Wildcats Battle Skyhawks in Exhibition Opener
Nov. 5, 2009
Date: Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009
Time: 7 p.m. MST
Location: Olson Court, McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: KTUC AM 1400 (Derrick Palmer, Alysiah Bond)
Tip Off Time: After countless workouts and three weeks of official practice, the 2009-10 Arizona Wildcats take the floor for the first time to play the first of two exhibition games against NCAA Division II foe Fort Lewis College of Colorado Springs, Colo. The Wildcats will return to the McKale Center and Olson Court on Sunday, November 8 to take on in-state neighbor Grand Canyon University with tip-off scheduled for 1:00 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 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.
Time For Prep: Instead of playing the Red-Blue intrasquad scrimmage, the Wildcats will be playing a pair of exhibition games in preparation for the 2009-10 season opener against Iona on November 14. Last season, the Cats hosted Oklahoma Panhandle State and ran away with a 85-33 victory. Then-freshman Reiko Thomas made her Arizona debut a memorable one by hitting 16-of-18 free throws and finished with 20 points to lead the scoring for the Wildcats. Arizona forced 24 turnovers and committed just 10 miscues to earn the victory in the first game for head coach Niya Butts.
Home Cooking: Arizona was a respectable 6-8 at home in McKale Center last season, earning half of their victories on Olson Court. The Cats ran off a three-game winning streak at home during the month of December, picking up consecutive wins over San Diego, Long Beach State and UC Riverside. On the stat sheet, the Wildcats averaged two more points per game in comparison to road games while allowing seven fewer to the opposition.
Rocky Mountain High: With only a handful of teams competing in the state of Colorado, the Wildcats have a limited history against teams from the Rocky Mountain state. Arizona is an even 12-12 all-time against teams that call Colorado home, including a team-best 6-2 mark against Colorado State. Arizona and Fort Lewis have never met in intercollegiate competition. The last game for the Cats against a team from Colorado came in a 89-75 home win for the Cats over the Rams on December 6, 1999.
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).
Welcome Back: Arizona returns four players from the 2008-09 season while also returning one more team member that sat out the entire season. Juinor all-American Ify Ibekwe heads the group of veteran Cats after leading Arizona in almost every statistical category and earning 1st-team All-Pac-10 and All-Defensive Team honors. Senior point guard Ashley Frazier also returns after averaging a conference-best and school-record 39.6 minutes per game. Fellow backcourt mates Faihza Hill and Reiko Thomas round out the foursome. Sophomore guard Tasha Dickey is back at full strength after sitting out last season to have surgery on an injured foot that did not heal properly during the off-season.
Fresh Faces: With just enough for a starting five coming back, head coach Niya Butts and her staff signed six players during the recruiting period and plan to bring a new look and attitude to Arizona basketball. Four junior college players, one four-year transfer and one high school standout make up the group of newcomers. Jennifer Kioa and Amanda Pierson are a pair of post players that give the Cats much-needed height inside as well as the ability to defend, rebound and run the floor. Soana Lucet is a versatile wing player with excellent offensive skills while guard Brooke Jackson is a three-point threat while also bringing a well-rounded overall game. Prep standout Davellyn Whyte was the Gatorade Arizona High School Player of the Year last season and is expected to make an immediate contribution. Junior point guard Shanita Arnold will redshirt after transferring to Arizona from the University of Arkansas.
Scouting the Skyhawks: The Wildcats face no slouch in Fort Lewis, a team that was an impressive 28-3 last season, is 3-0 already on the season and is ranked #5 in the preseason NCAA Division II Coahes Poll. The Skyhawks were a perfect 14-0 to win the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championship and boasted a 23-game winning streak during the season. Fort Lewis advanced to the third round of the NCAA Division II Tournament before falling to Minnesota-Mankato. Head coach Mark Kellogg is in his fourth season at the Skyhawk helm and has an impressive 84-33 overall record. Preseason RMAC Player of the Year Alison Rosel leads an experienced team after scoring 14.5 points while pulling down 7.8 rebounds last season.
Defending Their Turf: The Wildcats did not make it easy for opposing teams to put the ball in the basket last season in games played in McKale Center. Visiting teams averaged just 56.9 points per game while shooting a paltry .375 from the field. The Cats allowed 70 or more points only twice, one of those coming in an overtime game, and held the opposition under 59 points in over half of their contests that included four sub-50-point allowances.
