Wildcats Open in Big Apple

Nov. 13, 2009

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Date: Saturday, Nov. 10, 2009
Time: 7:30pm (ET)
Location: Hynes Athletic Center (2,611), New Rochelle, N.Y.
Radio: KTUC AM 1400 (Derrick Palmer, Alysiah Bond)

Tip Off Time: The long-awaited start to the 2009-10 season is finally here as the Wildcats open their 29-game slate at the Iona College Tip-Off Tournament in New Rochelle, N.Y. Arizona will play the host Gaels in opening round action on Saturday, November 14 before taking on either Miami (Ohio) or Bucknell the following day at 1:00 p.m. Tip-off on Sunday is set regardless of whether the Cats win or lose so the team can catch their flight home that evening.

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.

Lid Lifters: Arizona has compiled a 21-16 record all-time in season-opening contests. Last season, a pair of late free throws spoiled the head coaching debut of Niya Butts as the Cats dropped a 64-63 decision to Toledo at the Bank of Hawaii Invitational in Hilo, Hawaii. Arizona will be playing its 9th season-opener in a tournament with a 5-3 record compiled up to this point.

Last Time Out: Sophomore Brooke Jackson and freshman Davellyn Whyte each scored 14 points as Arizona completed its exhibition schedule with a 83-56 win over visiting Grand Canyon. Jackson dished out six assists and had five steals while Whyte grabbed seven rebounds as each player canned a trio of three-point shots. All-American Ify Ibekwe chipped in with 10 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals.

Series Notes: Arizona will be playing its first-ever game against Iona as well as either of the other possible opponents for Sunday afternoon. The Wildcats only had one common opponent with any of the three teams last season as Miami also lost its only game against Toledo by a 66-64 scoreline. The Big Apple: The Wildcats will add two more firsts when they take the court against the Gaels on Saturday evening. Arizona will be playing its first game in New York as well as a first-ever game against a team that hails from the Empire 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).

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 Gaels: Tournament host Iona is a member of the MAAC Conference and posted a 18-13 record last season while going 10-8 in league play. Head coach Anthony Bozzella is in his 8th season at Iona and returns three starters from last season as well as bringing back one redshirt from the 2007-08 season, all four of which averaged in double figures. Iona was picked to finish second in the MAAC this season in a preseason media poll. The Gaels won their only exhibition game of the preseason, blasting Dowling College by a 97-63 scoreline.

Scouting the RedHawks: Miami (Ohio) posted a 16-15 overall record while going 7-9 in the Mid-American Conference East Division. The RedHawks return a pair of starters from the 2008-09 campaign, led by senior guard Courtney Reed who averaged 9.2 points and 3.1 rebounds per contest. Head coach Maria Fantanarosa is in her 12th season at the Miami helm. Freshman forward Kirsten Olowinski tallied 17 points to lead Miami to a 85-54 exhibition win over Tiffin on Sunday afternoon.

Scouting the Bison: The other potential Sunday opponent for the Wildcats, Bucknell tied for third place in the Patriot League last season with a 8-6 mark while going 16-12 overall for 13th-year head coach Kathy Fedorjaka. The Bison return three starters from the 2008-09 campaign, led by sophomore forward Joyce Novacek with averages of 9.2 points and 6.3 rebounds during her freshman season. Picked to finish 5th in the Preseason Patriot League Poll, Bucknell did not schedule any preseason games.

Conference Matchups: Arizona will be playing its first-ever game against a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) opponent when the Cats take on Iona. Arizona has a winning record all-time against both the Mid-American Conference and the Patriot League, posting marks of 6-2 and 3-2, respectively.

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.

Youth is Served: With just four returning players with Pac-10 experience plus one year of service from Tasha Dickey, Arizona is the fourth-youngest team in all of NCAA Division I. Both Tennessee-Martin and Tennessee Tech return just four seasons of top-level experience while Central Arkansas brings back only five seasons of play. Rounding out the top five was Monmouth, which claims eight seasons.

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: Freshman guard Davellyn Whyte has been slowed this week by an ankle injury picked up in the exhibition win over Grand Canyon. Her status for the season opener is probable, though her minutes may be limited.

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. Despite a slow start that saw her play just seven minutes against Fort Lewis in the first half, Ibekwe finished with 11 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, four steals and three blocked shots.

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.

California Dreamin’: The Wildcats boast four players from the Sunshine State on the roster this season, two of them coming from the same high school. Ify Ibekwe and Reiko Thomas were teammates at powerful Narbonne High School, a school that boasts an alumni list that includes Ebony Hoffman of the Indiana Fever as well as Lisa Willis and Loree Moore of the New York Liberty.

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. The non-self-governing nation is a territory of France and is approximately half the size of Taiwan at just over 7,100 square miles. 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.

Action Jackson: Sophomore guard Brooke Jackson opened more than a few eyes with her preseason performances that helped lead the Wildcats to a pair of wins. The Mesa CC transfer led the team in scoring by averaging 15.5 points per game, including a 17-point effort in her debut against Fort Lewis. Jackson hit her first-ever shot in a Arizona uniform, a three-pointer on the opening possession of the game, and hit 5-of-8 three-point shots (.625). She also averaged 6.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.5 steals while shooting .478 (11-of-23) from the floor.

Agent Zero: Taking a cue from former Wildcat Gilbert Arenas, 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 had 10 points and five rebounds in her collegiate debut and averaged 12 points and six rebounds in the two exhibition games.

Block Party: Junior center Jennifer Kioa showed flashes of the defensive presence that made her a highly sought after recruit for Butts and her staff. She tallied nine points, nine rebounds and eight blocked shots in just 17 minutes of play against Grand Canyon on Sunday. Had that been a regular season game, her blocked shot total would have tied her for second place on the single-game record list. The late Shawntinice Polk swatted nine shots by the Cal Bears on March 1, 2003 to claim top honors. Polk also holds the single-season record with 80.

Paint Your Wagon: Arizona showed a strong presence in the paint in its two exhibition games, tallying 98 of its 158 points in the lane to account for 62 percent of its offense. The Cats also defended the inside well as it allowed only 38 points over 80 minutes of play.

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: Following the trip to New York, the Wildcats will be on the road once again next weekend, heading to San Diego to play the opening game of the JHG Jam at San Diego State against the host Aztecs. Tip-off for that game on Saturday, November 21 will be at 6:30 p.m. (PT) and the game will be televised on The Mtn. The Cats will then return home for the regular season home opener on Monday, November 23 against SEC-foe Ole Miss with a special tip time of 11:00 a.m. in McKale Center.

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