Wildcats top USC with help from freshman starter
After the UA women's basketball team lost to UCLA Thursday night, head coach Joan Bonvicini felt she needed to shake up her squad, and did so by taking a seasoned veteran out of the starting lineup and replaced her with a true freshman.
Change worked for Bonvicini as the Wildcats, led by freshman Krista Warren, rallied back from Thursday's loss with a 67-52 victory over Southern California Saturday afternoon.
Warren, who was starting for the first time in her career, scored the first six points of the game and finished with 15 on 7-for-9 shooting. Warren also contributed four rebounds and a steal.
She was in place for senior forward Angela Lackey, who Bonvicini felt showed a lack of intensity against the Bruins.
"I am really proud of Krista Warren, I knew she'd do great," Bonvicini said. "The only reason that she has not played extended minutes is that we have so many other players. But I knew she'd take advantage of her opportunity."
Warren said she wanted to make the best of her first career start after doubting herself at the beginning of the season.
"It felt nice tonight, being able to show (the team) why they recruited me," Warren said. "It was nice to have my chance out there, I've been working for them as hard as I could and they finally give me my chance."
Warren added that Saturday's performance erased any feeling of frustration she had before.
"I'd get more frustrated with myself because I'd go out and miss easy shots and I was like, 'Gosh, I should be making these, they are easy two-foot shots,'" she said. "They finally fell today."
Though the Wildcats entered the game as the top scoring offense in the Pacific 10 Conference, Bonvicini has placed more emphasis on defense in her practices.
That was evident Saturday as Arizona collected 14 steals and forced 29 turnovers by utilizing a strong defensive press throughout the game.
Arizona dominated the entire game, as USC relinquished its final lead with eight minutes remaining in the first half.
Lackey's response to being taken out of her starting role was slightly more enthusiastic than how Bonvicini thought she played against UCLA.
With 23 points on 7-for-11 shooting, Lackey also made a strong argument to be put back into her regular role.
"Coach challenged me to go out and play harder," Lackey said. "She felt that I didn't play very hard last game, so I just wanted to go out and show that I can play hard, execute and play good basketball."
Bonvicini was pleased with Lackey's turn around.
"I am really proud of Angie Lackey with how hard she played, being a good sport, having a great attitude and working hard the entire time," she said. "I am really proud of our team from where we were Thursday, and today I thought our effort was great."
Though both players put up significant numbers, Bonvicini is going to stick with the new lineup.
"We are going to keep the lineup like this right now, I think that (Krista) is going to get better," she said. "I think by doing that, it gives us a really good player that can play defense and rebound. She did a really nice job tonight."
The mood among players and coaches after the game was much more jovial than Thursday night, as the Wildcats had kept themselves from dropping to .500 in conference play.
"This was a good win and we need it, considering the loss on Thursday," Bonvicini said. "I am really proud of that. We've got to play better, but it gives us a week to prepare for ASU."