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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Women’s basketball team flirts with milestones

    UA guard Ashley Whisonant, right, tries to work around an Oregon defender in a 65-60 win over the Ducks in McKale Center on Jan. 31. Whisonant leads the Pac-10 with 37.1 minutes per game and needs to play 146 more minutes to reach the 1,000-minute mark this season.
    UA guard Ashley Whisonant, right, tries to work around an Oregon defender in a 65-60 win over the Ducks in McKale Center on Jan. 31. Whisonant leads the Pac-10 with 37.1 minutes per game and needs to play 146 more minutes to reach the 1,000-minute mark this season.

    While some lovers express their passion through diamond jewelry today, the Arizona women’s basketball team will celebrate Valentine’s Day with a different rock: the milestone.

    A date with the record books awaits Arizona (9-14, 3-9 Pacific 10 Conference) in tonight’s game against No. 6 Stanford (22-3, 11-2), where UA head coach Joan Bonvicini will coach her 900th career game in Palo Alto, Calif., at 7 p.m.

    Bonvicini becomes the 14th head coach in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history to reach the 900-game plateau, after 12 seasons at Long Beach State and 17 at Arizona as the program’s winningest head coach.

    Her latest accomplishment comes just days after earning career win No. 500 at Washington on Jan. 26.

    “”It’s in my blood,”” said Bonvicini, who is the sixth coach in Arizona Athletics history to win 500 games. “”I love coaching and I’ve been very, very fortunate overall in my career. …I don’t think when I first started that I thought about where I’m going to be in 30 years or anything like that. It goes by quickly. It’s hard to believe.””

    Bonvicini joins guard Ashley Whisonant as this season’s record book rewriters. The senior started her fourth year as a Wildcat with her 100th career game Dec. 6. But throughout a season full of team injuries, transfers and walk-ons, Whisonant has stepped up as a prominent role in every game, due to a lack of bench depth that has forced her to play a full 40 minutes or more.

    Whisonant leads the Pac-10 with 37.1 minutes per game, most notably from a 48-minute double overtime performance at Oregon State on Jan. 3, when she scored a career-high 34 points – one point away from the school record – and set the Arizona record for field goal attempts (29).

    While plugging the void, senior guard Jessica Arnold left after suffering a season-ending concussion Nov. 5, Whisonant emerged as the heart and soul of the team, Bonvicini said.

    “”She shows incredible guts and fortitude, and I really think she sets a good example to the rest of the team,”” Bonvicini said.

    With a good chance of passing the 1,000-minute mark this season, Whisonant’s 854 minutes have already become a burden. Bonvicini said she takes priority in preserving Whisonant’s health by forcing the Bowie, Md., native to take plays off during practice – to her reluctance – and use cold whirlpools and massages.

    Whisonant appreciates the addition of two walk-ons to help keep practices smooth, as opposed to Arizona’s winter break with a thin bench that forced her to participate in all drills.

    “”Sometimes I think to myself, ‘Hey my body is getting tired,’ but to me it’s a mental thing,”” Whisonant said. “”I want to play. I’m working so I can continue to play.

    “”I don’t want to sit out in practice,”” she added. “”Sometimes they make me but I don’t want to.””

    Whisonant now ranks fifth in scoring at Arizona with 1,377 career points in 116 games after passing Timi Brown (1,315) on Jan. 26 at Washington. In 20 of 23 games this season, Whisonant has scored in double figures and averages 18.8 points per game in the last 11 games.

    “”She has incredible toughness,”” Bonvicini said. “”She’s been just a warrior out there.””

    I love coaching and I’ve been very, very fortunate overall in my career. … It goes by quickly. It’s hard to believe.

    – Joan Bonvicini,
    head coach

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