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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Similar matchup favors women’s hoops

    Pac-10 Tournament: No. 9 Arizona vs. No. 8 Oregon State

    With the exact tournament seed, conference record and opponent as last season, the Arizona women’s basketball team enters the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament tonight with an eerily familiar feeling.

    Consider déjÇÿ vu an understatement – a 9:15 p.m. preliminary round matchup between the No. 9-seeded Wildcats (4-14 Pac-10) and No. 8-seeded Oregon State (4-14) can be traced back one year ago to San Jose, Calif., where an exact replica scenario took place in last year’s tournament.

    Last season, Arizona defeated OSU 69-54 and advanced to lose against No. 1-seeded Stanford – the same opponent that also bounced the Wildcats from the tournament three of the last four years.

    But one year

    I’m excited but I don’t know what to expect. At the end of the day, you know why you’re there – to play and to win the Pac-10 conference.

    – Ify Ibekwe,

    later, a completely redesigned team takes the reigns hoping to continue its success against the Beavers.

    “”This is the rubber match,”” said UA head coach Joan Bonivicini, on the series being tied 1-1 this season. “”This is the more important one. Believe me, we’re going to play with incredible passion and energy and we’ll be ready to play.””

    One of Arizona’s most obscure games of school history came Jan. 3 at Oregon State, in a 94-88 double overtime loss in Corvallis, Ore. Just two Wildcats remained on the floor at the final buzzer, when four of six available players fouled out.

    Thoughts of the hard-fought effort, though, won’t be present in today’s grudge match from the Wildcats.

    “”I already forgot about that game,”” said forward Amina Njonkou. “”We’re just preparing to play Oregon State like a new game.””

    Said forward Ify Ibekwe: “”It hasn’t even been brought up. We can beat this team. When we play as a team and work hard as a team … we go the distance.””

    A drastic difference from last season’s roster, Arizona now touts a starting lineup of two freshmen – Ibekwe and guard Tasha Dickey – and three newcomer bench players – forward Sarah Hays, walk-on guard Ashley Gilpin and Sabreena Berger.

    The Wildcats’ lineup last season featured guards Jessica Arnold and Ashley Whisonant, along with then-senior guards Joy Hollingsworth and Linda Pace.

    While Whisonant remains this season’s heart and soul, anxious newcomers now fill the gaps eager to experience their first conference tournament.

    “”I’m excited but I don’t know what to expect,”” Ibekwe said. “”At the end of the day, you know why you’re there – to play and to win the Pac-10 conference.””

    Arizona beat Oregon State 71-63 in McKale Center on Feb. 2 in its only home sweep of the season after defeating Oregon two days prior.

    Since the conference standings remained indifferent regardless of the outcome, Arizona used its last road trip to Los Angeles for purely confidence sake. And when the Wildcats earned a much-desired upset at USC, the team refocused for the tournament.

    “”Right now the team confidence is really really high,”” Njonkou said. “”We’re trying to become a true team. We know if we make a mistake, my teammates are going to have my back on the court.””

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