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Women's Basketball Hosts Nicholls State In Season Opener
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 11/13/2006
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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COMING UP:

The University of Arizona women's basketball team hosts Nicholls State in its 2006-07 season opener on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. in McKale Center. Arizona will open its season at home for the seventh-consecutive year, and will face the Colonels for the first time in school history.

GRAND CANYON RECAP:

Suzy Bofia, Rheya Neabors, and Amina Njonkou posted double-doubles, as six Wildcats scored in double-figures to lead the Arizona women's basketball team to a 118-58 exhibition win over Grand Canyon on Monday, Nov. 6 in McKale Center.

Suzy Bofia scored 17 points (8-11) and pulled down a game-high 19 rebounds, Rheya Neabors finished with 17 points (8-13) to go with 10 rebounds, and Njonkou posted 11 points, 10 rebounds, and four steals.

Senior Joy Hollingsworth added 15 points, junior Ashley Whisonant chipped in 12 points and a game-high seven assists, and sophomore Kelsey Burns scored 11 points to help Arizona shoot 54.1 percent (46-85) from the field in the game.

The Wildcats out-rebounded the Antelopes 56-27, including 25 offensive rebounds, and tallied 19 steals off of 37 Grand Canyon turnovers. Arizona also finished with 27 assists.

Arizona wasted no time taking control of the game, racing out to a 9-0 lead over the Antelopes in the first 1:39 of the game. UA led 13-7 at the 15:47 mark in the first half before going on a 21-2 scoring tear over the next 5:49 to take a commanding 34-9 advantage. Arizona closed the first half on a 14-3 run over the last 5:08 and led 58-22 at halftime.

Suzy Bofia posted eight points and 13 rebounds, and Rheya Neabors finished with 13 points and eight rebounds in the first half alone, as the Wildcats shot 50 percent (23-46) from the floor.

Arizona continued to dominate Grand Canyon in the second half, shooting 59 percent (23-39) from the field, and ended the game on a 14-3 run over the final 5:25 to win by 60, the team's largest advantage of the game.

ABOUT THE COLONELS:

The Nicholls State University Colonels from Thibodaux, La., will open their 2006-07 in Tucson after posting a 4-23 record including a 3-13 mark in the Southland Conference last season. The Colonels return four starters and six letterwinners from last season, including senior guard Jamie Octave who averaged 14.4 ppg and 6.0 rpg last year. NSU will play its first seven games of the season on the road before its home opener against New Orleans on Nov. 29. Head coach Mark Cook is in his fourth year at the helm of the Colonel program.

THE NICHOLLS STATE-ARIZONA SERIES:

Tuesday's game will mark the first ever meeting between Arizona and Nicholls State on the hardwood.

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.

WHO'S BACK:

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.

DOUBLE-TROUBLE:

Arizona newcomers Suzy Bofia and Rheya Neabors proved to be double-trouble for opponents during the preseason, as both twins finished with two double-doubles apiece in two preseason contests. Suzy, the twin sister of Beatrice Bofia, posted 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field to go with 12 rebounds against CSU-Pueblo, and 17 points and 19 rebounds against Grand Canyon. 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, against CSU-Pueblo, and finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds against Grand Canyon.

If you do the math, in the two preseason games, Suzy averaged 16.5 points and 15.5 rebounds a game, and Rheya averaged 16.0 points and 10.5 rebounds a game.

DOUBLE UP:

In two preseason games, Arizona tallied five double-doubles. Last season, the Wildcats finished with nine double-doubles in 30 games.

STAT STUFFER:

Sophomore Amina Njonkou was all over the floor for Arizona in the preseason, and her performances showed up big in the box scores. 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 against CSU-Pueblo, and posted a double-double against Grand Canyon with 11 points and 10 rebounds to go with four steals and three assists. It was an impressive preseason for Njonkou after playing in just eight games last season, as she averaged 14.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 4.0 steals in the two preseason matchups.

