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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Poor shooting plagues UA

    Through the first 16 games of the 2008-09 season, the Arizona women’s basketball team found it difficult to put together a complete game.

    There are days when the offense comes to play but the defense crumbles down the stretch, and times when the defense is tightening their clamps, but offense is nowhere in sight.

    The 17th game was no different.

    After a miserable second half that saw the team shoot just 2-for-23 from the field, the Wildcats (7-10, 0-6 Pacific 10 Conference) dropped another close game, 48-38, to UCLA.

    “”Obviously another disappointing outcome tonight,”” said UA head coach Niya Butts after the game. “”But when you shoot 23 percent from the field, it’s very difficult to win a game.””

    The Wildcats produced a strong first half and were able to keep pace with the efficient Bruin offense. UCLA (12-4, 3-2) was able to set up its offense and move the ball around with ease en route to an early first-half lead.

    With the game tied at 24 and the McKale Center crowd as loud as it has been all season, both the Bruins’ and Wildcats’ offenses struggled to gain any sort of momentum. Although offensive struggles are never desirable, the fact that both teams found it difficult to score played heavily into the Wildcats’ “”defense first”” mentality.

    Down by one with eight minutes left to play, the Wildcats started to deviate from the game plan and showed premature signs of desperation. A team that excels in scoring down low started shooting out-of-its-range threes and committed critical turnovers. The turnovers proved to play a role in the final score as UCLA scored 23 points off of Wildcat turnovers.

    Arizona showed great determination down the stretch, but its effort couldn’t overcome its offensive futility. The Wildcats, who shot just 8.7 percent in the second half, failed to convert a single field goal in the final 9:45 of the second half, and were 0-of-8 from three-point range.

    “”We were doing what we were supposed to do today, but we weren’t able to make our shots,”” said sophomore forward Ify Ibekwe.

    Ibekwe, whose 15.8 points per game and 12.3 rebounds per game led the team, has enjoyed enormous success so far this season. But with success comes the attention of the opponents defense, and UCLA focused their entire defensive game plan on Ibekwe.

    “”I’m used to being heavily defended, especially since Pac-10 play has started,”” Ibekwe said after the Bruins held her to just eight rebounds. “”It doesn’t frustrate me, but I need to find a way to work around it.

    The fact that the next game is a week away and against ASU might be the added incentive that the Wildcats need to get their first conference win.

    “”The extra two days between this game and next week’s (against ASU) will help us get better,”” said senior forward Amina Njonkou, whose 14 points and 10 rebounds were team highs for the game. “”It’s up to us to use those days to our advantage, because it’s not fun to be 0-6 in conference. The coaches are great at helping us get ready, but it’s up to us when it comes time to play the game.””

    Injury bug gives Hays a chance

    With Arizona down 18-13 and the game in jeopardy of slipping away early, Butts called a timeout halfway through the first half and ripped into her team for their lack of hustle and energy.

    The tactic clearly paid off as the Wildcats stormed back and tied the game on senior forward Sarah Hays’ lay-up with under a minute to play.

    Hays saw her first considerable minutes of the season Saturday and Butts was pleased with what she saw from the opportunistic senior.

    “”Sarah gave us a tremendous boost tonight,”” Butts said. “”I was extremely proud of her effort. She hustled for us and brought out a lot of energy. I can’t say enough about her performance, especially given the circumstances.””

    Although Hays performed admirably, part of the reason that she saw a season-high 28 minutes is because of the injury bug that has plagued the Wildcats all season.

    The latest, and possibly most crucial, casualty to the left side of the bench is freshman guard Reiko Thomas. Thomas, whose 11.7 points per game are second on the team, suffered an ankle sprain on Thursday night against USC, and her absence was clearly missed down the stretch.

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