By Lindsey Frazier
CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona junior center Shawntinice Polk drives to the basket between USC's Eshaya Murphy (right) and Rachel Woodward during Saturday's game against USC in McKale Center. Arizona defeated USC 87-74.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, February 14, 2005
There was a lot at stake for the Arizona women's basketball team coming into Saturday's game against Southern California. The Wildcats could play themselves into a third place tie or fall to seventh place with a loss.
Arizona responded in dramatic fashion, hitting 69 percent of their shots from 3-point range on the way to an 87-74 victory over the Trojans in McKale Center.
With the win, Arizona (17-8, 9-5 Pacific 10 Conference) is now tied with ASU and Oregon and sits a half game behind second-place USC.
"USC is a really good team but I think that we wanted it more tonight," said junior guard Natalie Jones, who notched 15 points on 100 percent shooting and six assists. "We battled. We had a lot of people step up, a lot of people in double figures (scoring). That's what we need for the rest of the season."
Senior forward Danielle Adefeso recorded her first double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 boards, while freshman guard Ashley Whisonant added 10 points.
After USC scored the first four points of the game, Arizona point guard Dee-Dee Wheeler nailed a 3-pointer to put the Wildcats up 13-6.
"The 3's were falling tonight," said Wheeler, who recorded a game-high 25 points in addition to 11 rebounds and six assists. "It was awesome. I think we did a good job of moving the ball around, that's why we got a lot of open looks."
Later in the half, junior center Shawntinice Polk pulled down an offensive rebound on a missed 3-pointer by freshman guard Jessica Arnold and scored to make it a 19-10 game.
"It was really bugging me Thursday," said Polk, whose knee injury held her to only two points against UCLA. "My teammates just needed me to suck it up. I just had to play today because Thursday was awful. I would take two points and win, over 20 points and a loss any day. Points really don't matter as long as we get that 'W'."
The center ended Saturday's game with 17 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.
A wide open Arnold drained a trey with over eight minutes in the half to give Arizona a 24-14 lead.
"I thought we really got everyone involved offensively," said Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini. "It wasn't just one player. When we started hitting 3's and you're doing it from multiple players, it makes us a very difficult team to defend."
After using a 12-0 run to finish out the half, the Wildcats headed into the locker room up 46-30.
When play resumed, back-to-back 3-pointers by Jones and Wheeler gave Arizona its biggest lead of the game, 54-35.
With over six minutes remaining, Jones later grabbed a defensive rebound and fed Wheeler a fast break pass for a layup to give Arizona a 15-point lead, 76-61. The Wildcats went on to win by 13 points.
"I just think we're taking our time, distributing the ball well and involving a lot of players," Bonvicini said of Arizona's success from downtown. "It's just like anything, when one starts going down, the others do too. It's a confidence thing, it's contagious."
Arizona now hits the road as it takes on Oregon State Thursday at 8 p.m. in Corvallis, Ore.
"So we just need to be smart here," Bonvicini said of the four games remaining in the regular season. "We've got these two games under our belt. And now we're going in with confidence to Oregon State and Oregon. No matter what, you've got to play hard."