Arizona Women's Basketball 2003-04 Season Review
April 19, 2004
2003-04 IN BRIEF: Without a doubt, the 2003-04 Arizona women's basketball team had the program's best season in four years, garnering a 24-9 overall record and making its second straight appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats tied the program's best-ever conference record with a 14-4 mark in Pac-10 play. Arizona tied Stanford for the regular-season title, earning the program's first-ever conference championship. After another run deep into the Pac-10 Tournament, the Cats lost a close one to the 12th-ranked Cardinal in the championship game. Aimee Grzyb and Shawntinice Polk were selected to the Pac-10 All-Tournament Team. Arizona earned another at-large berth in the 2004 NCAA tournament, receiving a No. 9 seed in the West Region. Sent to Austin, Texas, for the first- and second-round games, the Wildcats were knocked off in the first round by 23rd-ranked Michigan State, 72-60. The 2004 Cats tied or broke 36 school records, including best home record (14-0), most field goals made in a season (919) and most individual rebounds in a season (Shawntinice Polk, 339). For the second straight year, Shawntinice Polk was named honorable mention Associated Press All-American. Also for the second consecutive season, both Polk and Dee-Dee Wheeler were named to the All-Pac-10 Team, while rookie forward Shannon Hobson was an honorable mention Pac-10 All-Freshman Team choice. Polk and Wheeler were also selected by their teammates as the squad's co-Most Valuable Players for the second straight year.
2003-04 IN REVIEW: After opening its 2003-04 slate with a big 89-67 win over Northern Arizona at home on Nov. 22, the Cats hit a few bumps in the road. Playing their first road game of the year at then-No. 16 UC Santa Barbara, the Cats fell, 75-65, on Nov. 25. Heading from Santa Barbara straight to Honolulu, Hawai'i, for the Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine Classic, the Wildcats lost a first-round game to Virginia (70-65) before recovering for victories over Navy (67-61) and host Hawai'i (66-57) for a fifth-place finish in the eight-team tourney. The month of December was very good to the Wildcats, seeing them earn a perfect 7-0 mark for the month. Arizona began the month with home victories over American (75-63) and UMass (74-42) to take the title of the 13th-annual Fiesta Bowl Women's Classic. The Cats logged two more home wins over BYU (83-69) and Texas State (94-56), then hit the road again before Christmas to slip away with a 50-49 win at New Mexico on Dec. 20. Success continued for Arizona during the first weekend of Pac-10 play, as the Cats swept both Washington (89-74) and Washington State (78-51) to end 2003 on a positive note. The first game of 2004 was a satisfying 81-60 blowout of rival Arizona State on Jan. 2. The Wildcats hit the road again that same weekend, only to fall to 18th-ranked LSU, 76-66, in Baton Rouge. The first road trip of Pac-10 action was a painful one, as the Cats barely escaped Berkeley with a 70-68 win over Cal on Jan. 8, then were hammered by No. 7 Stanford, 84-62, on Jan. 10. A welcome return home saw the Cats sweep USC (75-64) and UCLA (70-54) to get back on the winning track. The winning continued the following weekend, with Arizona edging Oregon, 70-66, on Jan. 22, then beating Oregon State (65-54) on Jan. 24 for the Cats' first win in Corvallis since 2000. January ended on a sour note, though, as the Wildcats were defeated by Arizona State (68-60) in Tempe for the fourth straight year. Arizona opened February at home with a 88-83 win over No. 7 Stanford on Feb. 5, equalling the highest-ranked opponent the Cats have ever defeated. The Wildcats followed that up with a huge 77-59 win over Cal on Feb. 7 and found themselves in sole possession of first place in the Pac-10. A trip to Los Angeles the following weekend dashed the Cats' hopes of an outright title, as they were swept by UCLA (87-68) and USC (68-66). The final weekend of the Cats' home slate gave them wins over Oregon State (77-54) on Feb. 19 and Oregon (84-58) on Feb. 21. The victory over Oregon extended Arizona's school-record home winning streak to 27 games, the third-longest active home winning streak in the nation behind Texas (36) and Louisiana Tech (28). With a 77-72 win at Washington State on Feb. 26 and a loss by Stanford that very night, Arizona went into a battle at Washington on Feb. 28 in a position to earn its first-ever Pac-10 championship. The Cats came through in a big way with a 71-54 victory, but Stanford managed to squeak by Oregon State that day. The two teams tied for the Pac-10 regular season championship, Arizona's first-ever conference title. By virtue of the tie-breaking procedure, the Wildcats went into the Pac-10 Conference Tournament as the No. 2 seed and pounded both Oregon State (81-58) and Washington (77-55) before once again facing the 12th-ranked Cardinal for the championship. Held to their lowest point total since 1994, the Cats fell to Stanford, 51-46, for the second straight year. After earning a No. 9 seed in the West Region of the NCAA tournament, the Cats made the long trip to Austin, Texas, only to fall to 23rd-ranked Michigan State in the first round, 72-60, on Mar. 21.
