By Théoden K. Janes
Arizona Daily Wildcat
At this rate, next year’s Arizona Copper Bowl Classic will feature Tennessee, Connecticut and Louisiana Tech.
Wishful thinking — Arizona women’s basketball coach Joan Bonvicini already has Wake Forest, University of San Francisco and Wyoming slated for the 1995 tournament — but based on the level of competition playing in this year’s installment of the Classic as compared to last, it would have come as no surprise.
In ’93, the tournament featured St. Mary’s, Eastern Washington and Western Illinois, teams with nicknames and in conferences that you’ve never heard of. But this season, perennially strong Division I powers Louisiana State, Oklahoma State and Rutgers headline the event. It begins at 6 p.m. today in McKale Center, when Rutgers faces the Cowboys of OSU. Arizona (1-2) plays LSU in the feature game at 8.
From the Lady Tigers, Bonvicini expects nothing but the best.
“This is a great field of teams,” Bonvicini said. “I mean, there are no easy games here. And LSU, you know, is a very, very good team. They’re athletic, and they have one of the best scorers in the country (in) Cornelia Gayden.”
Gayden, a 5-foot-9 senior guard, averaged 24 points last season and was an honorable mention on the All-America team.
Of the huge improvement in the quality of the Classic’s participants, Bonvicini had this to say: “I’ve tried to make this tournament a much more competitive tournament with the type of teams we’ve had involved. The Copper Bowl committee has done an outstanding job in organization of the tournament and I think the teams involved will be treated very, very well. And I think in the community, the people coming to watch it — they’ll be very, very impressed with the quality of basketball.”
Because the Wildcats’ are coming off a very valuable experience in the form of the Wahine Classic in Hawaii, in which they faced two top-ranked teams, they should be much more focused and have a much better chemistry than they did two weeks ago against Tungsram of Hungary here in Tucson.
In Honolulu, Arizona lost to No. 15 Florida 94-76, lost to No. 14 Virginia by only four points, and crushed New Mexico by a 77-58 score. And now, the Wildcats could be ready to explode.
“I think we can play with anybody in the country — I mean, I don’t question that,” Bonvicini said. “I think the things we’ve got to do better is we’ve got to board better, I think we need to get to the free throw line more and make them, and I think being more consistent defensively.”
The probable lineup for Arizona against LSU is Atina Harris and Michelle Giordano at the forward spots, Jacque Clark at center, and Brenda Pantoja and JiJi Sweet in the backcourt.
Sweet leads the team with a 15 points per game average. Clark is averaging 10.3 points, this despite only recently returning from a back injury that ailed her throughout the preseason.
The Classic ends Sunday, with the consolation game being held at 1 p.m. and the championship game following at 3.
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