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Arizona Faces No. 23 Michigan State in First Round of 2004 NCAA Tournament
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 03/16/2004
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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March 16, 2004

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WHAT'S HAPPENING: Appearing in its second straight NCAA tournament, the University of Arizona women's basketball team (24-8 overall) has earned the No. 9 seed in the West Region and will play in first- and second-round games hosted by the University of Texas.

Arizona will travel to Austin, Texas, to take on No. 8 seed and 23rd-ranked Michigan State (21-8) on Sunday, Mar. 21, at approximately 8:30 p.m. CST. The first game of that doubleheader will feature No. 1 seed and fourth-ranked Texas (28-4) against 16th-seeded Southern University (17-12) at 6 p.m. CST. The second-round game will be played on Tuesday, Mar. 23, but a tipoff time will not be announced until late Sunday evening.

Sunday's Wildcat contest will be broadcast live on a regional basis on ESPN2, with Ron Franklin and Ann Meyers on the call. Tuesday's game will be aired either on ESPN or ESPN2.

All Wildcat games through the duration of the tournament will be broadcast live in Tucson on KJLL 1330 AM, with Paul Johnson calling all the action. The radio broadcasts are also available over the internet via the official UA athletics web site, www.arizonaathletics.com.

TWO PERFORMANCES TO WATCH: With her appearance in Sunday's game, senior guard Aimee Grzyb will become Arizona's career leader in games played, with 123. She will pass former Wildcats Lisa Griffith (1997-2000) and Felecity Willis (1997-2000), with 122 games played each. Grzyb is already the Arizona career leader in minutes played.

Sophomore center Shawntinice Polk needs just five more rebounds to surpass the current single-season school record of 335, a mark that she set last year as a rookie. Polk currently has 331 boards on the season.

SCOUTING ARIZONA: The Wildcats are 24-8 overall after falling in the championship game of the Pac-10 Tournament, 51-46, to No. 1 seed and then-12th-ranked Stanford on Mar. 8. That loss ended a six-game win streak for the Cats, who have won eight of their last 11 games. That loss also marked the second straight year that the Cats were edged by Stanford in the conference tournament title game. Arizona tied the Cardinal for the regular-season Pac-10 championship, the first conference championship in Wildcat history.

Arizona has reached the 20-win mark for the fourth time in the last five years and the seventh time in the last nine seasons. The Cats' 24 wins is just one away from the school record of 25 set by the 1999-2000 squad.

Junior guard Dee-Dee Wheeler remains Arizona's top scorer, averaging 17.1 points per game. She is the team's assists leader as well, registering 4.7 per contest.

Sophomore center Shawntinice Polk is second in scoring, at 16.4 points per game, and is the top rebounder, grabbing 10.3 rpg. Senior guard Aimee Grzyb is third in scoring, averaging 11.0 ppg, followed by sophomore guard Natalie Jones with 8.9 ppg. Jones is the squad's second-leading rebounder, grabbing an average of 4.7 per game, with fellow sophomore CoCoa Sanford standing third, averaging 4.1 rpg.

ARIZONA POSSIBLE STARTERS:
#00 - Shawntinice Polk (C, 6-5, So., Hanford, Calif.)
#50 - Shannon Hobson (F/C, 6-2, Fr., Perris, Calif.)
#11 - Dee-Dee Wheeler (G, 5-6, Jr., Chicago, Ill.)
#13 - Aimee Grzyb (G, 5-7, Sr., San Jose, Calif.)
#23 - Natalie Jones (G, 5-10, So., Anchorage, Alaska)

OFF THE BENCH:
#5 - CoCoa Sanford (F, 6-0, So., Inglewood, Calif.)
#15 - Anna Chappell (F, 6-1, So., Qualicum Beach, B.C.)
#30 - Jessica Duger (G/F, 5-10, Sr., Lake Havasu City, Ariz.)
#21 - Katrina Lindner (G, 5-6, So., Glengowrie, Australia)
#10 - Linda Pace (G, 5-9, Fr., San Diego, Calif.)
#25 - Rachael Schein (G/F, 5-11, Fr., Las Vegas, Nev.)
#44 - Danielle Adefeso (C, 6-2, Jr., Los Angeles, Calif.)

