By Michael Schwartz
Josh Fields/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Freshman forward Whitney Fields battles for position in the post during Arizona's exhibition game against Fort Lewis College on Friday night in McKale Center. The Wildcats beat the Skyhawks 86-55.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 14, 2005
The Arizona women's basketball team routed Division II Fort Lewis College 86-55 Friday night in McKale Center in the team's final exhibition game.
Turnovers once again swayed the game to the Wildcats' side, as their constant defensive pressure forced the Skyhawks into 31 giveaways, the same number registered by Cal Poly Pomona on Nov. 6.
"We wear teams down," said Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini. "It's not always that you get turnovers from your press, but because you're putting that kind of defensive intensity on people, it just wears them out, and then we're able to blow the game open."
After trailing early, the Wildcats forced nine turnovers during an 18-2 run in just under seven minutes to take control of the game.
"We're a small team, so we have to keep the game at a fast pace and pressure and kind of be like pests," said sophomore guard Ashley Whisonant. "That's the way that we have to play."
During the run, senior guard Natalie Jones scored eight of her game-high 26 points, which would have been her career high if done in a regular-season contest.
Jones was 9-of-12 from the field, including a scorching 4-for-6 from behind the arc.
"It's a role that I have to take on, especially with our graduating seniors and especially with the loss of Polkey (Shawntinice Polk)," Jones said.
"When she's in a groove, it just makes us a lot better," Bonvicini said.
The rest of the team combined to convert only 4-of-14 3-pointers, something the team struggled with throughout the exhibition season.
"It's very important because when teams scout us, especially with me, Ashley and (junior guard) Joy (Hollingsworth) being so athletic, we drive a lot," Jones said. "One thing coach stresses is that we have to be able to shoot the three."
The Wildcats closed the game out with another pair of big runs after wearing down Fort Lewis.
They blew the game open with a 17-4 spurt spanning the last few minutes of the first half and the first four of the second half, and upped the margin again with a later 17-3 run.
A seemingly innumerable slew of Skyhawk turnovers fed the efforts.
"I think it was very crucial because with us we feed off our defense, so steals, blocked shots, anything like that, it hypes us up," Jones said. "When we're great at defense, then our offense comes."
Arizona had 16 steals, led by Hollingsworth's four. Every Wildcat recorded a steal except senior forward Anna Chappell.
Winning the turnover battle by 19 gave Arizona 27 more shot attempts, but Fort Lewis shot 52.5 percent from the field, including 50 percent (6-of-12) on 3-pointers.
"There's still obviously a lot of things for us to improve on," Bonvicini said. "The biggest concern I have right now is our defensive field-goal percentage, and we've got to defend the post and the three a little bit better, but I thought we did a very good job taking care of the ball. (We) still forced a lot of steals, and Natalie was awesome."
Hollingsworth also played well, scoring 18 points and grabbing six rebounds, while junior guard Linda Pace and freshman guard Kelsey Burns sparked the Wildcats off the bench.
Burns scored 12 and Pace nine, both missing only two shots.
Senior guard Amie Moulton led Fort Lewis with 23 points, but no other players reached double figures for the Skyhawks.
Whisonant continued to show confidence at point guard role, scoring eight points and dishing out eight assists while turning the ball over only three times.
"I just relaxed, just let the game come to me," she said. "I felt like I was too anxious in the previous game, so I just relaxed and got more comfortable playing."
Arizona opens its regular season Friday against Loyola Marymount fresh off exhibition wins against Division II squads, which differed from the travel squads they played in exhibitions in years past.
"I think it helps you gain confidence, but the next game's going to be completely different," Bonvicini said. "I think it was good to play Division II (teams) even though both teams we beat pretty good."