Wildcats. The show will most likely broadcast from the Jim Click Hall of Champions on the northwest end of McKale Center.

Series Notes: Arizona has won two of the previous three all-time meetings against Cal State Northridge. The last meeting between the two squads was exactly 16 years ago as the Wildcats ran away with a 98-57 win on February 16, 1994 in McKale Center. The loss to the Matadors came in a neutral site game in 1978. Arizona has captured both meetings in McKale Center by an average margin of victory of 43.5 points. The Wildcats dropped their only other game against a Big West opponent this season, a 65-53 setback at UC Riverside back on December 23. The Matadors dropped both of their Big West regular season matchups with the Highlanders, losing 74-61 and 75-53.

Scouting the Matadors: Cal State Northridge snapped a six-game losing streak last Saturday evening with a 72-64 win over visiting Cal State Fullerton to improve to 4-18 overall, 2-9 in Big West contests. Under the guidance of 5th-year head coach Staci Schulz, the Matadors have not won away from home since earning a 62-61 win at San Jose State back in late November. Northridge has two players averaging in double figures, led by Bridgette Conejo at 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from three-point range. Jasmine Erving also averages 12.4 points and 5.5 rebounds while Katrina Thompson leads the Matadors on the glass with 5.7 rebounds per contest and has hit 43.3 percent of her three-point attempts to go along with 1.8 steals per game.

Head Coach Niya Butts: Second-year head coach Niya Butts took over the Arizona program on April 3, 2008 and has been leaving her mark everyday since. Butts came to Tucson after spending 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).

Last Time Out: Arizona used a 16-2 second half run to erase a nine-point deficit and snap its three-game road losing streak with a 60-55 win at Oregon State last Saturday evening. The Wildcats trailed 43-34 with just under 12 minutes to play before Brooke Jackson connected on a trey to spark the scoring stretch. Despite committing 20 turnovers and allowing 23 offensive rebounds, Arizona shot a scorching 70.6 percent (12-of-17) from the field in the second half while also hitting 11-of-14 free throws after the break. The Cats hit 8-of-10 attempts from the charity stripe inside the final two minutes as the Beavers looked to extend the game. Reiko Thomas and Davellyn Whyte had 14 points apiece to lead the way for Arizona while Ify Ibekwe added 13 points and 7 rebounds. Talisa Rhea led all scorers with 16 points while El Sara Greer had 14 points and a game-high 16 rebounds to lead the way for Oregon State.

Last Time Out for Cal State Northridge: Jasmine Erving scored a career-high 27 points and pulled down 10 rebounds as the Matadors snapped a six-game losing skid with a 72-64 road win over host Cal State Fullerton last Saturday evening in Big West Conference play. Northridge shot a season-high 50 percent from the field as Erving connected on 9-of-15 shots and drained 9-of-11 free throws. Analee Viena-Lota added 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting while also pulling down six rebounds to propel the Matadors into a tie for 8th place in the Big West for the final place in the upcoming Big West Tournament.

Statistical Comparison: While Arizona averages just under 69 points per game, Cal State Northridge tallies almost 10 points fewer per game at 59.4 per contest. The Matadors also yield four points more to its opposition than the Wildcats. Arizona is almost 60 percentage points better overall from the field, but Northridge has been 35 percentage points better from beyond the arc. However, the Cats have hit 22 more three-pointers on the season and average almost one full made three-pointer per game more. Both teams average around 38 rebounds per game and 67 percent from the free throw line.

Moving Forward: Arizona got its month of February off to a solid start with a home sweep of the Washington schools. Last season, the Wildcats picked up three of their four conference wins in the month of February and have already matched that feat with a sweep of the Washington schools at home before earning a split in Oregon last weekend.

Milennium Milestone: With a 17-foot jumper at the 2:20 mark of the first half on February 6 against Washington, junior forward Ify Ibekwe became the 16th player in Arizona history to record 1,000 career points. She currently sits in 15th place with 1,025 points and should move into 14th position ahead of Kim Conway within the next two weeks. The last player to join the 1,000-point club was Ashley Whisonant, who reached that career milestone against Oregon State in the semfinal round of the 2007 Pac-10 Tournament.

Opening Ceremonies: Prior to Tuesday night's tip-off, Ibekwe will be honored for her career milestone in a brief ceremony. The recognition will occur following the introdcution of the Cal State Northridge starting lineup and prior to the announcement of the Arizona starting five.

Selective Company: Ibekwe became the 9th active player in the Pac-10 this season to achieve 1,000 points for her career with her 17-point performance against Washington. Kayla Pedersen of Stanford, Sami Whitcomb of Washington, Danielle Orsillo of Arizona State, Talisa Rhea of Oregon State and both Taylor Lilley and Micaela Cocks have also joined the 1,000-point club during the 2009-10 campaign.

