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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    W-hoops preps for Pac-10 play

    As the holiday season approaches, most Arizona athletes look forward to spending time with their families.

    At the Ibekwe household, however, late December unites the family not around the dinner table, but on the basketball court.

    Arizona (2-4) opens up its Pacific 10 Conference play by hosting the two Los Angeles schools, featuring a game on Dec. 30 against the UCLA (4-3) team that includes Chinyere Ibekwe – older sister of UA forward Ify Ibekwe.

    “”It’s going to be exciting to play against them and see them together,”” said UA guard Ashley Whisonant. “”I think we’ve got the better Ibekwe.””

    The Carson, Calif., natives attended different high schools, and will compete against each other for the first time since Ify’s sophomore year when her Narbonne High played Chinyere’s Carson High during her senior year.

    Amidst a naturally competitive sibling rivalry, the competition won’t merely eclipse precious family time the Ibekwes will spend in Tucson for the first time together in McKale.

    “”I’m just very excited for my family,”” Ify said. “”It’s just going to be different because it’s not high school anymore.””

    Will the 6-foot-1 Arizona freshman matchup against the 6-foot-4 UCLA junior with eight double-digit scoring games last season?

    “”Of course,”” Ify said.

    UA head coach Joan Bonvicini expects the Bruins to bring a young yet athletic team with potent size – UCLA touts six freshmen with eight players over six feet, nearly upsetting then-No. 3 Maryland on Nov. 25 with a close 79-75 loss.

    “”I know for Ify and her sister … this is obviously an emotional time,”” Bonvicini said. “”But really it’s about the teams and it’s going to be a big game.

    “”When you start Pac-10, it’s really a different intensity,”” she added.

    Such intensity must evolve leading up to Pac-10 play, Bonvicini said, as the powerhouse conference brings different challenges and game play with each different uniform.

    After Arizona hosts USC (3-2) on Dec. 28 and UCLA, the Wildcats travel to Corvallis, Ore., on Jan. 3 for a matchup against Oregon State (4-2), followed by a visit to Eugene for a date with the Ducks on Jan. 5.

    Arizona returns home for a rigorous three home games in the span of a week, beginning with in-state rival ASU, followed by consecutive games with the ranked Pac-10 co-leaders of No. 6 Stanford (7-1) and No. 12 California (7-1).

    “”We’ve had some ups and downs but now we need to be consistent,”” Bonvicini said. “”You have to be able to adjust from one night a team’s going to play to a different style. In the Pac-10, you’ve got to protect your court and that’s the bottom line.


    Dec. 6 vs. NAU 7 p.m.
    Dec. 9 vs. Long Beach State 2 p.m.
    Dec. 12 vs. Boise State 7 p.m.
    Dec. 15 at New Mexico 7 p.m.
    Dec. 20 at Wisconsin-Green Bay 7 p.m.
    Dec. 28 vs. USC 7 p.m.
    Dec. 30 vs. UCLA 2 p.m.
    Jan. 3 at Oregon State 7 p.m.
    Jan. 5 at Oregon 2 p.m.
    Jan 12 vs. ASU 4 p.m.

    Home games in McKale Center
    1721 E. Enke Drive

    “”Every team you play in the Pac gives a different challenge,”” she added. “”For us, we’ve just got to take care of ours.””

    Arizona played a full scrimmage on Saturday with officials, in effort to ease the 11-day game-less stretch – the longest period since the 1998-1999 season – which ends with tomorrow’s game against NAU in McKale.

    Ibekwe believes the break gives the team time to work and build on weaknesses, with the sour taste of a 70-60 loss to Middle Tennessee State on Nov. 25.

    “”We’re glad we’re not traveling because of finals,”” Ibekwe said, since the team has already made two trips to the East Coast this season.

    Said Bonvicini of the break: “”I think we’ve done a good job preparing the team the last week and a half.””

    Ibekwe comes off a career high 22-point performance against Middle Tennessee from an almost perfect 10-of-11 from the field – the second highest shooting percentage in Arizona women’s basketball history.

    And 1

    Tomorrow’s game marks Whisonant’s 100th in her Arizona basketball career. …Guard Jessica Arnold has been cleared to play again after suffering a concussion in an exhibition game against Vanguard on Nov. 5. Arnold began non-contact practicing, Bonvicini said, and plans to become implemented along slowly with the team.

    “”Just her presence …it’s going to be big, having another ball handler,”” Bonvicini said.

    Said fellow senior Whisonant of the return: “”She’s a really good player. She’s going to bring energy, (and a good) attitude towards basketball. We’re all happy to have her back.””

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