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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    W-hoops still in search of first conference win

    Arizona forward Ify Ibekwe drives toward the basket during a 54-47 Wildcat win against UC-Santa Barbara on Nov. 23, 2008 in McKale Center. Ibekwe leads the Pac-10 in rebounds per game and will lead the Wildcats against USC tonight at 7.
    Arizona forward Ify Ibekwe drives toward the basket during a 54-47 Wildcat win against UC-Santa Barbara on Nov. 23, 2008 in McKale Center. Ibekwe leads the Pac-10 in rebounds per game and will lead the Wildcats against USC tonight at 7.

    When it comes to the 2008-09 season, the Arizona women’s basketball team has shown it can be a dominant force at times.

    Four straight wins prior to winter break had the Wildcats hopeful and confident at the start of Pacific 10 Conference play. However, the first stretch of Pac-10 games turned those hopes into a four-game losing streak.

    “”Sometimes when your back is against the wall you tend to fight a little harder,”” said UA head coach Niya Butts. “”But we’re trying to get them to do that earlier in the game. We want them to be playing that hard when its 0-0 out there and keep it up.””

    The Wildcats hit the hardwood tonight against USC at 7 in McKale Center in search of a seemingly evasive first conference win. After suffering its worst loss of the year against Oregon State, Arizona (7-8, 0-4 Pac-10) hopes to return to its winning ways on its home court in conference play.

    In previous meetings with USC, however, Arizona has come up short.

    USC is 44-17 all-time against Arizona and had a six-game win streak prior to a Wildcat win last season on Feb. 28 in Los Angeles. After sweeping the Oregon schools, The Women of Troy (8-6, 2-1) suffered their first road loss last week at UCLA, giving them a record of 1-2 on the road for the season.

    USC’s talent lies in its ability to put the ball in the hoop. The Women of Troy bring their dominant offense to the game in the hands of senior guard Camille LeNoir. Along with fellow senior in center Nadia Parker, they make up part of the second-ranked scoring offense in the Pac-10 this year.

    Arizona’s strength all season has been defensively. While late runs have made games close, it has been the Wildcats’ ability to stop their opponents that has allowed them to stay in games. The UA’s staunch defense has only allowed 54.3 points per game at home.

    To keep that pace, the Wildcats need to dominate in rebounding with forward Ify Ibekwe – the leading rebounder in the conference and sixth ranked in the NCAA (12.5 rebounds per game). Her partner, Amina Njonkou, averages 7.4 rebounds a game and is ranked sixth in the Pac-10.

    Both teams rely heavily on freshmen classes. For Arizona, guards Reiko Thomas and Courtney Clements have stepped up to give the Wildcats a boost in scoring. Thomas, who has started every game for Arizona this season, recorded a career high 23 points against Long Beach State on Dec. 14.

    In her return from a foot injury, Clements scored 21 points for the Wildcats and has started every game since. For USC, Briana Gilbreath and Ashley Corral have both provided an average of more than 10 points per game.

    This Pac-10 showdown places USC’s power offense against Arizona’s commanding defense.

    “”Every game in the Pac-10 the teams are going to be tough with us and we need to be able to match their intensity,”” Ibekwe said.

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