Building Blocks: Measuring progress is a subjective task, but the Arizona coaching staff must feel like it is moving in the right direction after completing its second weekend sweep of the season with the win over Washington. Arizona has already eclipsed its Pac-10 win total from a year ago, marking the first time the Wildcats have won more than four conference games since the 2004-05 campaign. Arizona has also matched its overall win total from last season with a chance to eclipse that mark on Tuesday evening.

Changing of the Guard: After fielding the same starting lineup in 18-of-19 games to start the season, Arizona head coach Niya Butts has changed things for each of the past four contests, inserting sophomore guard Reiko Thomas in place of fellow sophomore guard Brooke Jackson. Looking to both reward Thomas for excellent play of late as well as give Jackson a chance to energize the team as a reserve, the duo combined for 28 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals while hitting 9-of-12 field goal attempts against Washington. The only other time the Cats had a changed starting five was against UC Riverside on December 23rd when Amanda Pierson made her only start in the place of Ify Ibekwe.

Return of Reiko: After coming off the bench for the previous 27-straight games in her Arizona career, Reiko Thomas has made four-straight starts for the first time since taking the floor for tip-off at UCLA on February 12 of last season. Thomas started the first 16 games of her career, then came off the bench for three games before making three-straight starts. Including her 14 points on Saturday evening against Oregon State, Thomas has averaged over 11 points per game when earning the start.

Shot Shortage: Due to its 20 turnovers and 23 offensive rebounds allowed, Arizona attempted just 36 field goals last Saturday at Oregon State, the fewest in a Pac-10 game in program history. The total was in stark contrast to the 75 shots taken just two nights before at Oregon. The Wildcats had only failed to attempt less than 50 shots on two occasions this season, setting their previous low of 48 for the 2009-10 campaign in the third game of the season against San Diego State.

Board Work: Rebounding has been an up-and-down proposition for the Wildcats this season and last Saturday night's game against Oregon State was no different. After dominating the glass in two wins over Washington State and Washington at home, the Wildcats suffered through a rebounding deficit of 10 or more boards for the sixth time this season. The Cats averaged 47.5 rebounds against the Washington schools and limited the Huskies to only 27 boards, but raked in just 23 rebounds against Oregon State.

Action Jackson: Sharp-shooting guard Brooke Jackson rediscovered her shooting form against Washington after struggling from the field for over a month. Jackson had been mired in a 12-for-55 (.218) slump from three-point range after making 15-of-30 (.500) over the first seven games of her Arizona career. She made her first four attempts from beyond the arc against Washington, including three in a 90-second span midway through the second half. With a trey on her only attempt against Oregon State, Jackson has hit 6-of-13 (.462) over the past three games.

Shooting Range: Despite their record-low number of field goal attempts, Arizona shot 50 percent or better from the field for the sixth time this season after recording a 58.3 percent ledger against Oregon State. The Wildcats record a season-high 63.5 percent output against Alabama A&M while also hitting on 62.3 percent of their attempts in the home win against Oregon.

Doing It With Defense: In contrast to the sharp-shooting performance of the Arizona offense against Oregon State, the defense limited the Beavers to just 37.7 percent shooting for the game. The Wildcats have now held the opposition to a field goal percentage below 40 percent in 16 of its 23 games this season. Arizona has posted a 11-5 record in those contests, including a 5-4 mark in Pac-10 play.

Looking Ahead: While Arizona continues its quest to rejoin the NCAA's elite company, the future looks bright for the Wildcats as one of its future members recently achieved an impressive career milestone. Candice Warthen, a senior guard at Warren County High School in Warrenton, Georgia, was named the ESPN RISE girls basketball player of the week for the Southeast region after tallying a triple-double with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 steals in a 68-27 win over Evans. Rated the #20 point guard in the 2010 class by the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report, Warthen also eclipsed the 2,000-point mark this season and is averaging 29.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.7 steals and 3.9 assists for the 20-4 Screaming Devils.

Conference Standouts: Arizona continues to have several players ranking among the league's Top 10 in a number of categories. Ify Ibekwe leads the Pac-10 in rebounds at 11.6 per contest while Reiko Thomas is the top free throw shooter at 89.3 percent. Davellyn Whyte is 4th in the league in scoring at 17.1 per game, 3rd in 3-point field goals made with 2.4 per contest, 6th in 3-point field goal percentage at .384 and 8th in field goal percentage with a .473 tally. Soana Lucet joins Ibekwe on the glass with 6.6 per outing, good for 10th place while Jackson is 10th in 3-point field goal percentage at .337. Ibekwe is also 4th in steals with 2.3 per game, tied for 5th in blocked shots with a 1.3 average, 6th in field goal percentage at .488 and 10th in scoring at 14.3 per game. As a team, the Wildcats are 3rd in scoring (68.6), field goal percentage (.438) and field goal percentage defense (.379), and 5th in 3-point field goals per game (5.2), 3-point percentage (.325) and 3-point defense percentage (.302).

