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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona burns Sun Devils in statement win

For the first time since 2005, the Arizona women’s basketball team defeated ASU 73-61 in McKale Center on Sunday, in what could be described as both a program defining win and a turning point in what was slowly becoming a lost season.

The Wildcats’ (14-9, 5-7 Pacific 10 Conference) dominant defeat of the Sun Devils (14-8, 6-6 Pac-10) was able to match last season’s win total and secure third year head coach Niya Butts’ 40th victory at the helm of the program.

“”It feels pretty good to finally get a win against ASU,”” Butts said. “”I’m just so proud of our basketball team. They really prepared for this game, they were really focused. We didn’t get down when we made mistakes like we’ve done in the past, and it’s just a great feeling.””

While the feeling after the game was nothing short of elation, the game itself was a back-and-forth struggle.

Both Arizona and ASU tried to push their up-tempo style of offense, but stout defense on both sides kept the scoring to a minimum at the start, with the Wildcats taking at 12-11 with 12:18 left in the first half of play.

Even guard Davellyn Whyte, whom Arizona looks to when they need points, didn’t secure her first basket until the 5:25 mark.

Arizona had a five point lead with a minute and a half left in the first half but quick transition work by the Sun Devils cut the lead to one, giving the Wildcats a 28-27 advantage going into the locker room.

The second half saw more of the same, and with 10:20 left on the game clock Sun Devil standout Dymond Simon hit a three pointer to give her team a 47-45 lead. Whyte then took things into her own hands and quickly responded with a three of her own, putting Arizona back on top.

Suddenly, things changed for the Wildcats. They started playing aggressive on defense, forcing ASU to play their style.

“”It was that refuse to lose mentally,”” Butts said. “”It was that you know they made a run, but were not looking down, we’re just going to fight hard and keep scrapping, and that’s what we did.””

On the back of tenacious foward Ify Ibekwe, the Wildcats went on a 13-4 run over the next four minutes to take control. Ibekwe’s effort – 22 points and 22 rebounds – was not lost on her coach.

“”She played like she was in fact one of the best players in the country,”” Butts said. “”She was finally very active, she had 22 rebounds, and in part it was because she boxed out today.””

It was Ibekwe’s first win over ASU in her career at Arizona, but rather than get lost in the accomplishment, the senior said she expected it.

“”We were all focused, focused on our game plan,”” Ibekwe said. “”We knew what they were going to bring and we didn’t let up.

“”We were patient on offense and knew that if they shot the ball that we were all boxing out and getting rebounds.””

After the game, Butts put the win into perspective in terms of what it means for Arizona women’s basketball.

“”Forget about me and where it ranks,”” she said. “”With us and our team it’s certainly ranking pretty high right now because we hadn’t done it, and now that we’ve done it it’s hard to beat that. There’s nothing like this victory right now.””

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