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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Despite loss, women’s basketball proves it can keep score close”

    UA forward Ify Ibekwe searches for an open teammate during a 54-44 loss to No. 7 Texas A&M in McKale Center on Tuesday night.
    UA forward Ify Ibekwe searches for an open teammate during a 54-44 loss to No. 7 Texas A&M in McKale Center on Tuesday night.

    The Wildcats certainly made it interesting, just as head coach Niya Butts promised. She encouraged the fans to come out and support the UA women’s basketball team after its victory against UC Santa Barbara – its third consecutive win.

    Those who came were treated to quite a show.

    Although Arizona lost 54-44 in its Tuesday night meeting with No. 7 Texas A&M in McKale Center, the Wildcats proved they could keep pace with anyone.

    “”We gave ourselves a chance to be in the game,”” Butts said. “”We just couldn’t finish it. We came up a little short.””

    The Wildcats (3-2) had the Aggies (4-0) on their heels late in the second half. With less than five minutes to go, the Wildcat defense came alive. Thanks to the aggressive play of sophomore forward Ify Ibekwe, Arizona cut the lead down to just four points with less than three minutes remaining. She dominated on the defensive boards, grabbing three rebounds and giving Arizona the ball back. Ibekwe had two steals and nine total rebounds in the game.

    Numerous fouls by the Aggies gave Arizona the chance to get back in the game. Arizona was near perfect from the line, going 20-for-23, a factor that helped them keep the game close.

    “”They’re long, they’re wiry, they’re aggressive,”” Butts said of the Texas A&M defense. “”Part of our game plan was trying to get them in foul trouble.””

    As the half drew to an end, however, the Wildcats were unable to convert on offense and keep their momentum going.

    “”I thought that we were more composed. … Offensively we were executing our offense, defensively we were better,”” freshman Reiko Thomas said of Arizona’s late run. “”We just made some turnovers in crunch time. I think that’s what gave the game away.””

    Texas A&M took advantage of the limited clock time. Senior guard Danielle Grant scored after a Wildcat turnover, virtually putting the game away. She tallied her 13th career double-double in the game.

    “”I wasn’t making my shots in the first half,”” Grant said. “”I knew I had to make a good move and make the basket.””

    Even though this was their second game in three days, the Wildcats looked surprisingly upbeat in the opening five minutes of the game, out-hustling the Aggies for rebounds. This allowed the Wildcats to create long outlet passes and score easy layups.

    Three minutes into the first half, Texas A&M senior guard Takia Starks sprained her ankle, but returned periodically into the game, helping the Aggies keep their pace.

    Although the Wildcats kept the score close at halftime, trailing only by three points, the first half was marred by missed opportunities on both ends of the court. Both teams had 11 turnovers, and Arizona was unable to convert on a number of Aggie turnovers, shooting only 21.7 percent from the field.

    The Aggie defense prevented the Wildcats from moving the ball around, and forced the shot clock down. Arizona was unable to penetrate past the 3-point line.

    “”It was extremely hard,”” Thomas said. “”There wasn’t any penetration. That made it harder for the post to get the ball. We were really stagnant on offensive.””

    And 1

    UA freshman Courtney Clements saw her first action of the season eight minutes into the game. Her return was productive, as she played 16 minutes and had six points.

    “”It’s a matter of getting her back into the game slowly,”” Butts said. “”Ease her back in a little bit at a time. She gives us a lot more size on the perimeter.””

    Clements’ return was just part of the success that Arizona had Tuesday night.

    “”I was very proud of our kids,”” said Butts. “”We executed the game plan. I’m very encouraged. I thought our kids went out and they fought. I think it could mean we’re getting better day everyday.””

    Butts, along with her encouraged team, will return home as Arizona faces Middle Tennessee State on Nov. 28 at 6 p.m. MST.

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