Injury Update: While any player that goes down with an injury is considered a significant loss at this late point in the season, the Wildcats could truly ill-afford to lose sophomore Ify Ibekwe. The team’s leader in points, rebounds and blocked shots missed both games last week against the Washington schools. She has, however, received a brace to help stabilize her knee and her status will be re-evaluated later in the week. She is currently questionable for the game on Thursday evening at Stanford.
Preseason Picks: Arizona was picked to finish 9th in both the Coaches and Media polls that were released last week. In each vote, the Wildcats were picked to finish ahead of just Washington. Nine-time defending champion Stanford was picked to add another crown to its mantle in both polls. Junior forward Ify Ibekwe was one of five players named to the Preseason All-Pac-10 team after earning 1st-team all-Pac-10 and All-Defensive First Team honors last season.
Setting the Schedule: Once again, the Wildcats will embark on a 29-game regular season schedule that will prove to be one of the most difficult in the Pac-10. The Cats will play eight games against teams that participated in last season’s NCAA Tournament, including visits to Mountain West champion San Diego State on November 21 and a trip to ACC-member Georgia Tech on December 20. The Wildcats will also play road games at San Diego and UC Riverside following the season-opening tournament at Iona. At home in McKale Center, Arizona will entertain SEC-foe Ole Miss, Nevada and Alabama A&M prior to the beginning of Pac-10 play.
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). She was the only player in the Pac-10 to average a double-double and finished tied for 6th nationally in rebounds.
Glass Eater: On three different occasions last season, Ibekwe scratched her name into the Arizona record book by compiling 19 or more rebounds. She first pulled down 19 in a victory over UC Santa Barbara on November 23, 2008, then bettered that mark by one in two different contests. 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. 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.
National Notable: Her impressive numbers also landed Ibekwe on the Associated Press All-America honorable mention list. She became just the 7th player in Arizona history to be named to one of the All-America teams and the first since Dee-Dee Wheeler and Shawntinice Polk earned the honor following the 2004-05 campaign. Ibekwe was also a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award, given annually to the best player in collegiate women’s basketball and was chosen to attend the USA Basketball Women’s World University Games Trials over the summer.
Wire To Wire: To say senior guard Ashley Frazier was a busy player last season is to understate the contribution the feisty floor leader provided for the Wildcats. She set a school record by averaging 39.6 minutes per game, which was also best in the Pac-10. Starting with a visit to Louisiana Tech in early December, Frazier sat out for just 10 minutes out of a possible 1005 over the final 25 games of the season. She played every minute of the final eight games of the season and other streaks of four and six games where she never saw the bench while the clock was running. Despite logging so many minutes, Frazier played some of her best basketball at the end of the season, averaging 9.2 points over the final 10 games.
Welcome Back Tasha: After a year of rehab and hard work, sophomore guard Tasha Dickey will return to the McKale Center floor against Fort Lewis. Dickey played 28 minutes and scored a team-high 16 points to go along with six rebounds and two steals in the Red-Blue game last season, but did not suit up during the regular season due to a leg injury suffered during her freshman campaign. She had averaged 6.9 points and 2.0 rebounds as a freshman while starting 21 contests. Dickey is the daughter of two former Arizona student-athletes as her father, Charlie, both played and coached football at Arizona while her mother, Lisa, played basketball for the Cats from 1983-85.
Earning Her Stripes: Junior guard Faihza Hill became a valuable asset for the Wildcats last season as injuries limited the roster and she forced her way into the Arizona rotation. Basketball also runs in her bloodlines as her mother, Mazetta, is a collegiate women’s basketball official. Family Ties: Several members of the Wildcats have ties to either other Arizona teams, other colleges or professional clubs. The father of Tasha Dickey is currently an assistant football coach at Kansas State while Devon White, the father of Davellyn Whyte, is on staff with the Washington Nationals and was an Major League Baseball all-star during his career. Brooke Jackson welcomed younger sister, Cami, to the Arizona track and field team this season.
Up Next: Arizona will complete its brief exhibition schedule on Sunday, November 8 with an afternoon tip against in-state neighbor Grand Canyon at 1:00 p.m. The Wildcats will then have five days to prepare for the 2009-10 season opener at the Iona Tip-Off Tournament against the host Gaels at 7:30 p.m. (EST) The Cats will then take on either Bucknell or Miami (Ohio) the following day with tip-off scheduled for 1:00 p.m. (EST) Both games will be broadcast live on KTUC AM 1400 by Derrick Palmer and Alysiah Bond.