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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Women’s hoops loses to Middle Tenn.

    The Arizona women’s basketball team fell to .500 after they lost to Middle Tennessee State 77-57 Friday night in the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The loss was the worst margin of defeat so far this season, and extends Arizona’s losing streak to two games.

    A dominating full-court press set the tone for the Blue Raiders, as they scored 44 points in the first half and held the Wildcats to only 27.

    “”We did not want to allow them (Arizona) to get into any half-court offense,”” said Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Insell. “”It frustrated them a little bit and caused them to have to do some things that they did not want to do early.””

    The Wildcats (3-3) were never able to eclipse the early deficit. They tried to rally a comeback in the second half, but it was blocked by MTSU’s aggressive defense.

    Head coach Niya Butts was not impressed with Arizona’s plays, especially with its turnover ratio (29-to-17) and allowed 3-point shot attempts (28).

    “”I definitely didn’t think we played like we played in the previous five games,”” Butts said. “”To be quite honest with you, I was very disappointed.””

    Forward Ify Ibekwe was forced to the bench within two minutes of the opening tip off. Her two fouls allowed MTSU (4-1) to jump out to an early 16-4 lead, as it scored four 3-pointers in the first six minutes.

    The Wildcats went on a 6-0 run in the 12th minute of the first half to cut the lead to 19-12, but the Blue Raiders answered with a 9-2 run of their own, which gave them a lead they didn’t relinquish.

    MTSU was 17-of-27 (.630) from the field in the opening half and shot better than 57 percent

    (13-for-28) from beyond the arc. The Blue Raiders’ lead extended to as high as 26 with five minutes left in the game.

    The Wildcats continued to be haunted by turnovers and their inability to hit shots from beyond the 3-point line. This is the second game this season in which Arizona has not hit a long-distance bucket.

    “”Certainly, it is going to be hard to win a ball game turning the ball over 29 times against a team that is very disciplined and aggressive defensively,”” Butts said.

    Arizona saw a bright spot in the production of its offense. Senior Amina Njonkou (11 points), freshmen Reiko Thomas (19 points) and sophomore Ify Ibekwe all scored in double figures for the Wildcats. Ibekwe registered another double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. The Wildcats also had bench production from seniors Beatrice Bofia and Sarah Hays, as well as freshman Courtney Clements.

    Thomas particularly impressed Butts.

    “”She competed for 40 minutes,”” Butts said. “”For the most part, she was one of the ones that kept us in the game with her effort.””

    Arizona was able to close within 15 on a three-point play by Thomas with 11:54 left in the game, but the Wildcats didn’t come any closer. MTSU hit a pair of 3-pointers to keep its lead intact. As in previous games, Arizona tried to rely on free throws to attempt to close the lead. They hit 17-of-22 attempts in the game, including 9-of-9 from Thomas.

    Despite having three players with double-digit point totals, the Wildcats’ defense was unable to contain the Middle Tennessee offense throughout the game. Arizona allowed the Blue Raiders to shoot a combined 50 percent from the floor on the night.

    “”Anytime you allow an opponent to shoot 50 percent from the field, you decrease your chances of winning the basketball game,”” Butts said. “”I was really disappointed with the way we competed.””

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