INDIVIDUALLY IN 2003-04: Averaging a career season-best 16.9 points per game, junior guard Dee-Dee Wheeler led the Cats in scoring, assists (4.70 apg) and steals (2.8 spg). Sophomore center Shawntinice Polk was close behind on the scoring chart, averaging 16.6 ppg, and was the team's top rebounder, at 10.3 rpg, marking the second straight year that she averaged a double-double. Polk also topped the team in field goal percentage (.574) and blocked shots (2.4 bpg). Senior guard Aimee Grzyb was the only other player to post a double-digit scoring average, finishing the season third on the team with 10.9 ppg. Sophomore guard Natalie Jones was the second-leading rebounder, pulling down 4.6 per game, and was fourth in scoring, at 8.8 ppg.
ARIZONA IN THE FINAL PAC-10 STATS: In the final Pac-10 stats, Arizona led the league in scoring (72.3 ppg), was first in field goal percentage (.459), first in rebounding (38.3 rpg), first in rebounding margin (+4.8 rpg), second in scoring margin (+8.7 ppg), second in field goal percentage defense (.395), second in blocked shots (3.64 bpg), third in rebounding defense (33.5 rpg) and third in turnover margin (+2.27 topg). Individually, Shawntinice Polk led the Pac-10 in field goal percentage (.574) and blocked shots (2.42 bpg), was second in rebounding (10.3 rpg) and fourth in scoring (16.6 ppg). Dee-Dee Wheeler was third in scoring (16.9 ppg), third in steals (2.79 spg), fourth in assists (4.70 apg), fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.30), seventh in field goal percentage (.469) and 10th in free throw percentage (.745). Aimee Grzyb was third in the Pac-10 in three-point field goals made per game (1.82 pg) and was 16th in scoring (10.9 ppg). Natalie Jones finished eighth in assists (3.15 apg) and 10th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.07).
ARIZONA IN THE FINAL NATIONAL STATS: In the final national statistics, the Wildcats finished 17th in field goal percentage, and Arizona's 27-game home-court winning streak tied Western Illinois for the third-best streak in the NCAA. Individually, Shawntinice Polk finished 12th in field goal percentage (57.4), and Polk finished 20th with a 10.3 rebounds-per-game average. Polk also ended the season ranked 23rd overall with 2.4 blocked shots per game. Polk's eight blocked shots vs. California on Feb. 7 tied for No. 15 in the NCAA game-high statistics.
ARIZONA'S LAST TIME OUT: Despite a game-high 23 points and eight rebounds from Shawntinice Polk, the ninth-seeded Wildcats fell to No. 8 seed and 23rd-ranked Michigan State, 72-60, in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Mar. 21. The two teams traded buckets early, but an 11-0 run by the Spartans gave them a 17-8 advantage just seven minutes into the game. Michigan State still held a 10-point (26-16) lead with just under 10 minutes left in the half, when the Cats used an 11-5 spurt to get to within four points (31-27). MSU scored a bucket just before the break to take a six-point (33-27) lead into halftime. The second half proved to be one of back-and-forth surges by both teams. The Spartans opened the period with a 5-2 spurt that gave them a 38-29 lead in the first two minutes. Arizona answered with a 15-9 run to claw back to within three points (47-44) at 13:05. MSU's own response was a 10-5 run that put it back up by eight (57-49) with just over eight minutes remaining. The Wildcats had one last gasp, using a 7-2 run to once again cut the deficit to just three points (56-59) at the 5:30 mark. Arizona's offense stalled-out, though, and the Cats scored just four points in the final five minutes, falling in the first round of the NCAA tournament for the second straight year. In addition to her game-high 23 points, Polk tallied three blocked shots to bring her season total to 80, tying her own school record for most single-season blocks. Dee-Dee Wheeler was the only other Wildcat to reach double digits in scoring, with 11 points, five assists and four steals. Senior guard Aimee Grzyb added eight points and three steals, while sophomore Natalie Jones had seven points, four assists and four steals. Freshman forward Shannon Hobson grabbed seven boards, as did junior post Danielle Adefeso.
