By Charles Renning
CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Sophomore Dee-Dee Wheeler puts up a shot in Arizona's 20 point win over Arizona State.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday February 24, 2003
Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini insists that her team will have to play physical and tight defense to be successful come tournament time.
If Saturday's 72-52 win over intra-state rival Arizona State in McKale Center was any indication of things to come, it's not a huge reach to expect to see the Wildcats deep in the NCAA tournament.
"We were going to be in their face from the get go," said Bonvicini. "As we wind down the regular season, that is what it is about; defensively, you have to be aggressive."
Bonvicini's home stretch theory started with defense, and it showed in the impressive win over the Sun Devils.
"We were told to start pressing them as soon as they got off the bus," said sophomore guard Dee-Dee Wheeler. "Last time (in Tempe), we let them dominate every aspect of the game, but that was the difference in this game."
UA (18-7, 11-5) used a 23-2 run midway through the first half that was fueled by a Wildcat press that forced the Sun Devils (14-11, 6-10) into several costly turnovers in front of a crowd of 4,050, the eighth-largest in UA women's basketball history.
"When we started pressing, that really got us back into the game," said senior guard Julie Brase. "Once we started being scrappy, that is what really won us this game."
After falling behind 7-16, Arizona used a three-fourth court trap against ASU and caused turnovers which led to fast break points. In all, the Sun Devils committed 27 turnovers, including 12 by their two point guards, sophomore Kylan Loney and freshman Iman Young.
No ASU starter scored more than seven points and leading scorer Jill Noe, who was hampered by a groin injury, was held to just two points in 15 minutes of action.
"We played a pretty good defensive game; we not only forced turnovers but got a lot of deflections," said Bonvicini. "We just played very, very aggressive."
With the win, UA stretched its home winning streak to 11 games, the longest since the team won 13 in a row at home in 2000-2001 season and put the Wildcats a game behind second place Washington with two games left in conference play.
Freshman center Shawntinice Polk pushed her team record of double-doubles to 18, scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, while sophomore forward Robin Roberson led the Wildcats off the bench, scoring 11 points to go along with four rebounds.
The Wildcats close out the regular season next week with two home games against California and Stanford. The Wildcats takes on the Cardinal, who clinched the Pac-10 regular season championship this weekend with a win over UCLA, next Thursday at 7 p.m. in McKale Center.
"We are a really good team," said Bonvicini, "We need to just keep on winning."