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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Healthier squad betters chances

    As classroom seats progressively fill up for the start of spring semester, so does the Arizona women’s basketball bench.With players gradually returning from injuries, academic responsibilities and the addition of a walk-on, the Wildcats (6-10, 0-5 Pacific 10 Conference) will have nine players available – the most in seven games – tonight against No. 7 Stanford in McKale Center at 7.

    Forward Ify Ibekwe returned to limited minutes (18) Jan. 12 against ASU after missing six of the seven games over winter break. The freshman averaged a team-high 13.8 points and 10 rebounds in the six games prior to an eye injury that she suffered at a Dec. 14 practice.

    Forward Rheya Neabors also returns after missing two games over break with academic responsibilities. But her sister, Rhaya, missed the last three games due to personal reasons and is currently serving an indefinite team suspension.

    “”There’s been a lot of off-the-court issues,”” said UA head coach Joan Bonvicini, who labeled guard Jessica Arnold as “”doubtful for the season”” after her concussion suffered at an exhibition game. “”When you have these issues, you can’t help those. Our nucleus is really strong, we just need to knock the door down.””

    Arizona needs more than just a full bench, though, to beat one of the Pac-10’s best teams for its first conference win.

    Stanford (14-3, 4-2) brings a heavy-hitting conference supreme duo of guard Candice Wiggins (17.5 points per game) and forward Jayne Appel (15.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game).

    “”We’ve got to be really smart with Wiggins,”” Bonvicini said. “”She’s their best three-point shooter, their best overall player, and everything goes through her.””

    Beyond its guard-forward combo, Stanford forward Kayla Pederson adds to the post depth as a smart role player, said Bonvicini of the freshman from Fountain Hills, Ariz., who is second in rebounds (8.5 per game) in the Pac-10.

    With such Stanford versatility in the post position comes concern with forward Amina Njonkou, who said very physical play remains a top priority to in effort to push the Cardinal into foul trouble.

    Stanford leads the Pac-10 in scoring (76.0 per game), scoring margin (+18.8), field goal percentage (45.3 percent) and blocked shots (73).

    “”Although the losses and everything, we’re in a pretty good position because we’re right there, the games are really close,”” said UA guard Ashley Whisonant. “”Last year we were getting blown out. There’s just little things we need to capitalize on and some mistakes to fix.””

    Bonvicini announced Jan. 11 that Arizona added walk-on senior Ashley Gilpin to the roster and will primarily help out the team in practice. The 5-foot-9 guard from Las Cruces, N.M., could get an opportunity to play if the situation arose, Bonvicini said.

    And 1

    Tonight kicks off Arizona’s first of a season-long three-game home stretch, along with the second of three games against ranked opponents (No. 25 ASU, No. 7 Stanford and No. 8 California). Although both of Stanford’s Pac-10 losses come on the road, Arizona is 0-21 against ranked opponents over the past three seasons.

    – Bobby Stover contributed to this report

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