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Women win opener against NAU

CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Sophomore UA center Shawntinice Polk expresses her frustration after a foul call during Saturday's 89-67 UA win in McKale Center. Arizona beat the Lumberjacks to win its first game of the season.
By Amanda Branam
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday November 24, 2003
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The No. 22 UA women's basketball team easily dispensed with Northern Arizona, 89-67, Saturday afternoon in McKale Center in the first regular-season game for both teams.

NAU scored first, and was ahead 5-4 near the game's three-minute mark. That was as good as it would get for the Lumberjacks.

The Wildcats took a 6-5 lead on two made free throws by sophomore center Shawntinice Polk, the beginning of an 18-0 Arizona run that staked UA to an early 22-5 advantage.

"That was our game plan ÷ get in their shorts," said Polk after the win. "A bunch of traps, a bunch of steals in the passing lanes, a lot of pressure."

The Wildcat defense made the young NAU team crumble under that pressure early, and the Lumberjacks never recovered once Arizona took the lead with 17:40 left in the first half.

"I thought at times our defense could be stifling," said UA head coach Joan Bonvicini. I've always believed our defense makes our offense."

Arizona shot 18 of 34 from the floor (52.9 percent) ÷ including 7 of 11 from three-point land ÷ in the first half.

NAU slowly chipped away at the UA lead in the middle of the first half, primarily due to the shooting of freshman guard Natalie Metz, who nailed four 3-pointers in the final 7:11 of the opening period. NAU eventually closed the lead to six with just 58 seconds left in the half.

UA junior guard Dee-Dee Wheeler answered back, delivering a 3-pointer at the buzzer, sending UA to the locker room with a 50-37 lead. NAU would not threaten again.

The second half was all Wildcats. They went 14 of 25 from the field.

For the game, the Wildcats shot 32 of 59 from the floor, including 8 of 15 from beyond the arc, and made 17 of 22 from the free-throw line.

But it could have been much worse for NAU. Polk got into foul trouble early, so her playing time was a short 21 minutes. She made the most of it, however, and managed to lead the team in scoring with 25 points.

In case anyone was wondering, 6-foot-2 NAU freshman forward Alyssa Wahl, who had the daunting task of guarding Polk, gave everyone a very specific idea of what it's like to guard her.

"She's big," she said.

Future opponents may need to make a mental note that Polk might not be the only dangerous player for the UA. Senior guard Aimee Grzyb, coming back from a bruised bone injury that kept her out of the Athletes in Action exhibition game, had four 3-pointers in the first half, finishing with 19 points.

"I've just been shooting well," Grzyb said. "If they're going in, then why not (shoot)?"

Both Wheeler and sophomore forward CoCoa Sanford chipped in 19 points.

"You are not the 22nd-ranked team in the country without being a good all-around team," first-year NAU head coach Laurie Kelly said about the UA.

"We're taking good shots and knocking them down," Bonvicini said. "Our philosophy is to go inside and outside. It was a good first game. The thing you want to take from a game like this is to build on it."

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