Cats Hoping to Sting Jackets
Dec. 17, 2009
Date: Sunday, December 20, 2009
Time: 1:00 p.m. (ET)
Location: Alexander Memorial Coliseum, Atlanta, Ga.
Radio: KTUC AM 1400 (Derrick Palmer, Alysiah Bond)
Tip Off Time: The Wildcats start a two-game holiday road trip on both ends of the country, beginning this Sunday with a visit to Atlantic Coast Conference foe #25-ranked Georgia Tech. Arizona will then head West to battle Big West Conference contender UC Riverside next Wednesday, December 23 before returning home over the Christmas hoilday.
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 both the Arizona and San Diego women's basketball schedule pages.
Last Time Out: Visiting New Mexico connected on a dozen three-pointers and shot over 50 percent from the field to hand Arizona a 81-61 defeat on December 9. The Wildcats struggled at the free throw line, making just 7-of-16 attempts and missing 6-of-7 during one stretch of the second half. The Wildcats were led offensively by freshman guard Davellyn Whyte, who tallied 19 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Brooke Jackson hit a trio of three-pointers and tallied 13 points while Soana Lucet had 10 points and 9 rebounds for the Wildcats. Lauren Taylor led all scorers with 22 points for New Mexico.
Series Notes: It has been almost 25 years since the one and only meeting between Arizona and Georgia Tech, a game that took place in Atlanta on January 7, 1985 with the Yellow Jackets claiming a 65-59 win over the Wildcats. Arizona will be playing just its 6th-ever game against a team from the Peach State and looking for its first-ever win in the Empire State of the South after dropping single decisions to Georgia Tech and Mercer while losing twice at Georgia.
Conference Matchup: Arizona holds a 4-10 all-time record against the teams that currently make up the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Wildcats hold single victories over Miami (Fla.), North Carolina State, Virginia and Wake Forest, but are winless against Boston College, Georgia Tech and Maryland. North Carolina State was the last ACC foe to appear on the Arizona schedule, handing the Wildcats a 80-47 defeat in Raleigh on November 20, 2007.
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).
Home Sweet Home: A native of Americus, Georgia, head coach Niya Butts will be making her first-ever appearance as the Arizona head coach in her home state. Butts' hometown is located approximately 150 miles south of Atlanta and boasts a population of just over 16,000. Butts graduated from Americus High School before heading to the University of Tennessee, where she won a pair of NCAA national championships and was a 3-time Academic All-SEC selection while playing for legendary head coach Pat Summitt. Welcoming Butts home to the Peach State is expected to be a throng of nearly 200 members of the community as well as other friends and family members that live in and around the Atlanta area.
About Americus: Founded in 1832 by Senator Lovett B. Smith, Americus is just under 11 square miles in area. It is best known as the home of Habitat For Humanity International's headquarters, an organization that was founded in 1976 and of which Butts is a local board member in Tucson. Americus is also the home of former NFL head coaches Dan Reeves and Chan Gailey as well as NFL tight end Leonard Pope of the Kansas City Chiefs. The city is the county seat of Sumter County and was a hotbed of activity during the civil rights era where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed for one week in December of 1961. Charles Lindbergh bought his first airplane and made his first solo flight from Americus, which acted as a training ground for British pilots during both of the World Wars. The film To Dance With the White Dog was filmed in the city limits in 1993, starring Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn and Esther Rolle.
Scouting the Yellow Jackets: Georgia Tech made its first appearance in the national rankings this week, claiming the final spot in the Associated Press Top 25. Entering this weekend's game with a record of 6-2, the Ramblin' Wreck knocked off Pac-10 member Oregon on Wednesday evening, 87-69. Head coach MaChelle Joseph is in her 7th year at Georgia Tech after leading the Yellow Jackets to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament last season. Junior guard Alex Montgomery was a 3rd-team all-ACC pick last season and leads in the team in scoring with 12.2 points per game.
Injury Update: Arizona continues to work its way through the 2009-10 regular season without sustaining and significant injuries. The Wildcats came through their game last week against New Mexico unscathed and will have all nine players healthy and available for action against Georgia Tech on Sunday.