RUN IT, RUN IT:

Arizona showed a tendency of putting together some killer runs during its two preseason games. Call it suffocating defense, or prolific offense, whatever it is, here is a look at some of the huge preseason scoring runs for the Wildcats:

23 points: 27-4 run over 9:24 in second half vs. CSU-Pueblo

19 points: 21-2 run over 5:49 in first half vs. Grand Canyon

15 points: 17-2 run over 8:22 in first half vs. CSU-Pueblo

11 points: 14-3 run over in first half 5:08 vs. Grand Canyon

11 points: 14-3 run over 5:25 in second half vs. Grand Canyon

POST POWER:

In the teams' first two preseason games, Arizona post players accounted for 117 of the team's 205 points, which translates into 57 percent. Forwards Amina Njonkou and Rheya Neabors, and center Suzy Bofia combined for 93 points (45 percent) in the two games.

CHA-CHING:

Arizona was pretty decent at putting the ball through the net in its two preseason games. The Wildcats shot 52 percent (77-147) from the field in the two games, racking up 205 points, including 118 against Grand Canyon. In case you were wondering, the school record for points in a game is 112 set against Cal State Northridge in 1991. Arizona has not scored over 100 points in a game since posting 101 in a win at UNLV in 2002.

HIGH PERCENTAGE:

Arizona's 52 percent mark from the field was fueled by some high-percentage shooting from four Wildcats in particular. Junior Suzy Bofia was an impressive 14-20 (70 percent) from the field, freshman Rheya Neabors shot 58 percent (14-24) from the field, sophomore Amina Njonkou was 11-20 (55 percent) from the floor, and senior Joy Hollingsworth posted a 53 percent (9-17) mark from the field. Combined, the foursome scored 115 points while shooting 59 percent (48-81) from the field.

ON THE REBOUND:

Arizona controlled the boards significantly in the first two warm-ups of the season. The Wildcats out-rebounded CSU-Pueblo 46-23 and Grand Canyon 56-27 to own a 102-50 rebounding edge in the two games. The Wildcats also pulled down 44 offensive rebounds in those two contests.

BALL THIEVES:

The Wildcats were very successful at picking the pockets of the opposition in the preseason. Arizona registered 30 steals, while forcing 59 turnovers on the opposition.

GOTTA HAVE IT:

If there was one area for improvement in the Cats' two preseason games, it was from the charity stripe. Arizona shot 69 percent (38-55) from the free throw line in the two games. Arizona shot 69 percent (390-565) from the free throw line last season.

LOTTA ACTION:

Arizona has some depth this year, and look for the Wildcats to take advantage of it. In the two exhibition games, nine Wildcats averaged 10.0 minutes of action or more.

ON POINT:

The Arizona bigs played huge in the team's preseason matchups, but junior Ashley Whisonant helped keep the Wildcats rolling from the point guard position. The Bowie, Md., native averaged 11.5 points, 6.0 assists, and 2.5 steals a game against CSU-Pueblo and Grand Canyon. She also played in a team-high 49 minutes in the two contests.

BURNING IT UP:

Sophomore Kelsey Burns nearly contributed a point a minute during her playing time in the two exhibition games. The Seattle native averaged 9.0 points while shooting 44 percent (7-16) from the field in just 10.0 minutes a game.

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.

Arizona was also selected to finish seventh in the Pac-10 Media Poll released Nov. 7.

TOUGH SCHEDULE:

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.

RANK THIS:

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.

STACKED PAC:

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 is 5-1 in its last six home-season openers.

NOVEMBER NUMBERS:

Arizona is 34-16 (.680) since 1991 under Joan Bonvicini in the month of November, including a 22-9 (.710) mark in the month since the start of the 1999-2000 season.

UP NEXT:

Arizona will travel to College Park, Md., for the BTI Classic hosted by defending-champion Maryland. The Wildcats will play three games in three days beginning Friday, Nov. 17 against George Washington, then on Saturday, Nov. 18 against Maryland, and on Sunday, Nov. 19 against TCU.

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