UA beats Loyola Marymount after slow first half
After a slow start for both squads, full-court pressure from the Arizona women's basketball team wore down Loyola Marymount in the Wildcats' 74-66, season-opening win Friday night in McKale Center.
Arizona (1-0) and the Lions (0-1) combined for 30 turnovers and 20 fouls in an ugly first half delayed about an hour because of the late finish of Arizona volleyball's five set victory over Southern California.
The Wildcats settled down in the second half, using an 8-0 run with about 10 minutes to go to cruise to victory, never letting the lead fall below eight.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of our team," said Wildcats head coach Joan Bonvicini. "For all the things we've battled through, we just have a team that really believes in each other. They feed off each other, and at times it wasn't pretty, but I said our pressure would wear them down, which it did."
Redshirt junior guard Joy Hollingsworth sparked the team in her first official game as a Wildcat with a game-high 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting. She had sat out the past 18 months after transferring from San Francisco.
"It was hard," Hollingsworth said. "I was super nervous, but once the ball was (jumped), all of it went away. I just felt relieved."
Bonvicini said she challenged all of her players and told them what she felt they could do, as many players who did not play key roles on last year's team needed to step up this year after losing key teammates in the offseason.
"I think we're just learning a lot about each other," she said. "There's a lot of players who either came off the bench last year or new players who are going to contribute for us. It's a matter of everyone getting that cohesion."
One of those players with a much increased role will be sophomore forward Ché Oh, who averaged fewer than four points and three rebounds last season but nearly tabbed a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds against the Lions.
Oh and freshman forward Whitney Fields, who grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds in only 18 minutes, helped Arizona win the rebounding battle against a taller Loyola Marymount squad, a goal Bonvicini said the Wildcats have set for every game.
"Whitney came out there and played a great game," Oh said. "It's so nice to have (a) freshman who can come out stepping up. She's aggressive. We need to keep doing that."
Foul trouble plagued both teams, as five Wildcats, including Oh, picked up two fouls in the first half.
"Having two fouls in the first half, you kind of feel restricted, but at the same time you don't want to let your team down," she said. "You just have to go out there and give it all you have within that temptation."
Foul trouble helped the Wildcats hold Lions' senior guard Rachael Ziemann scoreless after she led the team in scoring last year. Ziemann fouled out after playing just 17 minutes.
While four Lions scored in double figures, led by junior guard Amanda Patton's 15 points, Bonvicini said her squad's press made Loyola Marymount play the Wildcats' style.
"They could never really get into an offensive rhythm," she said.
The Wildcats got a scare when sophomore guard Ashley Whisonant hurt her right knee with 49.6 seconds remaining in the game and could not walk off under her own power.
Bonvicini said doctors told her it's an inflamed knee, and that Whisonant's not expected to miss any games.
Whisonant scored 10 points to go along with a team-high five assists and four steals, while senior guard Natalie Jones scored 17 points, mainly from the charity stripe, on 13-of-14 shooting from the free-throw line.
In its first regular-season game without star center Shawntinice Polk, who died Sept. 26, the team did not look as distraught as they did in the team's first public appearance in the Red-Blue Game on Nov. 1, when players seemed to be going through the motions early.
"The Red-Blue Game was our first hump," Hollingsworth said. "Obviously, this was the second hump because this was a real game without her, so we got past this and so now it's full throttle."