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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Senior guard hopes to end season, career on a high note against ASU

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Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

To close out a topsy-turvy regular season, the Arizona women’s basketball team wil host the ASU Sun Devils in its final game of the season Saturday at 2 p.m. in McKale Center.

It will not only be the final game for the team, but for two-year starter Shanita Arnold, whose career began at the University of Arkansas.

After transferring and sitting out the NCAA-required season, Arnold has been a team leader, averaging more than 30 minutes per game while running the offense for the Wildcats. She has not always been the team’s highest scorer, but for a majority of last season, she led not just the team, but also the Pacific 10 Conference in assists.

This season, Arnold has averaged just 10 points per game, but is also third in the Pac-12 Conference with 4.72 assists per game, again showing her willingness to share the ball. With senior day nearly here, head coach Niya Butts does not anticipate a dip in production due to emotion.

“She’s performed in our last four or five games well, and I believe that understanding that it’s the last time you’re going to play in McKale is enough motivation,” Butts said. “I know sometimes as a senior, it doesn’t really hit you until you’re out there in the court, and you’re like, ‘Man, this is it.’ A lot of times your adrenaline just takes over.”

Arizona (14-15, 3-14 Pac-12) has lost all but one of its last 12 games, and Arnold, along with the rest of the team would like to end the season and head into the Pac-12 Tournament with some momentum.

“It’s my last game, and I play like it’s my last, like every other game,” Arnold said. “Just to get a win would be really nice.”

Since Pac-12 play began, one of the most noticeable things about the Wildcats was their lack of energy in big spots. A season-ending rivalry game is about as big as the stage is going to get for most of the members of this team, but Butts is not worried about a lack of energy, especially after a long break between games, the most recent being a road defeat to UCLA last Saturday.

“It’s our last home game of the season, against our rivals, so we’ll certainly have some energy for that … hopefully to send our seniors off with a win,” Butts said. “I certainly hope they don’t need any motivation for that, especially given the way we played in our first game against them. Our last home game was a good experience for us, and I anticipate us being ready to go.”

Despite being fueled by the emotions of a senior send-off, the game will not be an easy one for Arizona. The last time the two rivals faced off, the Wildcats struggled, falling to ASU 60-45 in Tempe, Ariz. That was freshman center Aley Rohde’s first crack at conference play, but she says she’s ready for what the Sun Devils are bringing now.

“I’m a completely different player from the first ASU game to now,” Rohde said. “I think it’s going to be a much different showing from myself in this game than the first one.”

Even if Rohde does not perform up to her own expectations, only one thing is on Arnold’s mind.

“A win,” she said. “Just a win.”

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