Wildcats Return Home For Three
Date: Thursday, January 14, 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 opens up a three-game homestand over the next two weekends, starting with the first of two regular season meetings against Oregon State on Thursday, January 14 at 7:00 p.m. The Wildcats will visit Corvallis on Saturday, February 13 in the return match at Gill Coliseum, another game scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. (PT)
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. Live stats will also be availabe with a link posted on the Arizona women's basketball schedule page.
Last Time Out: The Wildcats watched a 48-40 advantage with 10:33 remaining in the second half slip away as host Washington went on a 19-2 run to claim a 69-59 win over Arizona. The Cats converted just two field goals through the remainder of the game and went without any points not garnered at the free throw line for 9:41 before Davellyn Whyte converted a put-back in the lane with 52 seconds to play. Arizona ended the game with one more made free throw than field goal (19-18) and shot just 29.5 percent from the field, including a 4-for-17 (.235) clip from three-point range. Arizona was also plagued by 18 turnovers while forcing just 11 by the Huskies. Washington was led with 25 points by Kristi Kingma, who knocked down 12-of-16 attempts from the charity stripe, while Laura McLellan came off the bench to register all 15 of her points in the second half. Whyte paced the Wildcats with 20 points to go along with 6 rebounds while Ify Ibekwe tossed in 16 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
Series Notes: Oregon State and Arizona have evenly split the 52 meetings in the all-time series with each team claiming 26 victories. The Beavers currently own a 3-game winning streak over the Wildcats, including a pair of wins last season. Back on February 5 of last season, Oregon State came to McKale Center and let a 63-56 victor over Arizona. Ify Ibekwe had 14 points and 8 rebounds in that contest while Reiko Thomas tossed in 12 points for the Wildcats. Free throws were the difference in the game as the 7-point margin was claimed in a 15-8 advantage at the charity stripe. Talisa Rhea, the Beavers' leading scorer in 2009-10, tallied 13 points and connected on a trio of three-pointers in the win for Oregon State.
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).
Not So Nice New Year: The month of January has provided a mixed bag for the Wildcats since its first contest during the opening month of the year back in 1975. The Wildcats won that game on January 17, 1975 against Utah, 46-36, but are 104-180 all-time in the month of January. Arizona posted a 32-46 record during the 2000's in the month of January, but finished it with a four-year run going just 6-27 dating back to the 2005-06 campaign. The last winning month of January for the Wildcats came in 2004-05, a 31-day stretch that saw the Cats go 5-4.
Scouting the Beavers: Oregon State is guided by 5th-year head coach LaVonda Wagner, who led the Beavers to an 8-win improvement last season and a berth in the WNIT. The Beavers are 9-4 on the campaign and 1-2 in Pac-10 play after an opening weekend split with the Washington schools before losing the Civil War game to Oregon last Saturday, 86-71. Honorable mention all-Pac-10 junior guard Talisa Rhea leads the way for Oregon State at 16.8 points per game while Kirsten Tilleman is averaging 11.3 points and a team-leading 7.7 rebounds per contest. Haiden Palmer gives the Beavers a third player averaging double figured with 10.6 points per outing. Though Oregon State is last in the Pac-10 on the offensive end with just 62.9 points per game, the Beavers are the top statistically on defense, yielding only 54.1 points to the opposition.
Last Time Out for Oregon State: Talisa Rhea was 7-of-8 from three-point range and scored a game-high 30 points, but Oregon connected on 11 treys and shot 53.8 percent for the game to upend the Beavers in Corvallis, 86-71. Three Oregon players scored at least 20 points, led by Taylor Lilley with 23 points to go along with 5 assists and 4 steals. Haiden Palmer tossed in 19 points for the Beavers while Kirsten Tilleman added 13 points and 7 rebounds. Oregon State was victimized by 20 turnovers and allowed 10 more made field goals to the Ducks despite holding a 14-5 advantage at the free throw line.
Youth is Served: Both Arizona head coach Niya Butts and Washington head coach Tia Jackson are considered two of the young, up-and-coming coaches in the collegiate ranks. During their playing days, each helped their teams advance to the NCAA Final Four and went on to spend time as assistant coaches before accepting their first head coaching positions.
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.
Looking Ahead: While Arizona continues its quest to rejoining 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 guard at Warren County High School in Warrenton, Georgia, eclipsed the 2,000-point mark for her prep career after tallying 29 points in a win for the Screaming Devils against rival Thomson. She also had eight rebounds, six steals and four assists in the game. Warthen is currently averaging 29.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 7.7 steals and 2.6 assists per game for the 10-4 Devils. Following a 39-point outing, Warthen registered a triple-double with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 steals in a 61-27 win over Evans. Last season, she scored a school-record 743 points while averaging 25.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 5.7 steals and 4.0 assists per game as a 1st-team all-state honoree.
By The Numbers: With its win last Thursday evening at Washington State, Arizona improved to 5-1 on the campaign when allowing 60 points or less, failing only to win at San Diego State early in the season. On the flip side, the Cats are 7-2 when they score at least 60 points. The Wildcats are now 6-1 when scoring the first points of the game and hold a 5-2 mark when holding a halftime lead.