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. Just completing her 13th season with the Wildcats, Bonvicini holds a 238-148 (.617) mark at Arizona and is 563-219 (.720) in 25 years as a head coach. She has a career record of 23-16 in NCAA tournament play and has lost in the first round only twice in 14 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 a 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.
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.
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.
HEAVY BURDEN: Dee-Dee Wheeler and Shawntinice Polk combined to score 1107 of Arizona's 2386 points this season, 46 percent of the Cats' total offensive output. The Wildcats' four main starters -- Wheeler, Polk, Aimee Grzyb and Natalie Jones -- accounted for 1759 points combined, 74 percent of Arizona's offense for the year.
BY THE NUMBERS: Arizona won 17 games this season by margins of 11 points or more... Nine of those wins were by 20 points or more... The Cats had 15 or more assists in 20 games... Arizona had 10 or more steals in 15 games... Arizona forced its opponent into 20 or more turnovers in 15 contests... The Wildcats had at least 1 blocked shot in 31 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 happened again this year, as Wheeler finished with 558 points and Polk had 549. Polk and Wheeler have combined for four of the top 10 single-season scoring performances in Arizona history. Wheeler's 2004 point total ranks as the third-best single-season total all-time, while Polk's is fourth on that list.
SAW A LOT OF DEE-DEE THIS YEAR: Dee-Dee Wheeler played 1133 minutes this season, the most minutes for any Wildcat since Yolanda Turner played a school-record 1261 minutes during the 1986-87 season.
STUFF THIS: Just a sophomore, Shawntinice Polk is already Arizona's career leader in blocked shots, now with 160. 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 two 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 339 rebounds on the year, Shawntinice Polk set a new school record for most rebounds in a season. She broke her own mark of 335 that she set last year as a rookie. Polk's total of 209 rebounds in Pac-10 play also was 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 was a new school record as well.
LONG-RANGE DEFENSE?: The Wildcats allowed opponents to drain a rather high average of 6.2 three-point field goals per game this season. The Cats set a new school record for most three-pointers allowed in one season, with 203. 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 92 steals on the year, Dee-Dee Wheeler had 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 put up much better numbers in her starts this season than in the games she came off the bench. Starting the final 14 games of the season for the Cats, Hobson averaged 6.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game and made 52.9 percent (36-68) of her shot attempts over that stretch. She averaged just 3.2 points and 1.3 rebounds per game when coming off the bench in the first 19 games of the year.
WINS vs. LOSSES: There was a very noticeable difference in Arizona's statistics in its victories versus its losses this season...
Stats in Wins
PPG Margin RPG Margin FG% 3FG% FT% APG TOPG BPG SPGArizona 76.2 +15.9 39.3 +5.5 .477 .334 .669 15.9 16.5 3.9 9.3Opps. 60.3 33.8 .370 .307 .713 12.8 20.3 2.0 6.3
Stats in Losses
PPG Margin RPG Margin FG% 3FG% FT% APG TOPG BPG SPGArizona 62.0 -10.3 36.3 +2.3 .411 .279 .632 12.8 19.4 2.9 8.6Opps. 72.3 34.0 .464 .427 .722 17.3 17.4 3.4 10.3
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 was... 20-0 when scoring 70 points or more... 23-2 when shooting better than its opponent from the field, but 1-7 when shooting worse... 19-2 when tied or leading at the half... 21-3 when giving up 69 points or less, but 3-6 when allowing 70 points or more... 21-4 when shooting 40 percent or better from the field... 19-3 when committing fewer turnovers than its opponent... 14-1 when four or more players reached 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 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: Five of Arizona's 2003-04 opponents were either ranked or received votes for ranking in the final women's basketball 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, LSU is No. 3, Stanford is No. 7, and UC Santa Barbara is No. 19. UCLA and Michigan State received votes for ranking.
CAT SCRATCHES: The Arizona women's basketball program has a 398-440 (.475) all-time record, however it is 188-83 (.694) from the 1996 season to present... Joan Bonvicini has a 224-117 career record against Pac-10 teams.
ON LOCATION: This season, the Wildcats had a 14-0 record at home, were 7-6 on the road and finished 3-3 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.