ARIZONA IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT: This is Arizona's second straight appearance in the NCAA tournament, after a two-year absence in 2001 and 2002. The Wildcats now have a total of six NCAA appearances, four of which came consecutively from the 1996-97 season through the 1999-2000 season. Arizona, which was seeded into a different region in each of its first four appearances, is 5-5 all-time in NCAA tournament games and has lost in the first round just once, last year. The deepest the Cats have ever advanced was to the East Regional semifinals in 1997-98. The Wildcats have been seeded as high as No. 3 (1997-98) and as low as No. 9 (this year).

Arizona's most recent NCAA appearance came last year, when the Cats were the No. 6 seed in the East Region. They traveled to Manhattan, Kan., and fell to No. 11 seed Notre Dame, 59-47, in the first round. The Irish went on to defeat No. 3 seed and host Kansas State in the second round.

SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS: Michigan State - Ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches Poll this week, No. 8 seed Michigan State is 21-8 overall after a very close 58-54 loss to Penn State in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Mar. 7. The Spartans have lost four of their last six games, but they are 11th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 55.2 ppg. Averaging 13.4 points per game, sophomore guard Lindsay Bowen is MSU's top scorer, while fellow sophomore Liz Shimek is the top rebounder, at 8.1 per game, and is second in scoring (10.5 ppg).

Texas - Standing at 28-4 overall, the Longhorns are ranked No. 4 in both AP and the USA Today Coaches polls, following a 66-47 loss to Oklahoma in the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament on Mar. 13. Owning the nation's longest active home winning streak at 34 games, Texas features four players averaging in double digits in scoring, led by freshman forward Tiffany Jackson with 12.8 ppg. Junior forward Heather Schreiber is a close second, at 12.5 ppg, and senior forward Stacy Stephens is the Longhorns' top rebounder, at 8.2 per game.

Southern University - The Southwestern Athletic Conference champion, Southern is 17-12 overall and brings a five-game win streak into NCAA action on Sunday. The Jaguars are paced by sophomore guard Rolanda Monroe's 17.6 points per game, while three other players have double-digit scoring averages. Fellow sophomore Ashley Blake is pulling down a team-best 8.1 rebounds per game.

THE SERIES vs. MICHIGAN STATE: The Wildcats have faced the Spartans just once before, on Jan. 2, 1993, during head coach Joan Bonvicini's second season at Arizona. The Cats ran away with that game, 89-46, in a regular-season nonconference matchup.

ARIZONA'S LAST NCAA TOURNAMENT ACTION: With its worst shooting performance in more than 20 years, sixth-seeded Arizona fell to 11th seed Notre Dame, 59-47, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Mar. 23, 2003.

The Wildcats struggled right from the start, missing nine of their first 10 shot attempts and committing three fouls and three turnovers in the first four minutes. Notre Dame didn't fare much better from the outset but still held a 10-6 lead at 12:39.

Arizona used an 8-2 spurt to gain a narrow two-point (14-12) edge four minutes later, until the Irish drained two buckets to regain a 16-14 lead. The Cats out-scored Notre Dame, 7-1, over the next five minutes to go up by four points (21-17) with 2:58 left in the half. The lead didn't last for long, as the Irish ended the period with six unanswered points to hold a 23-21 advantage at the break.

The first seven minutes of the second half was close, with three ties and five lead changes during that stretch. Arizona held a 37-34 edge with 13:00 left in the game when the wheels came completely off. Notre Dame ripped off a 15-0 run over the next nine minutes, and during that time, the Wildcats missed 13 straight shots and coughed up the ball five times.

