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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Return to McKale proves fruitful

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Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Arizona women’s basketball team simultaneously overcame its three-game losing streak and rebounding troubles in Thursday night’s 73-66 win against the Washington State Cougars in McKale Center.

With a loud hometown crowd for their return to Tucson, the Wildcats (10-10, 4-6 Pacific 10 Conference) were able to shutdown a fierce Washington State (5-16, 0-10) team and sweep Wazzou on the season for the first time in head coach Niya Butts’ tenure with Arizona.

“”To come back this season and bounce back with two victories feels really good,”” Butts said. “”All the credit goes to the team and the staff.””

The game was close early on, 18-15, with 9:32 left to play in the first half, until Arizona went on a quick 14-5 run, taking advantage of both Washington State’s poor defense and its own transition offense.

But the Cougars managed to make a run before the half, leaving the score 35-32 going into the locker room.

Butts blamed the halftime result on the Wildcats’ casual play. Arizona got beat on some hustle plays down the court and it seemed as if they were only playing for halftime.

“”We have a tendency to fold when we get tired,”” Butts said. “”We start making mental mistakes.””

The Wildcats managed to regroup at halftime. Washington State got off to an early lead, but the Cougar offense was soon stifled by an Arizona defense that looked primed to take it to the final seconds.

Throughout the start of the second half, leads shifted frequently until Arizona was able to squeeze out an 11-0 run making the score 61-50 with 6:00 left on the game clock.

With the help of guard April Cook and center Carly Noyes, WSU kept the game competitive and managed to come as close 72-66 in the game with 19 seconds left to play, but Arizona held on for the victory.

After a horrific rebounding performance at Stanford last weekend, the Wildcats were able to bounce back Thursday night by winning their first rebound battle, 48-38, since Jan. 9 at Washington.

“”We had everybody rebounding, crashing offensive boards and defensive boards,”” said Arizona forward Ify Ibekwe. “”It was really good to see that we can do it.””

The Cougars did win the defensive battle in the first half however, managing to keep neutralize Ibekwe. WSU coach June Daugherty said that they were able to contain Ibekwe at first with a double-team, but that help defense left Soana Lucet open, allowing her to score 18 points and haul in five rebounds.

Freshman standout Davellyn Whyte scored 20 points, the ninth time she has scored 20 or more points in a game this season. She created a number of chances for her offense to move the ball around, helping he Wildcats to score 72 points.

The Thursday night victory may very well serve as a confidence booster heading into Saturday’s contest against Washington. Conquering one Washington school already gives Butts and her squad the confidence to come away with another home victory. Butts said that her team would need to come in ready to win like they did last night.

“”Hopefully we can stay on the rebound,”” Butts said. “”If we can continue to score in the paint we’ll be ok.””

 

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