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Women's hoops notes: Season a success despite injuries

Claire C. Laurence/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Freshman guard Ashley Whisonant goes up for a basket during the Pac-10 Tournament game against USC. Next year Whisonant will become Arizona's point guard after the loss of senior point guard Dee-Dee Wheeler.
By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
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Despite a season of injuries and the end of the nation's longest home winning streak, Arizona women's basketball head coach Joan Bonvicini said that the year was still a success.

"I think that we definitely had high aspirations going in," Bonvicini said as the Wildcats shared the Pacific 10 Championship with Stanford in 2004.

This season, Arizona finished fifth in the Pac-10 with a 20-12 overall record and an 11-7 conference mark.

Bonvicini said she credits Arizona's irregularity on the court in part to its slew of injuries.

"When we started having injuries, it made it difficult to be consistent in both practice and games," Bonvicini said. "(This was) the most (injuries) I've ever had."

Bonvicini noted Arizona's home win against University of California, Santa Barbara, road victory over then-No. 19 UCLA and sweep of Southern California and UCLA in McKale Center as high points on the season.

But none of those milestones compare to the Wildcats' 72-69 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament over No. 8 seed Oklahoma on March 20. The victory marked Arizona's only first-round win since 2000.

"I think the biggest part was that we really regrouped and got back in the NCAAs and won," Bonvicini said. "I think to do that was a big step forward. I think for this team (the first round win) was a huge confidence boost. I think for our seniors, it was a great way for them to go out."

Seniors Dee-Dee Wheeler, Katrina Lindner and Danielle Adefeso ended their collegiate careers in the 76-43 second-round loss to No. 1 seed Louisiana State University.

Although she maintains that the season was successful, Bonvicini admitted that it was also disappointing.

"I was disappointed because talent-wise we were better," said Bonvicini about the team's conference finish.

Bonvicini recorded her 250th win at Arizona on Jan. 16 in a win over UCLA.

With the departure of point guard Wheeler, Bonvicini said she anticipates freshman guard Ashley Whisonant to man the point next season.

"Ashley, I thought, had a very good freshman year," Bonvicini said. "I thought she was instrumental off the bench, a spark plug, excellent ball handler, excellent defender."

Bonvicini added that while Whisonant is the No. 1 candidate, Arizona is looking to sign another point guard.

"It's Ashley's to lose," Bonvicini added. "I think the biggest thing Ashley's got to work on is being a little bit more vocal. I think she's got to be more forceful at times because that person (the point guard) is an extension of me."

Arizona has signed three letters of intent - guard Kelsey Burns, forward Whitney Fields and forward Amina Njonkou - and is looking to ink one more. Njonkou of Foumban, Cameroon, is the Wildcats' first-ever African player.

In the offseason, Bonvicini said Arizona's focus will be on recovering from injuries.

She added that junior center Shawntinice Polk needs to return to game shape and that she expects freshman guard Jessica Arnold to recover well from surgery on her left shoulder.

"The other kids just need to rest. We really need to get healthy here, but I think we're going to have a good team," she said.

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