Wildcats Visit UC Riverside

Dec. 22, 2009

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Date: December 23, 2009

Time: 1:00 p.m. (PT)

Location: UCR Student Recreation Center, Riverside, Calif.

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

Tip Off Time: The Wildcats wrap up their two-game pre-Christmas road trip while looking to snap their current two-game losing streak with a trip to Big West Conference contender UC Riverside. The Cats will then take two days off around the Christmas holiday before returning to practice on the evening of December 26.

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: Despite a solid opening stretch of the game, Arizona ran into foul trouble and some cold shooting in dropping a 70-48 decision at #25-ranked Georgia Tech on Sunday afternoon. The Wildcats made just 2-of-21 attempts (.095) from three-point range and missed their last 15 attempts from beyond the arc. Though the Wildcats did manage to win the rebounding battle against a soid rebounding team, 35-32, the Cats finished the game shooting just 35 percent from the field while the Yellow Jackets connected on 28-of-53 attempts (.528). Junior forward Soana Lucet led all scorers with 19 points, but was the only Arizona player to tally in double figures.

Series Notes: Arizona has come out on top in both of the previous meetings with UC Riverside, most recently earning a 53-48 win over the Highlanders last December in McKale Center. The Wildcats also won the first matchup between the two schools by a 95-66 scoreline in Tucson in December of 2002. This will be the first trip for Arizona to the UCR Student Recreation Center. Last season, Ify Ibekwe had 23 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in the win over the Highlanders.

Conference Matchup: The Wildcats have complied a 27-35 record all-time against the current members of the Big West Conference, having gone head-to-head with eight of its nine members. Arizona has a winning record against half of the schools, including a 8-6 mark against UC Santa Barbara, but is a combined 10-23 against Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State. The only school the Wildcats have yet to face is UC Davis, the newest member of the league.

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).

California Dreamin': Arizona will be making its third of six scheduled trips to the Golden State to take on the Highlanders, having already made the short trip to San Diego on two occasions just before and right after Thanksgiving. The Wildcats will be back twice more during Pac-10 play before making a second-straight trip to Los Angeles in mid-March for the 2010 State Farm Pac-10 Tournament at the Galen Center on the USC campus. Arizona has split its first two games in California this season, losing at San Diego State before knocking off San Diego the following weekend.

Scouting the Highlanders: Head coach John Margaritis is in his 6th season as the head coach of UC Riverside. His team brings a 2-7 record into this non-conference tilt after coming up on the wrong end of a 75-60 verdict at Kansas on Sunday afternoon. The Highlanders lost all five starters and eight seniors total off of last season's 19-12 squad that took 2nd place in the Big West Conference regular season standings and was chosen to play in the 2009 Postseason Women's National Invitation Tournament. Senior Marissa Rivera leads the offensive charge for the Highlanders, averaging 13.9 points per game while shooting over 50 percent from the field and grabbing 5.2 rebounds per contest.

Familiar Faces: Two names on the UC RIverside roster should sound familiar to Arizona fans as twin sisters Rhaya and Rheya Neabors are regular contributors for the Highlanders. The sisters, who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, played their first two collegiate seasons at Arizona before choosing to complete their careers in southern California. Rheya appeared in 41 games over her two seasons and averaged 6.6 points and 3.7 rebounds while sister Rhaya took the floor in 42 contests and posted averages of 4.0 points and 2.6 rebounds.

Injury Update: Arizona continues to work its way through the 2009-10 regular season without sustaining and significant injuries. The Wildcats made it through the trip to Georgia Tech on Sunday without any players going down with any ailments, meaning all nine active players will be ready for tip-off on Wednesday against UC Riverside.

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.

By The Numbers: Despite their relative youth, the Wildcats still returned a fair amount of its production from the 2008-09 season. On a percentage basis, the Wildcats have brought back 57.8 percent of their scoring, 44.5 percent of the rebounds and 70.3 percent of the assists.

Looking Ahead: While Arizona continues its quest to rejoining the NCAA's elite company, the future looks bright for the Wildcats as one of its future members recently achieved an impressive career milestone. Candice Warthen, a guard at Warren County High School in Warrenton, Georgia, eclipsed the 2,000-point mark for her prep career after tallying 29 points in a win for the Screaming Devils against rival Thomson. She also had eight rebounds, six steals and four assists in the game. Warthen is currently averaging 28.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.5 steals and 2.3 assists per game for the 5-3 Devils. Last season, she scored a school-record 743 points while averaging 25.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 5.7 steals and 4.0 assists per game as a 1st-team all-state honoree.

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.

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 5th in the nation in rebounding at 12.0 per game, just 1.1 behind national leader Pauline Love of Southern Miss. She also checked in at 19th place with 5 double-doubles, 45th in steals per game (2.9) and 95th in blocked shots per game (1.5). Brooke Jackson is 36th in three-point field goal percentage at 44.7 percent. As a team, Arizona is 90th in field goal percentage defense (.371) and 65th in blocked shots per game (4.3).

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 9-4 in non-conference games in the month of December dating back to the 2007-08 season that includes a 3-2 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 11.3 points per game after tallying 15.7 per contest last season. Ibekwe is 172 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 13.1 points per game while shooting .310 from three-point range, .455 from the field and grabbing 4.5 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 tied for third on the Wildcats in scoring at 11.3 points per game and has hit on 17-of-38 attempts from beyond the arc, a sparkling 44.7 percent, while making 76.5 percent of her free throw attempts (13-of-17).

Three For All: After connecting on just 95 three-pointers last season, Arizona has already dialed long distance 39 times through the first eight games for an average of almost five per game. With Jackson and Whyte combining to shoot almost 38 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 12.3 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: Following two days off for Christmas and three days of practice, the Wildcats start a three-game homestand with their final non-conference game before the start of Pac-10 play when they host Alabama A&M on Tuesday, December 29 at 7:00 p.m.

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