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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Seniors say goodbye to McKale, ‘Polkey'”

    Senior guard Natalie Jones is fouled while powering between two Stanford defenders en route to Arizonas 87-76 loss Saturday in McKale Center. Jones, an Alaska native, tallied 27 points on Senior Day and set a career high in rebounds with 14.
    Senior guard Natalie Jones is fouled while powering between two Stanford defenders en route to Arizona’s 87-76 loss Saturday in McKale Center. Jones, an Alaska native, tallied 27 points on Senior Day and set a career high in rebounds with 14.

    Women’s Basketball: Stanford 87, Arizona 76

    Click here to see a photospread from the game and ceremony

    Riding a wave of emotion, the Arizona women’s basketball team, led by senior guard Natalie Jones in her final game in McKale Center, hung with the No. 11 team in the country for the first 25 minutes Saturday afternoon.

    Unfortunately for the Wildcats, that wave crashed into the Cardinal frontcourt with about 10 minutes to play in the game. Stanford junior center Brooke Smith scored seven straight points during a 13-2 Cardinal run midway through the second half, allowing Stanford (19-6, 13-3 Pacific 10 Conference) to pull away from upset-minded Arizona (7-20, 3-14) on its home court, 87-76.

    “”I think there was definitely emotion during the game,”” Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini said. “”We played extremely hard. … I can’t fault anything. We played our heart out.””

    With all the sentiment surrounding the game – Saturday afternoon was Senior Day, and a ceremony retiring the jersey of former Wildcat great Shawntinice Polk was held after the contest – Bonvicini sat her team down before the game and tried to find a way to handle what she knew was going to be a moving night.

    “”We talked more about ‘us,'”” she said. “”We talked about how today was supposed to be a celebration, and as much as we miss Polkey – and we do – Polkey always deferred all the attention to her teammates and that’s the way she wanted it.””

    Added senior forward Anna Chappell: “”A lot of the pregame speech we had was to focus on the fact that today’s our day. The focus wasn’t on Stanford, it was on us and what we could do as a team.””

    I think there was definitely emotion during the game. We played extremely hard. … I can’t fault anything. We played our heart out.

    Down just three at the half, 43-40, the Wildcats looked to be a thorn in the side of Pac-10-leading Stanford, but they were unable to maintain the hot shooting that saw them nail 8-of-16 3-pointers in the first half, as they hit just 3-of-13 in the second frame.

    “”The first half, we needed to get a quick start, to jump out on them,”” Jones said. “”Last time, when we were at their house, we let them control the tempo, and so we knew we had to come out and execute our plays and play like Stanford – play smart.

    “”We had to take our chances with our outside shots,”” she added, “”and we came out shooting.””

    Saying farewell to McKale, Jones made a lasting impression on the 1,700-strong Wildcat faithful in attendance, netting her team-leading fourth double-double of the season with 27 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.

    Following the game, Jones and Chappell – who also saw her last action in McKale, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd as she checked out of the lineup with 24.6 seconds to play – were honored alongside senior Phakisha Peterson, who had her career cut short by an injury before her sophomore season.

    Then, with every clock in the arena reading “”00,”” the team unveiled Polk’s double zeros in the upper concourse of McKale.

    For Jones, who devoted the game to her former teammate, it was her mindset that she said made the difference.

    “”During warm-ups, I went back to the locker room, and I sat right where Polkey would sit in her locker, and I was basically like talking to her,”” she said. “”I told her that tonight was dedicated to her and that I just wanted to make her proud no matter what, because with either a win or a loss I was going to play my heart out.

    “”I was going to play totally different than I’ve ever played in my last three years,”” she continued. “”I was going to leave it all on the court.””

    Though Cardinal sophomore guard Candice Wiggins netted 18 first-half points, Arizona adjusted at the break and limited the Pac-10’s leading scorer to just six points in the second half, four of which came from the charity stripe.

    “”Candice Wiggins is a great athlete, she’s very hard to guard,”” Jones said. “”Her speed is just amazing. I thought I was quick, but she makes me look slow.””

    Even while neutralizing Wiggins, the Wildcats were unable to stop Smith, who finished with 22 points and seven rebounds.

    “”We had a tough time with Smith, and I thought when they went to a zone, we didn’t adjust as well,”” Bonvicini said. “”We weren’t attacking the zone as well as we should have.””

    Though the Cardinal built their lead to as

    Candice Wiggins
    is a great athlete, she’s very hard to guard. Her speed is just amazing. I thought I was quick, but she makes me look slow.

    – Natalie Jones,
    senior guard

    much as 14, the Wildcats battled back to cut that lead in half with 1:47 to play following a Jones layup. The game wasn’t sealed until the clock read 1:28, when Wiggins drained the first of two free throws that put the Cardinal back up by nine.

    “”I thought we were really going to upset Stanford, because – just the first half, just everyone’s intensity and our swagger,”” Jones said. “”We never let down, kept fighting, and kept going and going.””

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