Game Notes: March 10, 2009
March 10, 2009
Date: March 12, 2009
Location: Galen Center, Los Angeles, Calif.
Tip Off Time: Arizona begins postseason play as the #9 seed in the 2009 Pac-10 Tournament, held March 12-15 at the Galen Center on the campus of the University of Southern California. The Wildcats will play an opening round game against 8th-seeded Washington State on Thursday, March 12 starting at 8:15 p.m. The winner will face top-seeded Stanford the following day at 5:00 p.m.
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.
California Recap: For the second-straight game, Arizona battled back from a double-digit deficit in the latter stages of the game, but once again came up short in a 51-48 defeat at California on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats closed a 12-point gap down to two in the final minute of the game, but were unable to break through for the victory. Ify Ibekwe tallied her 15th double-double of the season with game-highs of 21 points and 13 rebounds for the Wildcats while Ashley Frazier added nine points.
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).
Series Notes: Arizona currently holds a 25-21 lead in the all-time series against Washington State dating back to the 1986-87 campaign. The Cougars have won the last three meetings between the two sides, including both contests this season, after Arizona had posted a three-game winning streak of its own. Thursday’s game will be the first between the two teams on a neutral court.
Last Meeting: Without the services of leading scorer and rebounder Ify Ibekwe, the Wildcats were unable to defend their home floor against the Cougars as they dropped a 63-56 verdict two weeks ago. Amina Njonkou led the Wildcats with 16 points while Beatrice Bofia had 11 points and 12 rebounds. The Wildcats shot just 25 percent in the second half and were 2-of-18 from three-point range in the loss. Danielle LeNoir came off the bench to tally 15 points to lead the way for Washington State.
Scouting the Cougars: One of the youngest teams in the Pac-10, Washington State finished the 2008-09 season with an identical record as the Wildcats both overall (11-18) and in Pac-10 play (4-14). The Cougars enter the Pac-10 Tournament on the heels of back-to-back losses to Arizona State (76-35) and Washington (62-55). The Cougars average just two points more than the Cats, but allow almost six more on the defensive end. Arizona also holds an edge at the free throw line, connecting at a clip of almost .150 percentage points higher. Jazmine Perkins leads the Cougars in scoring at 13.9 per game while April Cook is not far behind at 13.7 per contest.
Injury Update: Following a week of hard-fought contests, Arizona appears to be relatively healthy heading into the Pac-10 Tournament. Ify Ibekwe played all 40 minutes on Saturday against California after playing all but the first few minutes against Stanford two days earlier. This comes after Ibekwe injured her left knee two weeks ago in practice and missed games against the Washington schools at home. No other Wildcats are reporting any physical setbacks.
Postseason Pointers: Arizona is 6-7 all-time in the Pac-10 Tournament since its inception in 2002. The Cats have dropped their last two contests in the event, including a 46-31 opening round defeat last season against Oregon State. The Wildcats and Cougars have never met in the Pac-10 Tournament, one of three teams the Wildcats have yet to face in the event (California, UCLA). The Wildcats are the 9th seed for the fourth time and are 2-3 with that tag. The Cats had won their opening round games in each of their first two appearances (2006, 2007) as the 9th seed before losing last season. Stanford has been the biggest nemesis for Arizona, knocking the team out of the tournament on four occasions.
Friendly Confines: Other than playing at home inside McKale Center, the Galen Center has been a place that the Wildcats have enjoyed playing since its opening. The Cats have won their games against the Trojans in Los Angeles each of the past two seasons, including a convincing 74-61 win over USC back on Feb. 15. Arizona lost its first visit to the Galen Center in 2007 (66-42), but edged out a 64-62 victory last season and is 2-1 all-time at the new facility.
Going the Distance: With a roster depleted due to injuries, the active and healthy Wildcats have seen their share of minutes this season. Thirty-six times this season an Arizona player has logged at least 40 minutes of action in a game. Ashley Frazier leads the way as she has played all 40 minutes in 21-of-29 contests, including a 53-minute log during the triple-overtime win against Loyola Marymount and all 45 minutes against USC, and is averaging a Pac-10 leading 39.6 minutes per contest. Ibekwe (34.8), Reiko Thomas (32.2), Amina Njonkou (30.4), and Courtney Clements (30.3) are also logging heavy minutes for the Wildcats.
Free Throw Findings: One place the Wildcats have shown an improvement in 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 72.5 percent free throw percentage as a team, good for 59th in the NCAA. Clements leads the team with a .938 mark while Thomas checks in at .819 and Frazier has earned a .745 tally. The Cats have also limited the opportunities of the opposition, making 52 more free throws (398) than the opposition has attempted (346).