WILDCATS EARN PAC-10 HONORS: For the second year in a row, the conference's most potent inside-out combination was honored by the league's coaches. Shawntinice Polk and Dee-Dee Wheeler were both named to the 10-member All-Pac-10 team for the second straight year. A junior, Wheeler has been honored each of her three seasons at Arizona with some form of all-conference laurels, as she was the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and was chosen to the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team at the end of the 2001-02 season. Freshman forward Shannon Hobson earned honorable mention Pac-10 All-Freshman Team recognition this year as well.
HOME WIN STREAK STANDS AT 27: The Wildcats ended their home slate with their winning streak at McKale Center still intact. Arizona has won 27 games in a row at home, the longest home winning streak in the program's history and tied with Louisiana Tech and Western Illinois for the second-longest active home winning streak in the nation. Texas ended its home schedule with the nation longest streak, at 34 games. The previous longest home winning streak for the Cats was 15 games from Jan. 4, 1999, to Jan. 6, 2000. Arizona hasn't lost a home game since suffering a close 78-71 overtime defeat by LSU on Nov. 22, 2002. The Wildcats have also won 19 straight Pac-10 games at home, with their last home conference loss coming to USC (71-64) on Feb. 16, 2002.
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: The Wildcats have won 36 of their last 43 home games and are 112-22 on their home court over the last seven seasons combined. Under head coach Joan Bonvicini, the Wildcats have posted a 143-50 mark in McKale Center. Arizona has an all-time record of 209-158 on its home court since the 1976-77 season.
JONES-ING FOR THE PAC-10: Sophomore guard Natalie Jones' numbers went up significantly after the Cats started Pac-10 play. Against conference opponents, she averaged 10.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.1 steals per game. She also shot a solid 40.8 percent (58-142) from the floor in Pac-10 action. By contrast, Jones' averages against non-conference opponents were 6.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game, and she made just 27.2 percent (22-81) of her field goal attempts.
BEEN CAUGHT STEALIN': After registering a paltry 4.2 steals per game during non-conference play, the Wildcats lifted their average to a solid 10.8 thefts per contest in Pac-10 action.
GOTTA TAKE CARE OF THE BALL: After entering Pac-10 play, the Wildcats' turnover average went through the roof. After averaging just 15.9 miscues per game in non-conference action, Arizona's average went up to 18.4 per contest in Pac-10 games. The Cats committed a season-high 36 turnovers in their win over USC at home on Jan. 15, the highest turnover total for an Arizona squad since the Wildcats had 36 at Arizona State on Jan. 17, 1998.
POLKEY EARNS THIRD PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONOR (Mar. 1): Shawntinice Polk was named the Pac-10 Women's Basketball Player of the Week for Feb. 23-29. She averaged 20.5 points, 14.0 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, and 3.0 assists in a road sweep against Washington and Washington State, giving Arizona a share of the program's first Pac-10 regular-season championship. On the week, Polk shot 66.7 percent from the field (20-of-30), and also notched her 35th and 36th career double-doubles, tying her for the most double-doubles in school history. The honor was Polk's third this season, seventh for her career, and 32nd all-time for Arizona.
POLK BREAKS 1,000-POINT MARK: At the 13:02 mark of the first half at Washington on Feb. 28, Shawntinice Polk scored the 1,000th point of her career, reaching that milestone in just 60 games. That made her the fastest Wildcat and the only UA sophomore ever to reach the 1,000-point plateau. Former Cat and all-time leading scorer Adia Barnes (1995-98) previously held the distinction of being fastest to score 1,000, reaching that mark in 61 games, the first contest of her junior season. Dee-Dee Wheeler is the third-fastest, gaining that mark in just 70 career games.
NEW ADDITIONS TO THE 1,000-POINT CLUB: For the first time in three years, the Wildcats had new additions to the '1,000-Point Club' this season. Shawntinice Polk (Feb. 28), Aimee Grzyb (Jan. 2) and Dee-Dee Wheeler (Dec. 27) became the newest members of the UA's 1,000-Point Club this year. They are the first players to achieve this feat since both Elizabeth Pickney and Reshea Bristol joined that list during the 2000-01 season. This is the first time in the program's history that three players have joined the 1,000-Point Club in the same season.
CATS SEE SECOND-BEST ATTENDANCE AVERAGE IN HISTORY: An average of 2,774 fans per game came to see the Wildcats play in McKale Center this year, the second-best attendance average in the program's history. Last year's average of 2,867 is the program's best. The Wildcats logged four of the program's best crowds this season as well. The home finale against Oregon on Feb. 21 drew 5,003, the third-best crowd ever. The 4,350 for the UCLA game on Jan. 17 is sixth-best, and the 4,111 for both the Stanford (Feb. 5) and Arizona State (Jan. 2) games are tied for eighth-best all-time. The Cats saw an average attendance of 3,368 for home Pac-10 games this year.
