Cats Tangle With Aztecs in San Diego

Nov. 19, 2009

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Date: Saturday, November 21, 2009

Time: 6:30pm (PT)

Location: Viejas Arena (12,414), San Diego, Calif.

Radio: KTUC AM 1400 (Derrick Palmer, Alysiah Bond)

TV: The Mtn. (Tracy Warren, Andrea Lloyd) - Channel 188 (Cox); Channel 616 (DirecTV)

Tip Off Time: A season-opening three-game road trip comes to and end this Saturday evening as the Wildcats make the short trip to San Diego to battle with San Diego State in the first game of the 2009 JHG Jam at Viejas Arena. Game time is set for 6:30 p.m. (PT) and the game will be broadcast on The Mtn. with Tracy Palmer and Andrea Lloyd calling the action.

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 for all of your live stats, audio and video needs.

Lid Lifters: Arizona improved to 22-16 record all-time in season-opening contests. The Wildcats also moved to 6-3 in season-opening games played in tournaments. Arizona has won four of its last five games played in regular season tournament, including a 2-1 mark last season at the Bank of Hawaii Invitational to open the 2008-09 campaign.

Last Time Out: Arizona completed a perfect 2-0 opening weekend by running away with a 91-67 win over Miami (Ohio) at the Iona College Tip-Off Tournament. Sophomore guard Reiko Thomas came off the bench to tally a team-leading 17 points while all-American Ify Ibekwe registered 16 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists to earn all-tournament team honors. Freshman guard Davellyn Whyte was named the tournament MVP while sophomore guard Brooke Jackson also garnered all-tourney honors.

Series Notes: San Diego State leads the all-time series against Arizona by a 12-4 ledger. When the teams take the floor on Saturday evening, it will have been almost exactly 11 years since they have gone head-to-head, their last meeting coming on November 23, 1998. Arizona captured the win in that game played in McKale Center, 76-69. Though it has been over a decade since their last meetings, Arizona has won the last four contests in the series, splitting those games at either home site. This will be the first contest between the two sides at Viejas Arena, formerly known as Cox Arena, which opened prior to the 1997-98 season.

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 Aztecs: Defending Mountain West Conference champion San Diego State brings a 2-0 record into Saturday's contest after blitzing crosstown-rival San Diego, 79-52. The Aztecs, under the guidance of 13th-year head coach Beth Burns, were picked to repeat as conference champions in the Mountain West Conference Preseason Poll. Senior guard Jene Morris, a Wade Watch List and Wooden Award Watch List honoree, led the team in scoring last season at 16.1 points per game while Paris Johnson posted 8.3 rebounds and 2.9 blocked shots per contest.

Conference Matchup: Arizona holds a 36-43 all-time record against teams currently in the Mountain West Conference. The Wildcats have a winning record against three teams, including a 6-2 mark against Colorado State. Other than the Aztecs, the Cats have had the most struggles against Utah, which holds a 10-2 edge over Arizona. The last game for Arizona against a MWC team was two seasons ago when the Wildcats earned a 44-36 against New Mexico in Albuquerque, a team that Cats will host in McKale Center on December 9.

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.

On the Offensive: Through its first two games, Arizona is averaging 83 points per game, good enough for third in the Pac-10 early on. The 91 points scored against Miami was the most scored since the Cats tallied 93 in a triple-overtime win over Loyola Marymount last season and highest regulation point total since piling up 96 points against Furman in November of 2005.

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: Despite nursing a few aches and pains, Arizona expects to have all 10 of its active players available for this weekend against San Diego State.

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, New Mexico 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: 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.

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.

Double Trouble: Ibekwe is currently in third place in the Arizona record books with 24 double-doubles after accomplishing the feat in each of the first two 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 12 double-doubles behind second-place Adia Barnes while Polk holds the career mark at 46, a number Ibekwe should pass sometime next season if she continues at her current pace.

Milennium Milestone: With a total of 732 points for her career, Ibekwe is on track to become the 16th player in Arizona history to amass 1,000 points. She would need to average just 10 points per game to accomplish the feat by the end of the regular season. She is currently averaging 13.5 points per game after tallying 15.7 per contest last season. Ibekwe is 235 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 Iona College Tip-Off Tournament last weekend. 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).

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.

Action Jackson: Sophomore guard Brooke Jackson has shown a tremendous all-around game in her brief time wearing a Arizona uniform. She scored 13 points in each of her first two games and also averaged 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per contest. She showed the deft shooting touch that made her so attractive to the Arizona coaching staff, connecting on 9-of-17 shots from the field (.529) that included a sizzling .667 mark (6-of-9) from beyond the arc.

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.

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. Lucet had a solid opening weekend of play, averaging 10 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists at the Iona College Tip-Off Tournament.

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 in the final exhibition game two weeks ago against Grand Canyon. 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.

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: The Cats will 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. They will then make a second-straight trip to San Diego, this time battling the University of San Diego on Friday, November 27 in the Jenny Craig Pavilion at 7:00 p.m. (PT)

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