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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Defiant Cats ready for upset

    Claire C. Laurence/Arizona Daily Wildcat

Senior guard Natalie Jones looks to pass around an Arizona State defender during Saturdays 81-45 loss in Tempe.
    Claire C. Laurence/Arizona Daily Wildcat Senior guard Natalie Jones looks to pass around an Arizona State defender during Saturday’s 81-45 loss in Tempe.

    “”We’re 0-0 now,”” said Arizona assistant coach Todd Holthaus.

    “”No one wants to go home at the beginning of the tournament,”” senior guard Natalie Jones said.

    “”We’ll be ready to play,”” sophomore guard Jessica Arnold said.

    Three quotes from three people, but as one they sum up the common attitude the Arizona women’s basketball team carries into the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament: A loss tonight won’t cut it.

    Don’t be deceived by their 7-21 overall record (3-15 Pac-10). The No. 9 seeded Wildcats already beat their No. 8 seeded foe, Oregon (14-14, 5-13), once this season, so when they face the Ducks tonight at 9:15 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., it won’t be without the sense of “”we can do this.””

    In that game, an 81-72 win in overtime Jan. 14, the Wildcats were led by junior guard Joy Hollingsworth, who topped all scorers that afternoon with 22 points and also got a career-high 12 points to go with nine rebounds from freshman forward Whitney Fields.

    The Ducks returned the favor in Eugene, Ore., a little less than a month later, bombing Arizona into submission with 15 3-pointers en route to a 78-58 victory.

    “”Oregon, I think, is a team we can compete with,”” Arnold said.

    Jones, who was named as an honorable mention All-Pac-10 player this week, said that loss to the Ducks remains fresh in their minds.

    “”It’s kinda like a revenge game; they killed us at their place. We have all these good games that have shown that we could be a good team,”” she said, pointing to Feb. 18’s 87-76 loss to No. 13 Stanford, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, as evidence. “”We can compete for the championship.””

    Championship? You heard correctly.

    “”There’s definitely motivation there knowing that we can contend to the end, to the tournament championship; we think we can as a team,”” Arnold said. “”As long as we go in and think like that, as long as everyone’s on the same page, and we’re all focused, I think we can make it happen.””

    After Saturday’s poor showing at No. 11 ASU – a season-worst 81-45 loss – the Wildcats are eager to get back out on the court to prove to themselves and to their fans that they aren’t the team that showed up in Tempe.

    “”It wasn’t our team,”” Arnold said. “”We’re so much better than we showed on Saturday.

    “”(The loss is) definitely going to give us motivation … we have to come into the Pac-10 being at our best,”” she added. “”If we’re not, we’re going to lose, that’s just the reality of it.””

    In the four-year history of the Women’s Pac-10 Tournament, the Wildcats hold an even 4-4 record, and though they have advanced to the championship game twice (in 2003 and 2004), they’ve never come away with the elusive championship.

    Last season, as the No. 5 seed, Arizona fell 74-66 to fourth-seeded USC in the first round.

    “”It was kind of disappointing to go into the tournament, losing and having to go home,”” Jones said.

    Early this week in practice, an “”us-against-the-world”” mentality began to emerge.

    “”I think (the players) look at it like we’re 0-0 now, what have we got to lose?”” Holthaus said. “”We’ve made it through the hard part. The regular season was the hard part.

    “”That’s kind of how all the kids are, they’re like, ‘Forget all this stuff, forget practicing, we just want to get after somebody,'”” he added. “”It’s almost like they have this mentality of ‘Let us out of our cage now and let us go play.'””

    The late-night matchup will spell the return of sophomore guard Ashley Whisonant, who was injured twice in the ASU game, going down once with a shoulder injury, then again with a sprained ankle.

    “”She’s ready to go,”” Holthaus said. “”She’s been a warrior all year. … People don’t understand how hurt she’s been this season. She’s only had one arm basically all year.

    “”I asked her today, I said, ‘Is the warrior back?’ and she said, ‘I’m here.'””

    The optimism displayed by the Wildcats – the same kind that was displayed prior to wins over Oregon and California and the loss to Stanford, arguably their best outing of the year – and the underdog attitude can be a dangerous mix if you’re the Oregon Ducks.

    Holthaus wouldn’t deny the obvious, yet left room for optimism.

    “”Are the odds against us? Yeah,”” he said. “”But you never know.””

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