POLKEY EARNS SECOND PAC-10 PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONOR (Feb. 9): Sophomore center Shawntinice Polk was named the Pac-10 Women's Basketball Player of the Week for Feb. 2-8. Polk averaged 18.0 points, 16.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 4.5 blocks in a home sweep of Stanford and California. Polk also shot 16-of-30 from the floor (53.3 percent) and recorded her ninth and 10th double-doubles of the season. The Player of the Week honor was Polk's sixth, her second this season and the 31st all-time selection for Arizona.
ARIZONA GOVERNOR MAKES SPECIAL APPEARANCE AT CAL GAME: In conjunction with the celebration of National Girls & Women in Sports Day, Arizona governor Janet Napolitano was a 'guest coach' on the Wildcat bench at the home game against California on Saturday, Feb. 7. As a guest coach, Governor Napolitano sat on the Arizona bench during the game and was in the locker room with the team both before and after the contest. She also served as the honorary Master of Ceremonies for the halftime celebration of National Girls & Women in Sports Day. Napolitano previously served as a guest coach last season during the Cats' 80-50 blowout of Washington State on Feb. 8, 2003.
WHEELER CANDIDATE FOR NATIONAL POINT GUARD OF THE YEAR: Dee-Dee Wheeler was among 22 women's basketball players under consideration for The Nancy Lieberman Award as the top point guard in the nation for the 2003-04 season. The award, presented by the Rotary Club of Detroit, honors the nation's top collegiate point guard in women's Division I basketball. In looking for the finest point guard, the criterion for the award are the floor leadership, play-making and ball-handling skills that personified Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman during her career. Sportswriters from across the country nominated the finalists and eventual winner (2004 - Diana Taurasi). The list of this year's candidates included Wheeler, last year's winner Diana Taurasi (Connecticut), Jamie Carey (Texas), Erin Grant (Texas Tech), Temeka Johnson (LSU), Laurie Koehn (Kansas State), Kelly Mazzante (Penn State), Cappie Pondexter (Rutgers) and Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota). Wheeler was the only Pac-10 player on the list.
POLKEY NAMED PAC-10 PLAYER OF THE WEEK (Jan. 19): Shawntinice Polk was named the Pac-10 Women's Basketball Player of the Week for Jan. 12-18. She averaged 19.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 2.5 steals in a home sweep of the Los Angeles schools. In two games, she shot an amazing 80.0 percent from the floor (16-of-20).
OVERALL WIN STREAK ENDS AT 10 GAMES: Winning 10 straight games from Nov. 29 through Jan. 2, the Wildcats tied the school record for longest winning streak, but they saw that streak come to an end with a 76-66 loss at 17th-ranked LSU on Jan. 4. The streak was the longest for any Wildcat team since the 1996-97 squad posted a 10-game streak early in that season.
TALK ABOUT HAPPY HOLIDAYS: The Wildcats finished the month of December with a perfect 7-0 record, going undefeated during the month for the first time since the 1996-97 team went 6-0 that December. This year's 7-0 mark is also the best record for the month since the Cats went 8-0 in December of 1995.
NICE WEEKEND: Sophomore guard Natalie Jones had a big weekend for the Cats as they opened Pac-10 play with a sweep of the Washington schools. In the first two conference games of the season, Jones averaged 15.0 points, 3.5 assists, 3.0 steals and 2.0 rebounds per game. She also shot a blazing 71.4 percent (10-14) from the floor and 83.3 percent (10-12) from the line.
DUBIOUS DISTINCTION: The Wildcats' 50-49 win at New Mexico on Dec. 20 made UA history in several ways that may or may not be good, depending on how you look at them. The win at The Pit marked the first victory in Albuquerque for an Arizona women's basketball team since an 83-33 win there on Feb. 28, 1975. The 50 points that the Cats scored is the lowest point total ever in a win for a Joan Bonvicini-coached squad at Arizona. It is also the lowest point total in a win since a 46-36 victory over Utah at home on Jan. 17, 1975. The 35 three-pointers that New Mexico attempted set a new Arizona school record for opponent three-point attempts in a game.
