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2005 Fiesta Bowl Classic: Wildcats set to host Fiesta Bowl Classic

By Michael Schwartz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, December 2, 2005
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The Arizona women's basketball team has stayed true to its run-and-gun style through four games this season, forcing turnovers with a relentless full-court press and running the court for easy buckets.

The missing ingredient has been 3-point shooting, as the Wildcats (2-2) have shot a measly 22.7 percent from behind the arc.

They look to improve those numbers in the annual Fiesta Bowl Women's Basketball Classic this weekend in McKale Center.

Arizona plays Lehigh (2-3) tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. after Tulane (2-0) and Chicago State (4-1) play their game at 1 p.m.

The Wildcats would face the winner of that game in the championship Sunday at 3:30 p.m., and the loser Sunday at 1 if they lose.

"It's important to defend our own tournament," said junior guard Linda Pace. "Especially coming off two losses, we need to get back on track and get back to winning."

Arizona fell twice by small margins last week, losing to No. 25 Utah 66-63 at home Saturday and 69-65 in overtime to Central Connecticut State in the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout on Nov. 23.

The 3-pointer will be especially important against the Mountain Hawks, who shoot 42.1 percent from behind the arc.

Junior guard Sara Ellis, who averages 14.4 points per game, went 8-of-15 from distance in Lehigh's 64-45 win over Monmouth on Monday. Lehigh shot 52.2 percent (12-of-23) as a team.

"It plays a big part," Pace said. "That can make a difference in a game."

Long-range shots played a major role in the Utes' win over the Wildcats, as Arizona shot 14.3 percent (2-of-14) to Utah's 50 percent (8-for-16).

"We need to do a much better job defending the three," said Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini.

On the offensive end, defenders have dared Arizona to shoot the long ball to take away driving lanes from the Wildcats' athletic guards.

Arizona has also been hurt by the slow start of sophomore guard Jessica Arnold. After shooting 42.7 percent on 3's last year and averaging 8.9 points, second among returning players, Arnold has averaged only 3.0 points and has made only one long ball.

While two offseason shoulder surgeries have affected her, Arnold said, she's starting to get into a routine now.

"We get open shots, and we're not able to hit them," she said. "We're so used to running and gunning, but that's just something we need to work on. We're going to start shooting, getting more reps in, and I think you'll see our shooting performance go up."

Pace said the team has been working on more 3-point drills to improve the team's percentages.

"A lot of it is confidence, but a lot is repetitions and getting yourself in position to shoot and being ready," Bonvicini said.

Lehigh also poses problems on the backboards, out-rebounding opponents by a margin of 8.4 per game.

Forward Jenny Callan leads the team with 9.8 rebounds per contest, while forward Adrienne Blount averages 8.0 boards and a team-high 14.6 points.

"No. 1, we need to be a little tougher defensively and rebound better, and I think the other thing is we need to hit some threes ourselves," Bonvicini said. "We're right there. We're making mistakes, and some are at critical junctures of the game. We need to get our confidence back, and if we do those things, we'll be successful."

Although the Mountain Hawks belong to the Patriot League, the Wildcats have already learned what happens when they do not play well against a small East Coast team in their overtime loss to Central Connecticut State.

Pace said Arizona just needs to play its game.

"Just have our confidence level, get out there, don't take no opponents lightly and play Arizona basketball, which is running and gunning," she said.

Having won this tournament last year in dominant fashion, the Fiesta Bowl Classic could be just what the host needs to get back on track after a pair of tough losses.

"We played our best game (against Utah). It's there," Arnold said. "We're going to carry that same motivation to go on and do very well in this tournament and continue to do well. We're going to surprise a lot of people (this year)."

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