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Arizona wins 23rd straight at home

CLAIRE C. LAURENCE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA sophomore center Shawntinice Polk fights through traffic during the Wildcats' 16-point win over Pac-10 rival UCLA Saturday afternoon in McKale Center.
By Shane Dale
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
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Wildcats will try to take momentum to Oregon this week

The Wildcat women's basketball team was ice cold in the first half. They had ice water running through their veins in the second.

Arizona outscored UCLA 47-27 in the final 20 minutes to overcome the Bruins 70-54 Saturday in McKale Center, tacking on another victory to their school-record 23-game home winning streak.

The Wildcats will try to bring that second-half momentum with them when they travel to Eugene and Corvallis to take on Oregon Thursday and Oregon State Saturday. Arizona is 9-0 at home this season but just 3-3 on the road.

"The way we've been practicing and playing, I think it's gonna work better for us on the road," said sophomore center Shawntinice Polk.

Polk had game highs of 21 points and 13 rebounds on 9 of 11 shooting for Arizona (14-4, 6-1 Pacific 10 Conference). She notched her seventh double-double of the season.

"Polkey always catches my passes," said junior guard Dee-Dee Wheeler. "I watch where she is and I try to get it there."

Wheeler added 14 points and seven assists for the Wildcats, who are off to their best conference start in team history.

"I was proud of our team. In the second half, everyone had a smile," said UA head coach Joan Bonvicini.

UCLA (8-8, 3-4) held Arizona scoreless for the last 6:10 of the first half, and the Wildcats trailed at halftime for the first time at home this season, 27-23. Both teams were 9 of 30 (30 percent) from the field in the first half.

"We need people to step up earlier in the game instead of waiting for the second half," Polk said.

Arizona came to life in the second, shooting 18 of 26 (69 percent) from the floor, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range.

Arizona scored the first six points of the second half to go ahead 29-27 - its first lead since a 10-8 advantage less than six minutes into the game.

UCLA refused to fold as guard Gennifer Arranaga's triple put the Bruins back on top 37-35 with 13:49 left.

Then it started to rain.

Shut out from the floor in the first half, senior guard Aimee Grzyb's first field goal of the game - a 3-pointer in front of the Arizona bench - knotted the score at 39. And after a pair of free throws by sophomore forward CoCoa Sanford put Arizona up for good, the Wildcats broke the game open with back-to-back treys from sophomore guard Katrina Lindner and Grzyb to go ahead 47-40.

"I've been struggling a little bit with my shooting so it was nice to be relaxed a little," said Lindner, who was just 2 of 16 from 3-point range on the season before Saturday.

A Wheeler 3-pointer capped a 14-3 UA run, putting the game out of reach at 61-45 with just over five minutes to play.

"We tried to make the extra pass and make their defense work, and it really worked in our favor," Wheeler said.

The Bruins shot 30 percent for the game.

"We forced them into taking bad shots," Bonvicini said. "It always starts at the defensive end."

A noisy crowd of 4,350 came out to watch Arizona win its 23rd straight in McKale, the fifth-largest crowd in Wildcat women's hoops history. Arizona owns the second-longest active home winning streak in the nation.

"They were awesome," Lindner said. "It's amazing what a crowd can do."

Polk's performances against UCLA and Southern California last week were enough to earn her Pac-10 Player of the Week honors. The award is the first for a Wildcat this season.

Polk averaged 19 points and 9.5 rebounds in Arizona's home sweep of the Bruins and Trojans. She shot 80 percent from the field in the two contests - 7 of 9 against USC Thursday and 9 of 11 vs. UCLA.

Polk is averaging nearly 20 points per game at home this season.

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