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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats subdue Matadors at home

Colin Darland/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Colin Darland
Colin Darland/Arizona Daily Wildcat

With support from a home crowd clad in pink for breast cancer awareness, the Arizona women’s basketball team came out on top with a convincing 73-50 victory in its final nonconference game of the year against the California State, Northridge Matadors on Tuesday.

The Wildcats (13-11, 6-7 Pacific 10 Conference), who came out donning pink headbands with the insignia “”SD”” in honor of assistant coach and breast cancer survivor Sue Darling, easily handled a tired Northridge (4-19, 1-9 Big West Conference) defense that was lagging for a majority of the night.

Even though facing a team at the bottom of the Big West Conference seemed trivial on paper, the Wildcats came into the contest looking to keep their momentum going by playing a complete game.

“”You have to go out there and work on things that will make you better”” said Arizona head coach Niya Butts. “”When you’re trying to be a good team and you want to be good individually, you have to always be ready to perform.””

Northridge won the tip and proceeded to play its brand of slow-paced, half-court offense.

It seemed as if it was destined to be a low scoring contest with the game tied at 8 with 11:38 left in the first half.

Both teams were at a standstill. It looked like the wear and tear of a long season was finally getting to the Wildcats.

“”I think our lack of focus (was the problem),”” said Arizona guard Brooke Jackson, who added that the Wildcats’ lackadaisical performance really affected the team’s momentum.

Arizona was able to return to better form, which helped to quicken the pace with an 11-3 run, giving it a 22-15 advantage with 5:47 to play in the half.

When the buzzer sounded, the Wildcats were leading in score 32-23 and momentum.

“”We were playing a little bit casual in the first half,”” Butts said. “”We were waiting for the game to magically turn in our favor, and we realized we had to impose our will.””

In the locker room Butts and the rest of the coaching staff urged the team to pick up the energy on both sides of the ball and to turn up the transition game.

“”I think when we got going with our transition offense,”” Butts said.  “”We start to settle down in the half-court and execute.””

Arizona did exactly that. It executed, and before anyone could catch a breath the Wildcats had put up a 20-9 run against the Matadors, giving UA the advantage of 52-32 with 11:51 left in the game.

With 8:06 left to play the score was 58-40 Arizona. In the next five minutes the Wildcats ran for 11 unanswered points, giving them a 69-40 lead with only 2:58 left on the clock.

Despite losing by a significant margin, Jasmine Erving, the Matadors’ standout center managed to rack up 21 points and five rebounds.

Reiko Thomas, who has seen limited playing time, stood out for Arizona. The sophomore guard finished with 8 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and steals.

Arizona forward Ify Ibekwe was honored during the pre-game show for scoring her 1,000th career point in the previous home game against Washington. The junior added 17 points to the Wildcats’ scoreboard.

“”Everyone came in and even though we had a slow start, everyone contributed in a way,”” Ibekwe said. “”I think that’s what we need, the confidence that we can have to go into ASU.””

The Wildcats head to Tempe on Saturday to take on ASU, and with a previous loss to the Sun Devils this season, the Wildcats are looking to take their momentum to the Duel in the Desert.

With defense and rebounding as a recurring practice theme, Butts stressed that with the 19 turnovers Tuesday, the Wildcats will need to focus on maintaining ball possession.

“”We have to do a little better job taking care of the basketball,”” Butts said.  “”We certainly don’t want to have that same turnover margin when we go to ASU.””

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