Cats drop fifth straight game

By Ryan Casey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, January 13, 2006

Mandy Close ensured that the game wouldn't be just that as she exploded for 18 second-half points, and the Oregon State Beavers downed the Arizona women's basketball team 64-48 on their home court last night.

The senior guard, who added six rebounds and three assists to her game-changing effort, poured in a career-high 24 points for the Beavers (7-6, 1-4 Pacific-10 Conference), who snapped a 16-game Pac-10 winless streak dating to Jan. 13, 2005. It was also the Beavers first win over Arizona in six games.

"She definitely stepped up on both ends of the court," said LaVonda Wagner, Oregon State's first year head coach.

To say Close's performance caught the attention of the Wildcats would be an understatement.

"She just penetrated and dished," said senior guard Natalie Jones, who led Arizona with 15 points, seven rebounds and two steals. "She played how a point guard should play. It was something we knew she was capable of doing."

The defeat dropped the Wildcats to 5-11 on the season and 1-5 in Pac-10 play and marks Arizona's ninth loss in its past 10 games.

"This was not a good game for us," said Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini. "I don't think we played with the intensity that we should've as a group.

"We get down, and it's the second half, and there's not a lot of leadership on the floor, it's like the end of the world when you should just be playing harder."

After trailing by two at the break, 26-24, Arizona went on a 10-2 run to take what proved to be its biggest lead of the game - a 34-30 advantage at the 16:10 mark of the second half.

That's when Close took over.

Scoring 18 of the Beavers next 24 points, she closed the door on the Wildcats and then nailed it shut - again and again.

"It was like a rollercoaster game - we were up, they were up, and it was frustrating at the end when you look at the score and you're not the team that won," Jones said.

Free throws were again an issue for the struggling Wildcats, who shot a disappointing 52 percent from the stripe (13-of-26) and were unable to make it up on the floor, making just 15-of-59 shots (24.6 percent).

"At home, this is kind of like your 'house' and when other teams come in and beat you, you take it more personal," Jones said.

The Beavers, in contrast, knocked down 50 percent of their shots (22-of-44), and were 4-of-13 from behind the arc.

"They were getting a lot of open looks," said sophomore forward Ché Oh. "We weren't really executing on offense.

"It's really big of us to have to put two halves together, that's what we've been struggling with," she said.

With a date with the Oregon Ducks looming on Saturday, the Wildcats will need to find a way to do away with frustration and replace it with confidence.

"A lot of us are frustrated," Jones said, "because it's just hard when you know you have good practices... and even though we lost the two games in (Los Angeles) we felt that we were a totally different team."

Bonvicini agreed that her team is much better than the performances they've put up lately.

"We are a better team in so many ways (than we played tonight), but we're just not showing it."

The Ducks (11-4, 2-3) will come to town after battling No. 15 Arizona State last night in Tempe, falling 44-43. It will be a game that Bonvicini said Arizona needs to use as a stepping stone.

"We took a step back (last night)," she said. "We needed to take a step forward here.

"We need to turn this around - right away."

Tipoff on Saturday is scheduled for noon in McKale Center on FSN.

Freshman forward Whitney Fields, who was originally thought to be taken out of the starting lineup, was on the Wildcat bench in street clothes, for what Bonvicini said was punishment for missing an early Monday morning workout ... Oregon State's last Pac-10 win came against Washington State, an 83-55 win in Corvallis.