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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Short bench yields weird, rare results”

    Short bench yields weird, rare results

    The new year has yet to include happiness for head coach Joan Bonvicini and the Arizona women’s basketball team.

    Arizona (6-10, 0-5 Pacific 10 Conference) is winless so far in 2008 after going a dismal 1-6 during winter break.

    The Wildcats lone win came against New Mexico on Dec. 15, capping a season-high four-game winning streak. Adding to the game’s significance, the win snapped a 13-game home winning streak for the Lobos.

    That game would be the last of good news over the break as the Wildcats went on to drop their next six games leading to a disappointing 0-5 start to the Pac-10 season.

    “”I can’t really say what was going wrong,”” forward Amina Njonkou said. “”We were working hard and playing hard but still losing games. Sometimes it was because we weren’t starting the game hard, we were going in slow motion. But other times we did start the game good but we still just couldn’t win.””

    One large factor contributing to Arizona’s struggles was a significantly short bench. Forward Ify Ibekwe missed six of the seven games due to an eye injury while guard Jessica Arnold continues to be sidelined due to two concussions suffered early in the season.

    Also absent for short periods of time were Rheya and Rhaya Neabors. Rheya sat out against Oregon State to attend to academic responsibilities while Rhaya missed the last three games due to personal reasons.

    Throughout the last seven games, the Wildcats had no more than eight available players and in two instances they took the floor with only one player on the bench.

    This led to a unique situation in Corvallis, Ore., when the team got in foul trouble and found themselves with four players at the end of regulation with overtime looming.

    “”I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going to happen?’ because I didn’t know if we were going to continue the game,”” guard Ashley Whisonant said of the situation. “”But after that when I saw how well we played with the four people it kind of brought us confidence and I started to think ‘Hey, maybe we (can) do this.'””

    The game spilled into double overtime and just three Wildcats remained. Arizona managed to gain an 87-83 advantage with just under two minutes remaining.

    But a surge by the Beavers quickly erased the deficit and soon Whisonant fouled out with a career-high 34 points, leaving only forward Sarah Hays and center Beatrice Bofia on the court as Oregon State rolled to a 94-88 victory.

    “”Those things you hear about more in high school,”” Bonvicini said of her team’s disintegrating lineup. “”But that was just the hand we were dealt. You don’t practice those things, trust me, and you don’t think about those things.””

    Despite the issues the team has dealt with during the winter break, the coaches and players feel success is not far away. Arizona lost its last five games by an average of seven points.

    As classes resume, the Wildcats’ bench will be fuller as nine players are expected to be available for Thursday’s home matchup with No. 7 Stanford.

    The team added a new player to the roster to help fill the holes. Senior Ashley Gilpin joined the team as a walk-on last Friday to help primarily on the practice court, Bonvicini said.

    “”Ashley Gilpin is doing very well and we’re just going to see what’s best for us and what we need her to do,”” Bonvicini said. “”Her role is to help the team in any way particularly in practice, but if we need to put her in a game I’m confident she’d play her role well.””

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