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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Ibekwe taking over

Ify Ibekwe is going to leave Arizona with a bang. She’s making sure of it.

The senior forward has been Arizona’s most proactive player during its current three-game win streak, scoring 23 points per game and averaging 13 rebounds — well above her season averages of 16 points and 10 boards.

Ibekwe has made changes in her game in the last two weeks — she started boxing out instead of recklessly reaching for rebounds — but the biggest difference between Ibekwe during Arizona’s four-game losing streak and the Ibekwe on the court now is simple:

She’s healthy.

Ibekwe had been battling some ailment — she wouldn’t say exactly what — during the streak in which Arizona lost four straight and five of seven games. She was even limited to only 12 minutes in the season’s first matchup with ASU, a 32-point loss.

Now, Ibekwe is back on her perch as one of the best players in the Pacific 10 Conference, and she’s taking names while Arizona is racking up wins.

But don’t think for a second that Ibekwe is doing it without the rest of her teammates. The Wildcats have started to form a supporting cast around the senior from Carson, Calif., and that’s a big reason for Arizona’s upswing. But that supporting cast is going to have to start taking games over for themselves, because opposing coaches are going to be building their game plans around stopping Ibekwe.

The Wildcats are playing their most confident basketball of the season right now, and maybe their most confident basketball since Niya Butts took over as head coach in 2008.

On Thursday, we will find out just how far Arizona women’s basketball team has really come in the last year. The Wildcats take on No. 11 UCLA, which beat Arizona 70-60 in Los Angeles earlier this season.

With a win, Arizona — much like its male counterpart did Saturday — would announce to the conference that it’s back as a force to be reckoned with.

OK. Maybe it’s not exactly the same, but the Wildcats would at least be letting the conference’s top teams know that Arizona won’t stand for being taken lightly anymore.

But Arizona’s going to have to make that statement with Ify Ibekwe getting double and triple-teamed, because opposing coaches are going to start choosing Ibekwe as the one player on Arizona’s roster that they can’t let beat them.

And they’ll choose her every single time.

­— Alex Williams is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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