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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


W-hoops begins high-stakes road trip

Even though its chances of making the NCAA tournament hinge on winning the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament, there is a lot riding on Arizona’s last road trip beginning tonight against USC at 7.

“”The stakes are high for this weekend, there’s no question about it.”” said head coach Niya Butts.

The Wildcats (13-14, 6-10 Pac-10) are unlikely to receive an at-large bid to the big dance, but they have a chance of securing the sixth-place seed in the conference tournament with a strong weekend in LA.

After being picked to finish ninth in the preseason polls, the Wildcats have been playing with a chip on their shoulder, trying to prove their doubters wrong.

If they’re be able to pass Oregon and take over the sixth-place spot, the Wildcats will be awarded a first-round bye in the Pac-10 Tournament, making the road to a conference title a little easier.

Butts mentioned that while a bye would be welcome, it isn’t crucial to success in the conference tournament.

“”I certainly think it helps if you can get a bye. Whether it’s necessary — that’s a little bit tricky,”” Butts said. “”If you can get into that sixth-place spot, it would certainly be ideal, but if that doesn’t happen, you have to be ready to play no matter what day you have to play on.””

Besides the opportunity to move into sixth place, another postseason opportunity is not out of the question for Arizona. 

If they are able to finish the season .500 or better, the Wildcats could be selected as an at-large bid for National Invitational Tournament.

Since the NIT counts conference tournament games on a team’s record, Arizona’s postseason hopes begin and end with its play on this road trip.

USC (16-11, 10-6) has momentum coming off of three straight conference wins. The Trojans won an overtime squeaker, 81-78, against the Wildcats in early January at McKale Center.

Despite the fact that the Wildcats lost both games against the LA schools earlier in the season, freshman Davellyn Whyte says the Trojans will see a different Arizona team tonight.

“”We’re a way better team than we were in the beginning of the season, so if we can continue to do the little things I think we’ll be good to go,”” Whyte said.

A familiar storyline this season has been Arizona’s inability to close out games; they often lost halftime leads or came out flat in the second half.

Their ability to play a complete forty minutes will be key against USC, since the Trojans are always a threat to make a run, shooting 35.5 percent from the three-point line.

Butts mentioned that her team’s focus makes it possible to maintain the same intensity for the entire game.

“”That’s the whole science of it, trying to put things together,”” Butts said. “”I think some of our mistakes are mental. 

“”We need to make better decisions down the stretch, and if we can start to do that a little bit, then I think we’ll ease up and finish games.””

Junior forward Ify Ibekwe, has remained consistent for the Wildcats all season, averaging a double-double with 14 points and 11 boards. 

While Ibekwe knows the two road games won’t be easy, she says the Wildcats need to play their game if they want to help themselves out before the Pac-10 Tournament.

“”Because we’re away it’s going to be a little bit hard, but we can still do it,”” Ibekwe said. “”We can still go out there and focus on what Arizona needs to do to get those two wins and the sixth-place seed.””

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