National Notables: Arizona is among the top 100 in the NCAA in scoring (79th, 68.6), field goal percentage (35th, .438), personal fouls per game (83rd, 16.1), field goal percentage defense (97th, .379) and 3-point percentage defense (98th, .302). On the individual front, Ify Ibekwe is 4th in the nation in rebounding at 11.6 per contest, 8th in double-doubles with 14, 57th in field goal percentage at .488 while Soana Lucet is 96th in shooting percentage at .452. Davellyn Whyte is 62nd in 3-point field goals per game at 2.4, 71st in scoring at 17.1 per game, 66th in 3-point field goal percentage at .384 as well as 74th in field goal percentage at .473.

Nothing Ify About Ibekwe: Junior forward Ify Ibekwe had one of the most impressive seasons in 2008-09 in recent Arizona history. She led the Wildcats in scoring (15.7), rebounds (11.6), field goals (173), free throws (109), blocked shots (52) and steals (60) while earning 1st-team all-Pac-10 and Associated Press All-America honorable mention recognition. She was the only player in the Pac-10 to average a double-double and finished tied for 6th nationally in rebounds. This season, she leads the Wildcats in rebounds, free throws, blocked shots, steals and assists.

Glass Eater: After posting three of the top four single-game rebounding totals in Arizona history last season, Ibekwe improved upon her own personal best by grabbing 22 rebounds in the season-opening win over Iona. Last season, she registered the first known 20-20 game in Arizona history with 26 points and 20 rebounds on December 29, 2008 in a win at Boise State, then matched that total on the boards against in-state rival Arizona State in McKale Center on February 21, 2009. Already the school record holder for single-season rebounding average, she holds second place all alone, sitting five rebounds behind school-record holder Jill Longanecker, who nabbed 25 rebounds against West Texas State on January 12, 1979.

Double Trouble: Ibekwe is currently tied for second place in the Arizona record books with 36 double-doubles after accomplishing the feat in 14-of-21 games this season. The 16 she had last season was the second-highest single-season total in school history behind the 21 tallied by Shawntinice Polk during the 2002-03 season. She is currently tied with Adia Barnes while Polk holds the career mark at 46, a number Ibekwe could match this season if she can post the double digits in every remaining regular season game plus three postseason contests.

Agent Zero: Taking a cue from former Wildcat Gilbert Arenas by wearing #0, freshman guard Davellyn Whyte has showed the all-around skills that made her the first prep player signed by head coach Niya Butts. The 2009 Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year was named the Most Valuable Player of the season-opening Iona College Tip-Off Tournament. Whyte shot almost 52 percent from the field while hitting 7-of-16 three-point attempts (.438) in wins over Iona and Miami (Ohio). Whyte currently leads the Wildcats in scoring at 17.1 points per game while shooting .384 from three-point range, .473 from the field and grabbing 4.0 rebounds per contest. She has stepped up her game another notch since the start of Pac-10 play, averaging 19.1 points to go along with 3.5 rebounds while shooting 48.3 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from distance.

Opening Act: Few players have had a bigger impact in their first-ever game as freshmen than Whyte did for the Wildcats against Iona. Over the past 10 seasons, only one player has scored more points in their Arizona debut. Shawntinice Polk bested Whyte by two points, registering 29 points in her first-ever Wildcat game on November 22, 2002 against LSU. It was also the highest point total by any Pac-10 player on the opening weekend of play.

Rewriting History: The Wildcats lone freshman began flirting with history early on in her debut season before finally making it as she tallied a school-record 39 points against Oregon on January 16. She finished 12-of-17 from the field, including 5-of-6 from three-point range, and connected on 10-of-12 free throws. She bested the previous single-game scoring record of 35 points held by three different players. At the time, it was the most points scored by a Pac-10 player in 2009-10 and is still the 2nd-highest total of the season.

Freshman Phenom: Whyte has squarely taken aim on the Arizona record books with just 23 games under her belt. Prior to her record-setting performance against Oregon, Whyte tallied 34 points on January 3 against USC. That performance matched the single-game freshman scoring record set by Joanne Ineman in the 1983-84 season. She also equaled the 2nd-most points in a single game for any player, a mark most recently achieved by Ashley Whisonant exactly two years prior at Oregon State. With six three-pointers made, she became the 5th player to achieve that feat, putting her one make off the school record owned by two players.

Twenty Twenty Vision: After Ibekwe tallied nine 20-point games last season, Whyte matched that mark after just 20 games this season. Whyte leads all freshmen in the Pac-10 in scoring while also leading all 1st-year players and sitting third overall in the league with 2.4 three-point shots made per contest. She was the first Pac-10 player this season with two games of 30-plus points and has scored in double figures in 19-of-23 outings.

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