Women's Hoops: 4,700 on hand for Cats' win over ASU

By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, January 27, 2005

UA 56, ASU 49

In a hunt for revenge and sole possession of third place in the Pacific 10 Conference, the Arizona women's basketball team (15-5, 7-3 Pac-10) knocked off in-state rival ASU 56-49 last night in McKale Center in front of 4,710 fans.

"I'm just so proud of our team," said UA head coach Joan Bonvicini. "ASU is a very good basketball team. Both teams are very physical. It was not real pretty in the first half - (there were) a lot of turnovers. We really were rushing ourselves on the offense."

ASU committed 17 turnovers in the first half compared to the Wildcats' 13. Arizona was outrebounded 12 to 19 in the half.

"We really had to make some adjustments, and so we did," Bonvicini said. "The first thing we felt like we needed to do was to step up our defensive intensity. And definitely step up our rebounding because we were clearly being out-rebounded (in the first half). When we started rebounding, that's when the game completely changed."

Freshman guard Jessica Arnold paced the Wildcats with 14 points, and senior center Danielle Adefeso just missed a double-double with nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

With just over eight minutes left in the first half, senior point guard Dee-Dee Wheeler fed a long break pass to freshman guard Ashley Whisonant for a layup to narrow the Sun Devil lead to 18-15.

Moments later, junior center Shawntinice Polk sank two free throws to cut ASU's lead to one. Junior guard Natalie Jones then sank a

3-pointer to put Arizona ahead 21-18 at 4:49 remaining.

The Sun Devils' Kylan Loney netted a jumper just before the buzzer to give ASU a 27-24 lead at halftime.

"In the second half we didn't come out into the 3-2 defense because we knew they talked about our 3-2 (defense) at halftime," said Wheeler, who tabbed 11 points, five assists and four steals. "That's why we came out into an aggressive man defense and we went back later to our 3-2 defense."

The Wildcats went on a 17-2 run for the first 11 minutes of the second half to go up 40-29. With 5:40 left to play, ASU's Betsy Boardman nailed a shot from downtown to narrow the Arizona lead to 46-38. Her shot was matched with a Whisonant layup in Arizona's next possession.

Wheeler hit two free throws with just over a minute remaining to give Arizona a six-point cushion, 52-46.

The Sun Devils' Emily Westerberg then made it interesting, draining a trey with 57 seconds remaining to make it 52-49.

But Polk and Arnold combined for four free throws to secure the Arizona victory.

"The biggest thing in the second half was our defense," said Polk, who ended with 11 points, six rebounds, four blocked shots and one steal. "ASU plays great defense. Everybody pulled together. Our defense makes our offense. This was a real confidence booster for our team.

"After what happened down there (in Tempe), we needed revenge. They never let down. They fought back. We had to work for everything we got."

After falling to the Sun Devils 68-47 Jan. 3 at Wells Fargo Arena, Arizona was determined to secure the victory on its home court.

"We've swept all four years (at home) since I've been here and we've lost every time I've been here up in Tempe," said Wheeler of the recent history between the two teams. "Hopefully we don't have to face them again and hopefully they're thinking the same thing. But we might see them again in the Pac-10 Tournament."

Although she set the attendance bar at 10,000 fans for last night's game, Bonvicini said she was pleased with the turnout.

"Our fans were like an extra player out on the floor, they were loud, they were proud of our team," she said. "You know I can't ask for anything more than that."

The Wildcats take on No. 20 Maryland Saturday at 4 p.m. in McKale Center.