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.
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.
Road Warriors: After picking up just two road wins a season ago, the Wildcats have already won three times away from McKale Center. The Cats swept both of their games at the Iona College Tip-Off Tournament before knocking off San Diego at the Jenny Craig Pavilion at the end of November.
Defending Their Turf: The Wildcats have continued to make it quite difficult for opposing teams to put the ball in the basket since head coach Niya Butts took over prior to the 2008-09 campaign. Visiting teams averaged just 56.9 points per game while shooting a paltry .375 from the field last season. 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. This season, the Wildcats have allowed an average of 63.7 points per game after limiting Ole Miss and Nevada to .324 and .294 shooting percentages, respectively.
On This Date: The last time the Wildcats played a game on December 21 was during the 2001-02 season, a game Arizona claimed over California in McKale Center, 66-61. All-Pac-10 1st-team selection Elizabeth Pickney tallied a team-leading 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting and also pulled down 11 rebounds to help the Wildcats overcome 25 turnovers. Freshman Dee Dee Wheeler hit a pair of three-pointers and finished with 12 points, 4 assists and 2 blocked shots while Krista Warren snagged 15 rebounds to help the Cats earn a 44-28 edge on the glass.
National Notables: Ify Ibekwe has once again littered her name all over the latest release of NCAA statistics sent out earlier this week. Ibekwe is currently 8th in the nation in rebounding at 12.1 per game, just 1.5 behind national leader Pauline Love of Southern Miss. She also checked in at 8th place with 5 double-doubles, 16th in steals per game (3.3) and 63rd in blocked shots per game (1.7). Brooke Jackson is 17th in three-point field goal percentage at 50.0 percent while Davellyn Whyte is 99th in field goal percentage at 48.0 percent. As a team, Arizona is 41st in field goal percentage defense (.352) and blocked shots per game (4.7), 44th in three-point field goal percentage (.370) and 78th in field goal percentage (43.0).
Holiday Cheer: The month of December has been fruitful for the Wildcats over the past two-plus seasons. Last season, the Cats shook off a first-week loss at Louisiana Tech to record four-straight wins to round out the 2008 calendar year. Arizona picked up wins at home in McKale Center over San Diego, Long Beach State and UC Riverside before coming from behind to earn a road win at Boise State. The Cats are 9-3 in non-conference games in the month of December dating back to the 2007-08 season that includes a 3-1 ledger as the visiting team.
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. This season, she leads the Wildcats in each of those categories, sharing the team lead in field goals with Davellyn Whyte at 28, while also pacing the team with 20 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 27 double-doubles after accomplishing the feat in each of the five 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 9 double-doubles behind second-place Adia Barnes while Polk holds the career mark at 46, a number Ibekwe could pass this season at her current pace with no fewer than 25 games remaining.
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 787 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 over 10 points per game to accomplish the feat by the end of the regular season. She is currently averaging 11.7 points per game after tallying 15.7 per contest last season. Ibekwe is 180 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 13.9 points per game while shooting a solid .371 from three-point range, .480 from the field and grabbing 5.0 rebounds per contest.
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 has thus far scored in double figures in 5-of-7 games, including a season-best 20 points against Ole Miss. Jackson is currently second on the Wildcats in scoring at 11.9 points per game and has hit on 15-of-30 attempts from beyond the arc, an incredible 50.0 percent, while making 80 percent of her free throw attempts (12-of-15).
Three For All: After connecting on just 95 three-pointers last season, Arizona has already dialed long distance 37 times through the first seven games for an average of over five per game. With Jackson and Whyte combining to shoot over 43 percent from threedom, the Cats have increased their clip from distance by almost 100 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. 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 her best game with the Wildcats against San Diego with 22 points on 10-of-17 shooting and is averaging 11.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
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 Wildcats will have a quick turnaround after their voyage to Atlanta as they head to southern California next Monday to take on defending Big West champion UC Riverside on Wednesday, December 23 with tip-off slated for 1:00 p.m. (PT).
TOMORROW | 5:00pm PTLive