Arizona didn't score again until 4:25, when Shawntinice Polk hit a free throw. A Polk layup one minute later got the Cats back to within nine points, but Notre Dame responded with a bucket of its own 30 seconds after that and then shot 8-for-9 from the line down the stretch to ice the win.

Polk finished the game with 14 points and a game-high 16 rebounds, marking her 21st double-double of the season. Krista Warren logged her third double-double of the year with a team-leading 17 points and 13 rebounds. The rest of the Wildcat team combined for just 16 points.

As a team, the Wildcats shot a miserable 23.3 percent (17-73) from the floor for the game, including a horrendous 8.0 percent (2-25) from three-point range. The field goal percentage was the worst performance from the floor since the school record was set at 19.4 percent on Feb. 8, 1980.

ARIZONA'S LAST TIME OUT: A cold-shooting second half was Arizona's demise as the No. 2-seeded Wildcats were edged by No. 1 seed and 12th-ranked Stanford, 51-46, in the championship game of the Pac-10 Tournament on Mar. 8.

The Wildcats jumped out to an early 12-6 lead in the first seven minutes of the game, then expanded their advantage to 17-8 midway through the half. With just over four minutes remaining in the period, the Cats gained a 16-point (31-15) lead, then went absolutely cold from the field. Arizona didn't score another point in the half, and Stanford ran off eight unanswered points to slice the Cats' lead to just 31-23 at the break.

Things were no better in the second half for Arizona. The Cats scored just two points in the first five-and-a-half minutes of the period, and Stanford ran off eight more points to pull to within two (31-33) at 14:28.

The Wildcats used a 9-4 spurt to push back out to a seven-point (42-35) lead with 7:40 to go, but the Cardinal scored nine unanswered points to gain a two-point (44-42) edge with just under four minutes to play. Dee-Dee Wheeler drained a three-pointer to put the Cats back up by one point (45-44) at 2:33, however that proved to be Arizona's final field goal in the game.

Stanford shot 7-for-9 from the free throw line down the stretch, while the Cats were just 1-for-4 at the stripe. That made all the difference, as Arizona lost to the Cardinal for the second year in a row.

Wheeler finished the game with 12 points and was the only Wildcat to reach double digits in scoring. Shawntinice Polk pulled down a game-high 18 rebounds but was held to only eight points. Natalie Jones contributed eight points, six rebounds and five assists, while Aimee Grzyb had seven points and three rebounds.

Polk and Grzyb were both named to the All-Tournament Team, marking the second consecutive year that Polk received All-Tournament laurels.

COME DANCING: Five of Arizona's 2003-04 opponents earned NCAA tournament berths. New Mexico, Stanford, LSU, UC Santa Barbara and UCLA all made the "Big Dance" this year. The Wildcats logged wins over three of those teams -- New Mexico, Stanford and UCLA.

Three other UA opponents -- Washington, Oregon State and Arizona State -- accepted invitations to the Women's NIT. The Cats posted a combined 7-1 mark against those teams this season.

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 13 seasons at the helm of the Arizona program, Bonvicini has now guided the Wildcats to eight post-season appearances, including six NCAA tournament berths and two in the WNIT.

In her 13th season with the Wildcats, Bonvicini holds a 238-147 (.618) mark at Arizona and is 563-218 (.721) in 25 years as a head coach. She has a career record of 23-15 in NCAA tournament play and has lost in the first round only once in 13 appearances.

Prior to taking over at the UA, Bonvicini led Long Beach State to 10 consecutive NCAA appearances, including two trips to the Final Four. She registered a 325-71 mark in 12 seasons with the 49ers.

DID YOU KNOW: Since Joan Bonvicini took over the Arizona program in 1991, the Wildcats have gone 132-104 against Pac-10 teams, although they have an 108-56 mark against conference teams over the last eight seasons combined. These numbers include both regular-season Pac-10 games and conference tournament games.