Nearly Perfect: One miss in eight attempts was enough to end an impressive free throw streak put together by Courtney Clements over the past month. Following a 1-for-3 free throw shooting line against Arizona State on January 24, Clements had been perfect at the line. She made her first 19 attempts of the season, then missed back-to-back offerings against the Sun Devils. Since then, she had made 18-straight free throws before missing her first attempt against the Huskies on Saturday. She went on to make seven-straight to finish the game, giving her a chance to start a new streak through the rest of the season.
National Notables: In the latest release of the NCAA statistical leaders, Ibekwe is tops in the Pac-10 and is currently 5th in the NCAA in rebounds per game at 11.5. She is also 55th in blocked shots per game at 1.8. Reiko Thomas is 54th in free throw shooting with her .819 clip. The Wildcats are 17th in the NCAA in fouls committed per game with just 14.2 violations per contest.
Topping the Charts: With her latest dominating rebounding effort against Arizona State, Ify Ibekwe has placed her name on the top 10 single-game rebounding list four separate times this season. She opened the season with 18 boards against Toledo, then grabbed 19 rebounds in a home victory against UC Santa Barbara nine days later before her 20-rebound output against Boise State. She matched her performance against the Broncos on Saturday against Arizona State, providing just the third single-game performance with 20 or more rebounds.
Hunting History: Ify Ibekwe is rapidly approaching the end of a historical campaign with some lofty goals within reach. She had an outstanding freshman campaign derailed for six games midway through the season after taking an elbow to the eye, yet still managed to pull down 232 rebounds, good for 4th on the single-season list for freshmen. This season, she has already grabbed 288 rebounds, third-best for a single-season all-time and 2nd-best by any sophomore. Her latest injury, however, will more than likely leave her just shy of the school record. If she had been able to maintain her current average of 11.5 rebounds through the final four regular season games and at least one Pac-10 Tournament contest, Ibekwe would have eclipsed the single-season record of 339 set by Shawntinice Polk in 2003-04.
Incredible Ify: It would be impossible to overstate the impact that Ibekwe had on the Arizona victory over Boise State on December 29. Her 26-point, 20-rebound performance was the first 20-20 game in program history and only the third in the NCAA at that point of 2008-09. She now owns three of the top four individual single-game rebounding totals in team history and is on pace to shatter the season record for rebounds per game of 10.8 set by the late Shawntinice Polk in the 2002-03 campaign. She has also registered 15 double-doubles, a total that places her just six behind Polk’s 2003 total of 21 on the Arizona single-season list.
Clement Time: The improved and consistent play of freshman Courtney Clements over the past 11 games has gone a long way toward the Wildcats having a solid second half of Pac-10 play. Clements has scored 136 points, an average of 12.4 per contest. She has tallied in double figures in 9-of-11 games, including back-to-back 15-point outings against Washington State and Oregon State and a career-high 22 points against Washington. She has seen her per game scoring average climb a full 2.1 points to 9.7 while making 25-of-26 free throws.
Top of the Table: Ibekwe is among the Pac-10 leaders in a number of categories as the Wildcats head down the final stretch of the regular season. Ibekwe leads the Pac-10 in rebounding, is second in scoring and blocked shots, fourth in steals and 11th in field goal percentage. Among her rebounding prowess, she is top of the heap in both offensive and defensive rebounds. Joining her among the league’s elite is Ashley Frazier, who is 3rd in assists, and Amina Njonkou, who is 5th in rebounding and 8th in field goal percentage. As a team, the Cats are 3rd in field goal percentage defense, and 4th in rebounding offense, blocked shots and free throw percentage.
Accepting the Accolades: Not only was Ibekwe named the Pac-10 Player of the Week in December, she was also named to the Naismith Award early season watch list. As one of 49 players and just three from the Pac-10 chosen to the initial list, Ibekwe will have an opportunity to remain on the semifinal list of 30 players when the Atlanta Tipoff Club has its voting members cast their ballots in February.
No Foul Play: One area on the stat sheet that does seem to be falling in the favor of the Wildcats is personal fouls. The Cats have committed just 413 fouls with only six foul-outs. With an average of just 14.2 fouls committed per game, the propensity not to foul as well as their solid conversion rate at the free throw line has helped the Wildcats make up for the 10.5 points lost per game in the three-point battle.
Up Next: With each game providing a do-or-die scenario for the Wildcats, it will take a victory over the Cougars to prolong the 2008-09 season. Should that occur, Arizona would battle #1-seeded Stanford on Friday, March 13 at 5:00 p.m. (PST)