W-Hoops starts season off with overtime win

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Tim Glass

Tim Glass / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA women’s basketball team played

Dan Kohler

The Arizona women’s basketball team needed overtime to defeat Wichita State Shockers 81-72 in its season opener on Friday, but the key to the victory was something that head coach Niya Butts hasn’t seen during her Wildcat tenure: depth.

“”Right now, we are enjoying this win,”” Butts said after the game. “”There were many places we could have folded and given up tonight, but it didn’t happen.””

After the tip, the Wildcats offense — which exploded in its two exhibition contests — was stifled by an 11-2 run by WSU in the first five minutes of the game. Arizona didn’t look nearly as prepared as the Shockers taking a 20-4 lead in the first 10 minutes of play.

The second 10 minutes of play were a different story.

Arizona responded with an 18-0 run over the next seven minutes, giving the Wildcats a 22-20 advantage. But when the halftime buzzer rang, WSU had regained control with a 32-27 lead.

The second half was back-and-forth from the start. As time expired, WSU’s Chynna Turner was fouled by Arizona forward Soana Lucet and had two free throw opportunities to secure a victory for her team.

The pressure was too much for Turner, however, and her two failed attempts kept Arizona in the game, extending the contest to overtime.

The Wildcats took the momentum and ran with it.

Arizona freshman forward Erica Barnes stole the show down low, scoring 16 and hauling in 14 rebounds to get her first double-double as a Wildcat.

“”Erica Barnes really stepped up for us tonight,”” Butts said. “”We have been waiting for a performance like this out her and she picked the right night to bring it. This was her first collegiate game, It’s very impressive.””

The big surprise was Pacific 10 Defensive Player of the Year Ify Ibekwe, whose four points and eight boards were unusually low considering her double-double averages last season.

The guards were the dominating force for the Wildcats, with Davellyn Whyte, Brooke Jackson and Shanita Arnold scoring a combined 47 points.

The late offensive burst on Friday was comforting to the Wildcat staff, who were concerned with the potential energy levels after last season’s second half play that was littered with lackadaisical performances.

“”We had four players score in double digits tonight and that just proves what kind of depth we are working with.”” Butts said. “”It’s very exciting to have all these options offensively.””