LOOKING AHEAD: If the Cats win their first two tournament games, they will advance to the West Regional in Seattle, Wash., at the Bank of America Arena on the University of Washington campus. Games will be played on Saturday, Mar. 27, and Monday, Mar. 29.

RECAPPING THE PAC-10 TOURNAMENT: For the second year in a row, Arizona advanced to the championship game of the Pac-10 Tournament in San Jose, Calif., before falling to No. 1 seed Stanford. The Wildcats were the No. 2 seed this year, after being the No. 3 last season.

Mar. 6 - Quarterfinals vs. Oregon State -- San Jose native Aimee Grzyb went off for a career-high 24 points, as the Wildcats rolled to an 81-58 win over No. 7 seed Oregon State in the quarterfinals on Mar. 6. A very close, back-and-forth first half led to a narrow 35-34 Oregon State lead at the break.

Through the first four minutes of the second half, things remained close, and the two teams were tied at 42-42 with 15:57 to play. Arizona finally got going offensively and ran off 16 straight points to pull away to a 58-42 lead at the 9:30 mark. The Beavers came no closer than 11 for the rest of the contest.

Grzyb drained a career-high six 3-pointers on her way to a new career best of 24 points, eclipsing the previous high of 19 that she had scored five different times.

Mar. 7 - Semifinals vs. Washington -- A 14-4 run early in the second half gave Arizona all the momentum it needed to roll to a 77-55 win over sixth-seeded Washington in the semifinals on Mar. 7. Arizona opened the game with a 15-8 run in the first five minutes, then pushed out to a nine-point (19-10) spread at 12:41. The Huskies used a 10-3 spurt to slash the Cats' advantage to just two points (22-20) with 7:56 left in the half. The Wildcats regained control with seven unanswered points, then stretched their lead to 10 points (35-25) at 1:50. Arizona owned a 37-30 lead at halftime.

Just over two minutes into the second half, the Cats were still holding onto a tenuous six-point (42-36) edge, when they went on a 14-4 run to go ahead by 16 points (54-38) at 12:26. During that stretch, Washington made just one of its 11 field goal attempts and was never closer than 12 points after that.

Scoring 12 points in the first half, Shawntinice Polk racked up 19 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for her 37th career double-double, becoming Arizona's career leader in that category.

Mar. 8 - Championship vs. Stanford -- A cold-shooting second half was Arizona's demise as the Wildcats were edged by then-No. 12 Stanford, 51-46, in the championship game on Mar. 8. The Wildcats jumped out to an early 12-6 lead in the first seven minutes of the game, then expanded their advantage to 17-8 midway through the half. With just over four minutes remaining in the period, the Cats gained a 16-point (31-15) lead, then went absolutely cold from the field.

Stanford used a 29-11 run that spanned from the first half to the second to gain a two-point (44-42) edge with just under four minutes left in the game. Dee-Dee Wheeler drained a three-pointer to put the Cats back up by one point (45-44) at 2:33, however that proved to be Arizona's final field goal in the contest. The Cardinal shot 7-for-9 from the free throw line down the stretch, while the Cats were just 1-for-4 at the stripe, and that was the game.

Wheeler finished the game with 12 points and was the only Wildcat to reach double digits in scoring. Polk pulled down a game-high 18 rebounds but was held to only eight points. Polk and Grzyb were both named to the All-Tournament Team, marking the second consecutive year that Polk received All-Tournament laurels.

ARIZONA IN THE PAC-10 STATS: Through games of Mar. 8, Arizona was leading the Pac-10 in scoring (72.7 ppg), was first in field goal percentage (.461), first in rebounding (38.6 rpg), second in scoring margin (+9.3 ppg), second in field goal percentage defense (.392), second in rebounding defense (33.2 rpg), second in rebounding margin (+5.3 rpg), second in blocked shots (3.62 bpg) and third in turnover margin (+2.31 topg).