GOOD BEGINNINGS: With Joan Bonvicini at the program's helm, the Wildcats have won 10 of their 13 season openers. They had a streak of seven straight season-opening wins snapped with a close 78-71 overtime loss to then-No. 3 LSU at the start of last season.
POLKEY EARNS A SLEW OF PRESEASON HONORS: The preseason honors rolled in for sophomore center Shawntinice Polk this year. She was named a preseason All-American by Street & Smith's, Athlon Sports and Women's Basketball News Service. She also was named to the list of top 30 preseason candidates for the John R. Wooden Women's Award, and she was a preseason candidate for the Wade Trophy. Polkey was selected for the five-member Preseason All-Pac-10 Team, and most recently, she was chosen as one of the nation's 'Top Five Centers' by ESPN.com.
CATS PRESEASON RANKED FOR FIRST TIME IN FOUR YEARS: Arizona was ranked No. 23 in this year's preseason AP Poll and No. 22 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. This marked the first time since the 1999-2000 season that the Wildcats were preseason ranked in either poll. Arizona didn't even receive votes for ranking in last year's preseason polls, nor in the 2001-02 preseason polls. The Wildcats earned 71 votes in the 2000-01 preseason Coaches Poll and 15 votes in that year's AP poll. The Cats were last preseason ranked No. 24 in the USA Today poll and No. 25 in the AP poll heading into the 1999-2000 season. The Cats were listed among the top 25 teams in seven of the nine preseason polls released this year. The Wildcats were preseason ranked No. 16 by ESPN.com, No. 17 by Lindy's, No. 20 by Women's Basketball News Service, No. 21 by Full Court Press, No. 22 by the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll, No. 23 by Athlon Sports and No. 23 by the Associated Press.
ARIZONA PICKED TO FINISH SECOND IN PAC-10: Both the Pac-10 women's basketball coaches and the conference women's basketball media picked Arizona to finish second in the Pac-10 standings this year, behind Stanford.
2002-03 IN BRIEF: After two seasons of mediocrity, the Arizona women's basketball team burst back onto the national scene in 2002-03, racking up a solid 22-9 mark and earning the most victories for any team in three years. The Wildcats were 13-5 in Pac-10 play and finished in a tie for second place with Washington, equaling Arizona's best-ever finish in the league standings. The Cats received a No. 3 seed in the second annual Pac-10 Tournament and ran over Oregon State and Washington before falling by a narrow margin to powerhouse Stanford in the championship game. Arizona earned an at-large bid in the 2003 NCAA Tournament, making the Big Dance for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. With just four juniors and seniors, the young and inexperienced Wildcat team lost in the first round of the tournament to a veteran Notre Dame club, but merely getting back into the tourney was a step in the right direction. The 2003 Wildcats set or tied 52 school records this season, including most blocked shots (120), lowest opponent field goal percentage (.378) and most double-doubles (26). By herself, freshman phenom Shawntinice Polk set or tied 19 of those school records, a number that included new marks for single season rebounds (335), rebounding average (10.8 rpg), blocked shots (80) and freshman scoring (538). Polk was named both an Associated Press and Kodak/WBCA honorable mention All-American and was the 2003 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, marking the second straight season that Arizona featured the league's top rookie. Polk and sophomore guard Dee-Dee Wheeler were named first team All-Pac-10, while Polk also received Pac-10 All-Freshman Team laurels. Fellow rookie Natalie Jones was an honorable mention Pac-10 All-Freshman Team selection. For the third time in the last six seasons, head coach Joan Bonvicini was named a finalist for the Naismith College Coach of the Year Award.
INDIVIDUALLY IN 2002-03: With averages of 17.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, freshman center Shawntinice Polk led Arizona in both categories last year. Racking up a school-record 21 double-doubles on the season, Polk also set new school records for single-season rebounding (335), single-season blocked shots (80) and freshman scoring (538 pts). She became only the seventh player in the program's history to reach the 500-point mark in one season and became the first freshman ever to finish among the top 10 in the Pac-10 in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage. Sophomore guard Dee-Dee Wheeler was second in scoring, with 16.2 ppg, and was third in rebounding, with 4.6 rpg. She logged 501 points for the season, making her just the eighth player to reach that mark in one year. It also marked the first time in the program's history that two Wildcats have reached 500 points in the same season. Senior forward Krista Warren was second in rebounding, averaging 7.2 boards per game, and was third in scoring (11.9 ppg). Junior guard Aimee Grzyb was fourth on the scoring chart, at 10.5 ppg.