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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    W-hoops wins three straight

    The Arizona women’s basketball team certainly has something to celebrate during the holiday break.

    The Wildcats’ victory over the UC Riverside Highlanders 53-48 on Wednesday night gave them their third straight victory at home and longest win streak of the year.

    “”Our goal was to go 3-0 and challenge ourselves to know that we could just go out there and do it,”” said sophomore forward Ify Ibekwe, who registered her sixth double-double of the season. Her outstanding play during Arizona’s wins against San Diego (66-58) on Dec. 11 and Long Beach State (56-47) on Sunday gave her the honors of the U.S. Bank Pac-10 Women’s Basketball Player of the Week, announced Monday afternoon by Commissioner Tom Hansen. She is the first player to win the award for Arizona since Shawntinice Polk in March 2004.

    The Wildcats (6-4) are now two games over .500 after defeating a slew of teams from California before heading into a twelve-day break.

    In order to keep with opponents, Arizona has particularly focused on its defense, which helped the Wildcats hold off the Highlanders late in the second half. UA head coach Niya Butts has implemented a mix of zone and man-to-man defense, giving teams some new looks, and allowing the post players to create defensive turnovers. The Wildcats first used the zone defense in their game against San Diego.

    “”It’s definitely going to boost out swag and just give us confidence going into the break,”” said UA junior point-guard Ashley Frazier. “”(Defense) isn’t important just (Wednesday) but every game because you can’t win unless you play defense.””

    Butts said that this confidence will carry over to other parts of Arizona’s game, especially the offense. Although the shooting percentage (.389) has been cold for the Wildcats, their second-half play has given Arizona the confidence they need to keep their opponents at bay.

    “”We basically just challenged them,”” Butts said. “”We thought it was more of an effort thing, a heart thing and an energy thing. We just challenged them to go out there and play hard and they responded.””

    The Wildcats’ chemistry continues to grow as the season progresses. Their preparation comes in anticipation of Pacific 10 Conference play, which starts Jan. 2. The Wildcats have just one game left to continue to find the right combination of players. Amina Njonkou, Reiko Thomas and Courtney Clements have complemented the impressive post play of Ibekwe for Arizona. The Wildcats have also received help from seniors Beatrice Bofia and Sarah Hays, who stepped up for Butts when post offensive production has lacked.

    “”This bunch, I think they want to win and want to be successful,”” Butts said. “”I think they are starting to believe they can do that.””

    Arizona returns to the court Dec. 29 at Boise State before returning to McKale Center to open Pac-10 play against California on Jan. 2 at 7 p.m.

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