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Women's Hoops: Cats crash into Columbus for NIT semis tonight against OSU

CLAIRE C. LAURENCE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA junior center Shawntinice Polk looks for a teammate to pass to during the Wildcats' second-round victory over Rice Sunday in McKale Center. Polk recorded the 39th double-double of her career in the win.
By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
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The No. 24 Arizona women's basketball team (2-0) might be looking to settle old scores as they take on No. 10 Ohio State in the semifinals of the preseason Women's National Invitational Tournament in Columbus, Ohio, today at 5 p.m.

In the last contest between the two schools on Dec. 15, 2002, the Wildcats were brought down by the Buckeyes, 84-65. Arizona was triumphant in the first meeting between the two schools as it won 90-76 on Nov. 21, 2001, at McKale Center.

"I remember it distinctly," said UA head coach Joan Bonvicini of the last matchup between the two teams. "We didn't play well, we didn't execute well. And it was tied or pretty close at halftime and we didn't execute well. I know we need to do a better job. We have a much deeper bench than we did the last time we played."

Ohio State dominated Saint Joseph's Sunday in the second round of the WNIT 76-29. Five players scored in double digits as the Buckeyes shot 49 percent from the field, 43 percent beyond the arc and 88 percent from the free throw line.

The team was led by Jessica Davenport, with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Caity Matter added 12 points to the victory. Brandie Hoskins and Stephanie Blanton contributed 11 points apiece and Tamarah Riley rounded out the group with 10 points.

"Ohio State is a tough team," said UA senior point guard Dee-Dee Wheeler. "(They are) similar to us, they can run. They have a big post like Polkey. I know they have a good shooting guard in Caity Matter and Ashley Allen. They're ranked 10th in the AP poll so that tells you a lot right there - that they're a team to be reckoned with. It's going to be tough playing on their home court so we have to come and compete."

"I know they have some real good shooters and a really good coach," agreed junior center Shawntinice Polk, who recorded the 39th double-double of her career on Sunday. "Caity Matter is a real good shooter. I know she's an awesome 3-point shooter so we're going got have to be ready for her."

Although Rice put up a stronger fight, Arizona did significant damage in its second-round action on Sunday, defeating the Owls 68-43. The Wildcats connected on 39 percent of their shots from the field and held Rice to a 19 percent shooting success rate. Arizona's 61 rebounds tied for the eighth-best mark in team history, while Rice recorded 41 rebounds.

In the first two games of the season, the Buckeyes are outscoring their opponents 165-70 and out-rebounding them 38 to 26. Arizona is collectively shooting 47 percent from the field and is out-rebounding its competition 50 to 38.

"Honestly, for us our goal is to do 10-plus (rebounds) a game," Bonvicini said. "Now we're playing a very good team in Ohio State that has some good players and a good bench, but that still needs to be our goal. This is going to be a real good measure for us. The thing I'm pleased about is our defense and rebounding. We can correct the offensive execution. We need to make more free throws too. It's early but we need to do a better job there."

If the Wildcats hope to defeat the Buckeyes, they will have to propel their first-half momentum into the remainder of the game. This season, Arizona is averaging 46.5 points in the first half and is only scoring 31 points after halftime. Similarly, the Wildcats are outscoring their opponents 93 to 50 in the first half but are being outscored 65 to 62 in the second half.

"If we play like we played (against Rice), we're going to struggle," Polk said. "We need to pick it up and keep the intensity that we come out with the whole game. They shoot really good threes. They're a pretty solid team."

If Arizona defeats Ohio State, it will advance to the WNIT championship game on Saturday or Sunday and take on the winner of the Notre Dame-Duke game.

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