Individually, Polkey was the Pac-10 leader in blocked shots (2.41 bpg), was first in field goal percentage (.573), second in rebounding (10.3 rpg) and fourth in scoring (16.4 ppg). Dee-Dee Wheeler was third in scoring (17.1 ppg), third in steals (2.75 spg), fourth in assists (4.69 apg), fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.32), sixth in field goal percentage (.472) and ninth in free throw percentage (.745).

Natalie Jones was eighth in assists (3.12 apg) and 10th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.04), while Aimee Grzyb was second in three-pointers made per game (1.84 pg) and 15th in scoring (11.0 ppg).

ARIZONA IN THE NATIONAL STATS: As of Mar. 8, Arizona was 17th in the nation in field goal percentage (.461) and 34th in scoring (72.7 ppg). Shawntinice Polk was 14th in field goal percentage (.573), 15th in rebounding (10.3 rpg) and 23rd in blocks per game (2.4 bpg).

BY THE NUMBERS: Arizona has won 17 games this season by margins of 11 points or more... Nine of those wins were by 20 points or more... The Cats have 15 or more assists in 20 games... Arizona has had 10 or more steals in 14 games... Arizona has forced its opponent into 20 or more turnovers in 15 contests... The Wildcats have had at least 1 blocked shot in 30 games.

REACHING 500, AGAIN: Last season, Shawntinice Polk and Dee-Dee Wheeler both reached the 500-point plateau in scoring, marking the first time in school history that two players reached that milestone in the same season. The same thing has happened again this year, as Wheeler currently has 547 points and Polk has 526. Polk and Wheeler have combined for four of the top 10 single-season scoring performances in Arizona history. Wheeler's current point total ranks as the third-best single-season total all-time, while Polk's is fifth on that list.

RECORDS ARE FALLING: The Wildcats have already set or tied 30 school records this year, with the potential to accomplish at least five more before the season is over. Most notably, one more win will allow the Cats to tie the record for most victories (25). The Wildcats are also just 17 shots from setting a new school record for most field goals made in a season. The current mark is 914, set by the 2001 team. Individually, Polkey needs just four more blocked shots and five more rebounds to set new single season marks in both categories.

SEEING A LOT OF DEE-DEE LATELY: Dee-Dee Wheeler has played 1096 minutes this season, the most minutes for any Wildcat since Brenda Pantoja saw 1130 minutes in 1995-96. Wheeler's total also is the third-highest single-season minutes total in the program's history, behind Pantoja's total from 1996. Yolanda Turner played a school-record 1261 minutes in the 1986-87 season.

STUFF THIS: Just a sophomore, Shawntinice Polk is already Arizona's career leader in blocked shots, now with 157. Against Oregon on Feb. 21, she passed former Wildcat Elizabeth Pickney (1999-2002), who tallied 147 blocks in her career.

Polkey also stands in the No. 9 spot on the Pac-10 career blocked shots chart. She needs just five more swats to move up to No. 8, a spot currently occupied by USC's Michelle Campbell (1994-97), with 162.

CRASHING THE BOARDS: With 331 rebounds on the season, Shawntinice Polk needs just five more to break the single season record of 335 that she set last year.

Polk's total of 209 rebounds in Pac-10 play is a new school record for the most rebounds in conference action. She surpassed her own mark of 176 set last season. Her average of 11.6 boards per game in league action this year is a new school record as well.

LONG-RANGE DEFENSE?: The Wildcats are allowing opponents to drain a rather high average of 6.2 three-point field goals per game this season. The Cats have set a new school record for most three-pointers allowed in one season, with 199. The old record was 193, allowed by the 2000-01 team.

The Wildcats also set a new school record this season by allowing Pac-10 opponents to hit 129 three-pointers in league play. The previous record was 106, set by the 2001-02 team. Arizona allowed more three-pointers in regular-season conference action this year than any other Pac-10 team.

