Game Notes: March 6, 2009
March 6, 2009
Date: March 7, 2009
Location: Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, Calif.
Radio: KTUC AM 1400 (Derrick Palmer, Alysiah Bond)
Tip Off Time: Arizona wraps up the 2008-09 regular season this Saturday, March 7 with a trip to California starting at 12:30 p.m. Eight of the 10 teams in the Pac-10 will all tip-off at the same time to finish the schedule. Pairings for the 2009 Pac-10 Tournament will be finalized at the conclusion of play on Saturday afternoon.
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.
Stanford Recap: A game that looked like a mismatch on paper was anything but as the Wildcats pushed #2-ranked Stanford to the final horn before coming up just short of the upset, 70-67. Arizona fell behind by 14 with seven minutes to play, but used a 13-0 run to battle back with a chance to take the lead on a pair of occasions. However, a last-second three-point attempt by Ashley Frazier was just off the mark. Ify Ibekwe led Arizona with her 14th double-double of the season as she tallied 17 points and 13 rebounds.
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: The Wildcats are 29-20 all-time against the Golden Bears dating back to the 1977-78 season. After winning 19-straight meetings between 1996-2005, the Wildcats have won just once over the last eight meetings, including six-straight defeats. Arizona has not won at Haas Pavilion since posting a 80-76 victory in January of 2006.
Last Meeting: The Wildcats sent an early warning to the Pac-10 that they would not be taken lightly as they battled the Golden Bears before falling, 56-46, in the conference opener. Ashley Walker had 23 points to lead all scorers for Cal while Reiko Thomas led Arizona with 16 points while Ify Ibekwe had 11 rebounds. The Wildcats trailed by just five with over 12 minutes to play, but would get no closer than seven points the remainder of the game.
Scouting the Golden Bears: Once a threat to win the Pac-10 regular season title, the Golden Bears have lost the last two contests, including a 63-41 setback to #18-ranked Arizona State on Thursday evening. After running the table through the first two-thirds of the Pac-10 slate, Cal has lost three times over the last three weeks to fall into third place. A veteran team, the Golden Bears are led by senior forward Ashley Walker, who is the league's leading scorer at 19.4 points per game. California is the toughest defensive team in the Pac-10 allowing just 53.9 points per contest.
Future Cats: Head coach Niya Butts was happy to announce the signing of the first two players for the 2009 signing class earlier in the season. Senior guard Davellyn White of St. Mary's High School in Phoenix is the first prep player to sign a National Letter of Intent to play for Butts. Whyte, the daughter of former Major League Baseball veteran Devon White, averaged 18 points per game in her junior campaign, leading the Lady Knights to a 19-9 record and the 5A Desert Valley Region championship. She was an all-state selection and was the runner-up in the region player of the year voting.
Whyte and the Lady Knights are currently 23-2, have won 19-straight games and are ranked #2 in the state. The top-seeded Lady Knights are one win away from earning the title of state champions after knocking off #4-seeded Gilbert on Wednesday evening, 75-51. The Lady Knights also picked up wins over Maryvale (65-25) and #8-seeded Xavier (72-53) in the 2009 AIA 5A Division I state tournament. St. Mary's will face second-seeded Highland on Saturday afternoon at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale starting at 2 p.m.
Joining Whyte with three years of eligibility remaining is Brooke Jackson, who is currently a freshman at Mesa Community College. A 5'9' shooting guard, Jackson prepped at Mountain View High School and was a two-time East Valley Region Player of the Year and two-time all-state selection. She is the 5A all-time single-season leader in scoring after tallying 849 points as a junior. Jackson also holds state 5A records for free throws made in a game (18) and season (216) as well as career steals (482).
A solid outside shooter, Jackson finished her prep career with a 41 percent mark from three-point range. Jackson is averaging 18.2 points per game and was recently named the ACCAC Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. She is shooting over 44 percent from beyond the arc for the 26-4 Lady Thunderbirds while also connecting on 86 percent of her free throws while dishing out 3.8 assists per game and swiping 2.7 steals per game. Mesa was the top seed in the NJCAA Region I Division II Playoffs, but fell to 4th-seeded Glendale in semifinal action on Tuesday, March 3.
Injury Update: Despite a recent setback to Ify Ibekwe, the Wildcats' leading scorer returned to action on Thursday evening and showed no ill effects of a sprained left knee suffered 10 days ago during practice. She came off the bench two minutes into the game and did not leave the Arizona lineup. No other Arizona player is currently complaining of any ailments, giving the Wildcats as healthy a roster as they have seen since the opening weeks of the season.
Going the Distance: With a roster depleted due to injuries, the active and healthy Wildcats have seen their share of minutes this season. Thirty-four 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 20-of-28 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 (34.6), Reiko Thomas (32.2), Amina Njonkou (30.6), and Courtney Clements (30.4) 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 72.1 percent free throw percentage as a team, good for 74th in the NCAA. Clements leads the team with a .938 mark while Thomas checks in at .812 and Frazier has earned a .755 tally. The Cats have also limited the opportunities of the opposition, making 59 more free throws (385) than the opposition has attempted (329).
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.
Clement Time: The four wins the Wildcats have tallied over the last month can at least partially be attributed to the improved and consistent play of freshman Courtney Clements. Over the past 10 games, Clements has scored 133 points, an average of 13.3 per contest. She has tallied in double figures in each of the last nine games, including back-to-back 15-point outings against Washington State and Oregon State and a career-high 22 points on Saturday against Washington. She has seen her per game scoring average climb a full 2.4 points to 10.0 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 12th 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 tied for 2nd in assists, and Amina Njonkou, who is 5th in rebounding and 9th 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.
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 397 fouls through 28 games 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 the regular season coming to a close, the second season starts for the Wildcats next Wednesday, March 12 with an opening round game in the 2009 Pac-10 Tournament at the Galen Center on the USC campus. The Wildcats will find out their opponent on Saturday evening, but it is more than likely going to be Washington State.
TOMORROW | 7:00pm PTLive