Power Surge: After struggling through a three-game losing streak that saw the Wildcats score an average of just 54 points per game, the team exploded for 86 points in their Pac-10 tune-up win over Alabama A&M. The Cats set season-highs in field goal percentage, field goals made and assists while matching the 10-game best for blocked shots. The .635 shooting mark was the 4th-best for a single-game in program history, falling .024 behind the school record of .659 set against USC in January of 2004. The Wildcats have won all three games this season when scoring 80 or more points and is 4-0 during the Niya Butts era when eclipsing the 80-point plateau. Since that three-game losing streak, the Cats are averaging 72.3 points per game over the last four.
Conference Standouts: With the first weekend of Pac-10 play in the books, Arizona still has several players ranking among the league's Top 10 in a number of categories. Ify Ibekwe continues to lead the Pac-10 in rebounds at 12.1 per contest while Davellyn Whyte is 5th in the league in scoring at 16.4 per game. Soana Lucet joins Ibekwe on the glass with 7.2 per outing, good for 8th place. Ibekwe is also 4th in steals with 2.4 per game and blocked shots with a 1.5 average, while also checking in at 10th in assists at 3.1 per outing while Reiko Thomas is second in free throw shooting with a .900 percentage. Whyte is 8th in three-point percentage at .379 and 3rd in 3-pointers per game with 2.6. As a team, the Wildcats are 3rd in both field goal percentage (.423) and field goal percentage defense (.365), 5th in blocked shots (3.6) and 4th in 3-point field goals per game (5.1).
National Notables: In the latest release of national statistics after last weekend, Arizona is among the top 100 in both field goal percentage (83rd, .423) and field goal percentage defense (57th, .365). On the individual front, Ify Ibekwe is 3rd in the nation in rebounding at 12.1 per contest, 4th in double-doubles with nine, 90th in steals per game with 2.4 and 95th in blocked shots with 1.5. Davellyn Whyte is 50th in the NCAA in 3-pointers per game with 2.6, 92nd in 3-point field goal percentage at .379 and scoring at 16.4 per game.
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 in third place in the Arizona record books with 31 double-doubles after accomplishing the feat in 9-of-14 games this season. The 16 she had last season was the second-highest total in school history behind the 21 tallied by Shawntinice Polk during the 2002-03 season. She is currently 5 double-doubles behind second-place Adia Barnes while Polk holds the career mark at 46, a number Ibekwe could pass this season if she can post the double digits in every remaining regular season game plus two postseason contests.
All-American Girl: 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.
Milennium Milestone: With a total of 877 points for her career, Ibekwe is on track to become the 16th player in Arizona history to amass 1,000 points. At her current scoring average of 12.1 per game, Ibekwe would reach the 1.000-point plateau on February 20 in a road game against in-state rival Arizona State. Ibekwe is 90 points from entering the Top 20, a spot held by Felecity Willis at 967 points.
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 logged 44 minutes in her Arizona debut, tallying a game-high 27 points while adding 8 rebounds in the 75-70 overtime win against Iona. She then scored 11 points against Miami (Ohio) and finished the weekend shooting almost 52 percent from the field while hitting 7-of-16 three-point attempts (.438). Whyte currently leads the Wildcats in scoring at 16.4 points per game while shooting .379 from three-point range, .461 from the field and grabbing 4.8 rebounds per contest. She has stepped up her game another notch since the start of Pac-10 play, averaging 21.0 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 40.0 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.
Freshman Phenom: Whyte made her first assault on the Arizona record books on Sunday afternoon when she tallied 34 points against USC. Her personal tally 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 is nearly halfway toward that total after scoring at least 20 points in four of the last six. 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 2.6 three-point shots made per contest.
Three For All: After connecting on just 95 three-pointers last season, Arizona has already dialed long distance 72 times through the first 14 games for an average of over five per game. With Whyte and Brooke Jackson combining to shoot almost 37 percent from threedom, the Cats have increased their clip from distance by 40 percentage points from last season after shooting only 27.9 percent.
More About The Three Ball: The Cats are hoping to challenge the 1996 season, the best statistically in program history in regards to three-point shooting. That team hit 176 for the season and connected at a .382 clip. If the current Wildcats average six made three-pointers through the season and play 31 games like last season, the team would finish with a school-record 186 treys..
Long Way From Home: The Wildcats have had a number of players in the program from foreign countries in recent years, but none has had to come further to Tucson than junior forward Soana Lucet. The transfer from the College of Southern Idaho is a native of New Caledonia, a collection of islands located in the Southwest Pacific Ocean. Lucet is the first female from New Caledonia to play collegiately in the United States and was named her country's best Under-18 player two years ago. Lucet had her best game with the Wildcats against San Diego with 22 points on 10-of-17 shooting and is currently averaging 11.6 points and 7.2 rebounds.
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 a 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 continues its three-game homestand on Saturday afternoon as the Wildcats host Oregon in a matinee affair starting at 2:00 p.m. Following a week off, Arizona will make its second and final regularly-scheduled television appearance of the season when it hosts rival Arizona State on Sunday, January 24 at 4:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Net with Jim Watson and Mary Murphy calling the action.