STICKY FINGERS: With a career-best season total of 88 steals on the year, Dee-Dee Wheeler is just nine thefts from setting a new school record in that category. Her 88 steals is the highest number for any Wildcat since Reshea Bristol set the school record at 96 thefts during the 2000-01 season.

In Pac-10 play, Wheeler set a new school record with 62 steals against conference opponents. The previous record was 57, set by Keisha Anderson during Pac-10 action in 1992-93.

STARTING SUITS HER: Freshman forward Shannon Hobson seems finally to be coming into her own. Since entering the starting lineup for the Cats 13 games ago, Hobson has averaged 6.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game and has made 53.1 percent (34-64) of her shot attempts. Hobson averaged just 3.2 points and 1.3 rebounds per game when coming off the bench.

AS DEE-DEE GOES...: So goes her team, or at least that's the way it has seemed since her arrival at Arizona. During Dee-Dee Wheeler's career, the Wildcats have gone 15-6 when she has reached the 20-point mark in scoring. At the same time, the Wildcats are 36-11 when she scores 15 points or more.

LOOKING AT THE TRENDS: This season, Arizona is... 20-0 when scoring 70 points or more... 23-2 when shooting better than its opponent from the field, but 1-6 when shooting worse... 19-2 when tied or leading at the half... 21-3 when giving up 69 points or less, but 3-5 when allowing 70 points or more... 21-3 when shooting 40 percent or better from the field... 19-2 when committing fewer turnovers than its opponent... 14-1 when four or more players reach double digits in scoring.

WE LIKE TO SCORE: During Joan Bonvicini's tenure at Arizona, Wildcat teams have won 77 games by margins of 20 points or more. Nine of those blowouts have happened this season alone.

80 IS THE MAGIC NUMBER: It seems that the 80-point mark almost always means adding another to the "win" column for the Wildcats. In the 32-year history of UA women's basketball, the Cats have posted a 156-21 record when scoring 80 points or more in a game. Under Joan Bonvicini, the Wildcats have gone 116-14 when topping the 80-point plateau.

GOING POLLING: Six of Arizona's 2003-04 opponents were either ranked or received votes for ranking in this week's polls. According to the Associated Press poll, Stanford is No. 10 and LSU is No. 19. UC Santa Barbara and New Mexico were among teams that received votes for ranking. In the USA Today/ESPN/WBCA Coaches Poll, Stanford is No. 8, and LSU is No. 19. UCLA and Virginia received votes for ranking.

CAT SCRATCHES: The Arizona women's basketball program has a 398-439 (.476) all-time record, however it is 188-82 (.696) from the 1996 season to present... Joan Bonvicini has a 224-117 career record against Pac-10 teams.

ON LOCATION: This season, the Wildcats have a 14-0 record at home, are 7-6 on the road and 3-2 in neutral contests. Last year, Arizona was 13-1 at home, 7-6 on the road and 2-2 in neutral games.

WILDCAT TEAM AWARDS: For the second consecutive year, junior guard Dee-Dee Wheeler and sophomore center Shawntinice Polk were selected by their teammates as the squad's co-Most Valuable Players after being first and second, respectively, on the team in scoring. Wheeler was also named the team's Defensive Most Valuable Player and earned both the Free Throw Percentage Leader Award, shooting 74.5 percent (73-98) from the line, and the Assists Leader Award (4.7 apg). Polk received the Rebounding Leader Award as well, after averaging a team-best 10.6 rebounds per game.

Sophomore forward CoCoa Sanford was chosen as the Most Improved Player, while sophomore guard Natalie Jones earned the club's "Hustle" Award for the second straight year. Rookie forward Shannon Hobson was selected the team's Freshman of the Year. Sophomore forward Anna Chappell was named the team's Most Inspirational Player and also received the Academic Achievement Award for having the highest cumulative grade-point average on the squad.

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