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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    W-hoops seeks 3-0 start

    Arizona sophomore guard Marie McGee fights for the ball with Vanguards Sarah Boyd in the Wildcats 76-70 exhibition win Monday in McKale Center. The team opens up its regular-season schedule today in the WBCA/Basketball Travelers Classic in University Park, Pa.
    Arizona sophomore guard Marie McGee fights for the ball with Vanguard’s Sarah Boyd in the Wildcats’ 76-70 exhibition win Monday in McKale Center. The team opens up its regular-season schedule today in the WBCA/Basketball Travelers Classic in University Park, Pa.

    If Monday night’s exhibition game against Vanguard gives any indication of what’s to come for the Arizona women’s basketball team, this could be a good year for the Wildcats.

    Following two seasons marred with disappointment, Arizona makes the trip to Pennsylvania tonight to begin a fresh campaign with three games as part of the WBCA/Basketball Travelers Classic.

    Arizona opens tonight against Penn State, then faces No. 20 Pittsburgh tomorrow before closing out its opening weekend against North Carolina-Charlotte on Sunday afternoon.

    In Monday’s game, the Wildcats pulled out a 76-70 victory, one that incorporated the talents of several Arizona players, including strong play from the freshmen.

    Guard Ashley Whisonant led the scoring attack with 22 points. The senior said she felt fairly comfortable in the team’s first game atmosphere and thought her team appeared ready for tonight’s season opener.

    “”I think we looked really good as far as being in shape,”” Whisonant said. “”We looked really fast and really strong with rebounds.””

    Leading the way in rebounds was forward Amina Njonkou – an outcome many involved with the team feel will be a common occurrence throughout the season.

    Only a few days into preseason practice, the Wildcat coaching staff noticed the strength and consistency of Njonkou, and predicted the 6-foot-1 junior would have an especially good year.

    Their views have not changed after Njonkou’s solid performance in the team’s final tune-up before tonight’s season opener. Njonkou recorded a double-double, finishing with 16 points and 13 rebounds while helping the Wildcats’ dominate Vanguard in the paint. When the night was through, Arizona outscored its opponent 48-24 down low.

    “”She’s a hard worker,”” said assistant coach Bernard Scott, adding that Njonkou’s performance in the exhibition “”didn’t surprise me. I believe she’s capable of playing like that every night.””

    In addition to Whisonant and Njonkou’s big nights, the team saw several other players step up.

    Forward Sarah Hays finished with eight points and six rebounds, while freshman Tasha Dickey came off the bench and scored 12 points in addition to hitting a 3-pointer with 3:43 remaining to put Arizona ahead for good.

    With what they saw Monday, the Wildcats’ biggest task will be finding a way to build upon their success this weekend.

    “”We tried to learn from what we didn’t do good (Monday),”” Njonkou said.

    Monday, “”we missed a lot of layups, so (Tuesday) we worked a lot on finishing and rebounding, she said.

    Scott suggested a similar strategy for the team to build on Monday’s success, then added the importance of confidence to his team as the season gets under way.

    “”We just need to keep telling the girls what they did right as well as correcting the things they did wrong,”” he said. “”We’re having great practices since the tough win (Monday), and we just need to keep following it up to (tonight).””

    The Wildcats are putting extra emphasis on getting off to a strong start this season due to last year’s weary beginning. Last season, Arizona played three of its first four games on the road in Maryland on a similar road trip.

    The team managed only win, stunting its momentum from an opening-night win against Nicholls State a week prior.

    “”This weekend is very important for our confidence,”” Scott said. “”If we come out of there 3-0, our confidence is up and this is going to be a great year. If we come out 0-3, the confidence is going to be down a little, so we definitely want to go in there and get some wins.””

    And 1

    Guard Jessica Arnold collided with a Vanguard player at halfcourt and came down hard with 3:22 remaining in Monday’s game.

    After being evaluated by team doctors, it was determined Arnold suffered a concussion. She left the game for good and will miss the team’s trip to Pennsylvania.

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