By Craig Sanders
Arizona Daily Wildcat January 16, 1996
The Arizona women's basketball team may have gotten off to a fast start this season, but when the Wildcats went on the road to Tempe on Saturday they found that Arizona State had primed its own engines in order to get back into the Pacific 10 Conference r ace.
Unfortunately for the Sun Devils (4-8 overall, 0-3 in the Pac-10), the Wildcats proved they could not be slowed as long as senior point guard Brenda Pantoja was in the driver's seat.
Arizona's 78-63 victory over rival ASU not only matched last season's 11 wins, but also allowed Pantoja to break Regina Grennan's (1987-90) school career assist record. The Wildcats moved to 11-1 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-10 in front of 1,468 at Tempe's University Activity Center.
"Brenda Pantoja is the heart and soul of this team," Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini said. "We didn't have a good first half and she kept us in the game. She brings us so much leadership."
With her first assist of the game, a pass inside to junior forward Jacque Clark at the 15:56 mark in the first half, Pantoja reached 523 assists. Her eight assists gave her 530 in her career, making her third on the Pac-10 career assist chart.
"I really didn't think about the record tonight," Pantoja said. "How could I? I only needed one to get it. It's not like I was thinking about getting eight or nine tonight."
Arizona did, however, need every assist Pantoja could dish out, especially in the first half, when the Wildcats clung to a 36-35 halftime lead. The Sun Devils came out red hot from the field, shooting 64.7 percent in the first half and going a perfect 3 f or 3 from the 3-point line. Junior guard Molly Tuter led the way for ASU, scoring 15 points, grabbing nine rebounds and blocking two shots.
Pantoja, however, showed she could match any player on the court. She scored 22 points, had eight assists, four steals and pulled down three rebounds. Sophomore forward Adia Barnes chipped in 12 points, most of those coming in the second half, and freshma n Monika Crank returned to the lineup to score 11.
"Their defense forces you out of your normal things," Bonvicini said of ASU. "We were shooting too many perimeter jumpers. We came out in the second half and tried to show more patience on offense."
The Wildcats also turned on the defensive pressure in the second half to pull away from ASU. The Sun Devils scored only 28 points, shot 38.2 percent from the field and were 0 for 5 from 3-point range. Arizona also forced 33 turnovers.
"We are still looking to put together 40 minutes," Pantoja said. "Our defense has to make our offense and we take a lot of pride in our defense."