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Women's Basketball: Cats share Pac-10 title

By Shane Dale
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, March 1, 2004
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Win over Washington makes UA co-champs

Joan Bonvicini struggled to keep a straight face in the final moments of Arizona's win over Washington on Saturday.

But when the game ended with her team celebrating in the middle of the Huskies' home court, the UA women's head coach couldn't fight it any longer.

Bonvicini flashed a big smile. For the first time in school history, her Wildcats were Pacific 10 Conference champs.

Sophomore center Shawntinice Polk notched 22 points and 14 rebounds, and the Wildcats limited the Huskies to 29 percent shooting from the field in a 71-54 rout in front of a national audience on Fox Sports Net.

Arizona (22-7, 14-4 Pac-10) came just short of winning the conference title outright. Oregon State blew a 15-point second-half lead in Stanford's 67-66 win over the Beavers Saturday night, allowing the Cardinal to earn a share of the regular season title.

But Bonvicini didn't care.

"We're Pac-10 co-champs; it doesn't matter," she said.

It was Oregon's upset of the Cardinal on Thursday that put Arizona in position to win at least a share of the conference crown.

"From the moment we found out on Thursday night (that Stanford lost), we were determined to win this game," Bonvicini said. "We weren't going to be denied.

"We did what we had to do. We can't depend on someone else. I'm very, very proud of our team."

Junior guard Dee-Dee Wheeler scored 17 points and senior guard Aimee Grzyb added 15 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Wildcats, who enjoyed their most lopsided road win of the season and their first-ever victory in Bank of America Arena.

With starting freshman forward Shannon Hobson in foul trouble throughout the game, sophomore forward CoCoa Sanford came off the bench to contribute 11 points and a career-high nine boards in 30 minutes. Arizona out-rebounded the Huskies (16-11, 9-9) 47-39, including 26-16 in the second half.

Arizona used 12 first-half points from Polk, who was 11-of-15 from the floor for the game, to take a 34-28 lead into halftime. With a layup 6:57 into the first half, Polk surpassed the 1,000-point mark for her UA career, becoming the fastest player in Wildcat history to reach the milestone.

A Wheeler layup capped an 11-2 Arizona run to open the second half, giving the Wildcats a 45-30 lead with 17 minutes to play.

UW senior guard Giuliana Mendiola scored six points as part of a 9-0 Husky spurt to cut Arizona's lead to six with 14 minutes left. Mendiola led Washington with 22 points.

But the Wildcats would score nine of the game's next 11 points to go ahead 54-41, and the Huskies wouldn't get closer than eight points the rest of the way.

Washington's 54 points matched the fewest the Wildcats allowed in a Pac-10 road game this season. Arizona has held three of its last four opponents to under 60 points.

"Our defense has been very, very good and has started to improve," Bonvicini said. "We're starting to peak at the right time."

A tiebreaker gives the Cardinal the No. 1 seed in the Pac-10 Tournament, which begins Friday in San Jose, Calif. Arizona is the No. 2 seed and will play the winner of Friday night's Oregon State-Washington State play-in game.

"The tournament is one game at a time, and you don't have to share (the championship) with anybody," Bonvicini said.

The Wildcats' first tournament game tips off Saturday at 2:15 p.m.

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