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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    W-hoops falls short of upset bid vs. No. 2 Cardinal

    In one of the most inspired efforts of the season, the Arizona women’s basketball team went toe-to-toe with No. 2 Stanford in Maples Pavilion at Palo Alto, Calif. After erasing a 14-point deficit in the second half, junior point guard Ashley Frazier had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer.

    Unfortunately, the Wildcats came just inches short and fell to Stanford 70-67.

    “”I’m very proud,”” head coach Niya Butts said after the game. “”I’m disappointed (with the outcome), I’m really at a loss for words.””

    Butts had every reason to be speechless, but the first-year head coach couldn’t help but find some satisfaction in the way her young Wildcats (11-17, 4-13 Pacific 10 Conference) battled with one of the nation’s elite teams.

    “”We’ve had some games where we played like this, but then we have some lapses,”” Butts said, referring to her team’s habit of building leads and then letting them slip away down the stretch. “”If I knew how to get them to play like this every night, we’d be at the top of the Pac-10.””

    Arizona played a competitive first half and kept the game within a single-digit deficit for the first 10 minutes of the second half, but after a 7-0 run the Cardinals (25-4, 16-1) built the lead to 14, the surprise of Arizona’s contention seemed to be wilting away.

    And that’s when the Wildcats turned it on.

    Senior forward Amina Njonkou, playing in her second to last regular season game, scored six straight points to give Arizona momentum. Her run was followed up by sophomore forward Ify Ibekwe’s to cut the lead to six.

    Ibekwe, who played the game despite a nagging knee injury that held her out of the last two contests, scored a team-high 17 points.

    Freshman guard Courtney Clements continued her hot streak with 16 points, including three 3-pointers. Ibekwe and Clements combined with Njonkou’s 13 points and freshman guard Reiko Thomas’ 14 points to give Arizona four players in double-figures.

    Although last night’s contest didn’t result in a season-defining upset, it was certainly a game to build upon.

    “”I’m not into moral victories,”” Butts said, “”but I was happy with the way we played.””

    Eyes on the future

    As the season winds down, Butts and her staff have to be excited about the prospects of next season. Sophomore forward Ify Ibekwe is a star, and the experience gained by Thomas, Clements, and Frazier has to be comforting going forward.

    The growth shown by the younger players has been remarkable, but no one has been more of a surprise than Clements. The freshman guard came in as a defensive specialist, but she has cemented herself as the teams’ No. 2 scorer behind Ibekwe. Clements’ leads the team with 23 three-pointers, and scored a career-high 22 points against Washington last week.

    With a full season under her belt and a summer to refine her shooting, Clements could combine with Ibekwe to have one of the most fearsome 1-2 punches in the Pac 10.

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