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Wildcats finish fifth in Hawaii tourney

By Amanda Branam
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, December 1, 2003
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Last week did not start as the UA women's basketball team would have hoped, but the Wildcats finished strong with two straight wins ÷ good enough for a fifth-place finish in the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu.

The Wildcats (3-2) were narrowly upset in the first round of the tournament, 70-65 by Virginia (2-2) on Friday.

The Cavaliers, who began this season as the nation's No. 24 team, tumbled out of the polls last week but may regain a place in the rankings after beating the No. 18 Wildcats.

Arizona scored first against the Cavaliers but could not hold the lead for long. Once Virginia took a 6-5 lead with 17:14 remaining in the first half, the Wildcats never regained the lead.

Sophomore center Shawntinice Polk saw only five minutes of playing time in the first half after accumulating three fouls in less than six minutes. Arizona shot 12 of 30 (40 percent) in the first half, including a dismal 2 of 10 (20 percent) from behind the arc, as the team trailed at the half, 31-27.

The Wildcats' luck from 3-point range did not change in the second half, as they made just 1 of 6 attempts (16.7 percent).

Another problem for the Wildcats was their lack of opportunity to get easy points from the charity stripe. Arizona went to the line only nine times the entire game to Virginia's 17.

Arizona trailed the entire second half, though by no more than 10 points. After making two free throws, sophomore CoCoa Sanford brought the UA to within two points at 65-63 with just under four minutes remaining.

It was as close as the Wildcats could get.

"We played hard the whole game," Polk said. "Our defense broke down a couple of times, and when the defense breaks down, it's never easy to get back."

The losing streak would go no further than two during the second round of play. The Wildcats beat Navy (2-4), 67-61. Polk and junior point guard Dee-Dee Wheeler led the way with 19 points apiece.

The UA led wire to wire, despite failing to make a 3-pointer the entire game. The Wildcats out-rebounded Navy, 41-19 and shot 26 of 56 (46 percent) from the field.

Navy's biggest threat to take the lead came with eight minutes left in the game, when the team went on a 17-5 run and tied the score at 48.

Polk silenced Navy, however, by scoring on two straight possessions while the UA defense stopped Navy on four straight trips down the floor. Three minutes later, the Wildcats were on top by eight points, and Navy never threatened again.

On Sunday, the Wildcats defeated Hawaii, 66-57, finishing fifth in the tournament.

Arizona and Hawaii (1-4) exchanged the lead five times in the first half, resulting in a 30-30 deadlock at halftime.

The lead continued to shift back and forth between the two teams ÷ including seven times in the first five minutes of the second half. But the Wildcats went on a 12-6 run over the next seven minutes of the game, led by nine straight points by Wheeler, who led the team with 21 points.

Overall, the Wildcats shot 26 of 60 (43 percent) from the floor and out-rebounded Hawaii, 37-27. Three-point shooting was still an issue for the Wildcats, however. They shot only 3 of 12 (25 percent).

"We definitely expected to play for first or second place here. We aren't satisfied with where we are, but we'll take it," Polk said. "(The tournament is) really going to help us. We played a lot of good teams here ÷ teams that zoned us and triple-teamed us. We know what we need to work on."

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