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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Seniors seek first win over ASU

    Arizona senior guard Natalie Jones tries to complete the play while being fouled by UCLAs Noelle Quinn during the Wildcats 90-64 loss to the Bruins in McKale Center Feb. 3. The Wildcats are on an eight-game losing streak as they head to Tempe to take on the Sun Devils tomorrow. Arizonas senior class has not won in Tempe during its career in Tucson.
    Arizona senior guard Natalie Jones tries to complete the play while being fouled by UCLA’s Noelle Quinn during the Wildcats’ 90-64 loss to the Bruins in McKale Center Feb. 3. The Wildcats are on an eight-game losing streak as they head to Tempe to take on the Sun Devils tomorrow. Arizona’s senior class has not won in Tempe during its career in Tucson.

    There will be two separate ends of the Wildcat spectrum when the Arizona women’s basketball team (7-20, 3-14 Pacific 10 Conference) visits No. 11 ASU (22-5, 13-4) tomorrow afternoon at 4 in Wells Fargo Arena.

    While seniors Natalie Jones, a guard, and Anna Chappell, a forward, will get their last taste of the rivalry that spans Interstate 10, it will be the first bite for freshman forward Amina Njonkou.

    Njonkou, a 6-foot-1 native of Foumban, Cameroon, was forced to sit out Arizona’s 83-59 loss to then-No. 10 ASU earlier this season because of a stress fracture in her foot, which persists to this day.

    “”It’s always good to play, but you see the way I play,”” Njonkou said. “”I play for five minutes, and then get hurt again, so that’s not fun.

    “”It’s really frustrating,”” she added. “”You don’t know what to think. I didn’t know if my season was over.””

    Fortunately for her injury-depleted teammates, who got some more bad news this week when they learned they would be without sophomore forward ChǸ Oh for the remainder of the season due to multiple concussions, Njonkou’s season wasn’t over, as she returned to action Feb. 16 against California, netting four points in a much-needed 17 minutes of action.

    “”When you know that your teammates need you and you just sit on the bench, not being able to play is really frustrating,”” she said. “”You were like, ‘OK, I have some expectations. OK, be patient and then come back and help the team out.’ As soon as I came back, I kept re-injuring my foot which made me more frustrated.””

    Now, still hampered by the lingering foot injury, the question in the mind of Njonkou and Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini is whether or not it will allow Njonkou to help her teammates on the court tomorrow.

    “”If I thought my foot would be OK, I’d (do) everything I can,”” she said. “”If I can play hard, I will.””

    Two of those teammates, Jones and Chappell, will look to end their regular-season careers by beating the hated Sun Devils in Tempe for the first time as Wildcats.

    Even with their current eight-game losing streak – their longest since a 15-game skid during the 1990-91 season – and the 24-point loss earlier this season to ASU, sophomore guard Jessica Arnold said her team will bring confidence on its 90-mile hike to Tempe.

    “”We still had a lot of emotion … and we just couldn’t find that kind of chemistry that we have that started to develop throughout the season,”” Arnold said of the Dec. 22 game. “”So definitely, it’s going to be a lot different game than the first time we played them.””

    Just as she did before the team’s 87-76 loss to Pac-10-leading Stanford Saturday, arguably one of their strongest outings of the year, Bonvicini said she isn’t stressing the opponent.

    “”It’s just about taking care of us,”” she said. “”I think our team plays hard, and we focus on us and just putting everything out there.””

    As part of focusing on themselves, one aspect that the Wildcats would like to see continue is the streak of hot shooting that saw them open the half by hitting 8-of-16 3-pointers and 13-of-30 shots from the field.

    “”It’s one of those things you can’t just put a point on it,”” Arnold said. “”When we see (sophomore guard) Ashley (Whisonant), (redshirt junior) Joy (Hollingsworth), Natalie going off, the whole team gets – we all get excited.

    “”It’s as if everything happens for everyone, everything just comes together,”” she said. “”Basketball, it becomes fun and exciting … and that’s how it needs to be all the time.””

    Another Wildcat new to the rivalry is freshman guard Kelsey Burns, who saw limited action in the Dec. 22 loss to the Sun Devils. But the Burns who now suits up for the Wildcats – the one averaging 10.3 points and 3.1 rebounds over the past six games – has improved so much that she likely wouldn’t even recognize her early-season self.

    “”I think the difference has been just coming in with a different mentality, more aggressive,”” Burns said. “”You have to be a step ahead, you have to be really aggressive. and you can’t be passive.

    As tomorrow afternoon is a matchup of bitter intrastate rivals, there will likely be no shortage of that aggression in Tempe.

    “”I haven’t been here for four years, but I do understand,”” Burns. “”It’s ASU, and we just don’t like them, so it’s going to be intense.””

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