Women's basketball slides past BYU, 76-73

By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 29, 2004

Wildcats return to McKale Center tonight to face UTEP

Although it was closer than the No. 25 Arizona women's basketball team would have liked, the Wildcats managed to hold off Brigham Young 76-73 Saturday at Marriott Center in Provo, Utah.

"This was a huge game for us," said UA head coach Joan Bonvicini. "We played a very disappointing game against Ohio State. BYU has been a good team. They are going to win a lot of games this year. This was a good win for our team."

On the game, Arizona (3-1) connected on 55 percent of its shots from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range, but managed only 57 percent shooting from the free throw line. The Cougars (2-1) were held to 40 percent from the floor, 32 percent from beyond the arc and 84 percent from the free throw line. The Wildcats out-rebounded the Cougars 36 to 31 and won the turnover battle 17 to 19.

"(We were) much better offensively," Bonvicini added. "We shot over 50 percent (from the field) so that was much improved. We need to improve on rebounding. We have to get a better jump on the boards, and we need to get to the free throw line and make (those shots). We should have won the game by eight or nine points, but I am pleased with the win. We have to play a better second half."

Senior point guard Dee-Dee Wheeler was among four Arizona athletes who scored in double digits, recording 19 points in addition to eight assists and four steals. Junior center Shawntinice Polk added 14 points, a team-high six rebounds, five blocked shots and three assists in the win. Sophomore forward Shannon Hobson contributed 12 points, and junior guard Natalie Jones rounded out the group with 11 points and three steals.

BYU was impressive from downtown, connecting on four of its first five attempts from 3-point range to take an early 20-11 lead. Arizona responded with a 15-2 scoring drive to go up 28-24.

BYU came within one point at 30-29 before the Wildcats notched seven straight points to lead by eight at 37-29. Arnold had two consecutive 3-pointers just before halftime to give Arizona a 12-point margin, 45-33.

"I think (BYU) is a good team and is a very good shooting team," said Bonvicini. "Early in the game, they hit some 3s and had a nine-point lead on us. But I was very proud of our players. They showed a lot of heart and character. We came back nicely and quickly with the lead at halftime. Jessica (Arnold) hit a few big ones that broke the game open in the first half."

Arizona out-rebounded BYU 17 to 16, forced seven turnovers and swiped nine steals on the half. Individually, Wheeler recorded 13 points, five assists and four steals in the first half and Hobson posted an 83 percent shooting success rate from the field, scoring 10 points on six attempts.

In the second half, Arizona allowed BYU to shorten its lead as the Cougars capitalized on a 6-0 run to make it a four-point game at 70-66. BYU would come within three points twice and had the opportunity to tie the game in their final possession but was unable to score.

Arizona's struggles in the second half have been a problem so far in the early season. The Wildcats average 38.7 points in the first half but only 28 points after halftime. Arizona is also outscoring its opponents 116-86 before halftime but is being outscored 107-84 once play resumes.

The same was true against BYU as Arizona shot 50 percent from the floor in the second half and hit only 50 percent of its shots from the free-throw line. The Wildcats brought down only 14 boards compared to 20 by the Cougars.

The Wildcats return to McKale Center to take on UTEP today at 7 p.m.

"(UTEP is) now 2-1 and it's going to be a good game," Bonvicini said. "I am glad we are at home. Our players get their (Pacific 10 Conference championship) rings before the game so they are very excited. We have a three-game home stand and we are glad to be at home."

The Miners fell to Arkansas State Saturday, 87-63, shooting 43 percent from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line. UTEP was out-rebounded 40 to 32 and committed a season-high 20 turnovers.

Senior forward Angie McGee led UTEP with 16 points on the night, in addition to five rebounds. Freshman center Izabela Piekarska recorded nine points and brought down five boards.