UA women unable to bury Portland

By Thoden K. Janes

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Brenda Pantoja nailed a 27-foot bomb with just 32 seconds left that would have made the score Arizona 70, Portland 70. The Saints ended up winning, though, because the shot didn't count. But then again, neither did the game.

In what was the Arizona women's basketball team's first test against non-intra-squad competition, the Wildcats at times looked good, bad and downright disgusting in its 70-67 exhibition loss to Portland at McKale Center Saturday night.

The Good:

Starting forward Adia Barnes, a freshman, led all Wildcat scorers with 17 points, 11 rebounds and two steals. She also scored in double figures in the Red-Blue Scrimmage.

"Adia's a good player," UA coach Joan Bonvicini said. "She plays with a great deal of confidence, she plays with a lot of intensity."

Said Pantoja: "Adia is one of the reasons we came as close to coming back as we did."

Pantoja is right Barnes scored eight of her 17 points in the final 4:38.

The Bad:

Off guard JiJi Sweet had 11 points, but the senior co-captain shot 3-for-15 from the floor this following a Red-Blue Scrimmage in which she connected on only 6 of 24 field-goal attempts.

After Red-Blue, Bonvicini said Sweet was putting too much pressure on herself. After the Saints game, Bonvicini never brought up the subject, and was never asked to. But Pantoja spoke openly about Sweet's sour night.

"I think team's realize that JiJi is our star player," said Pantoja, the UA's point guard. "Once the team becomes more patient, she will start becoming more patient. I'm still going to go to her, though. I have faith in her. She's my assist man."

The Downright Disgusting:

Arizona scored only 12 points in the first 8:04 of the game. In the first half, the Wildcats committed 17 turnovers, were outshot 32-23, and were killed on the offensive glass, 9-3.

In that same first half, balls were going through legs and bouncing off shoulders, the clock seemed to stop every five seconds because the ball kept going out of bounds, and many of the UA's passes were about as crisp as two-year-old lettuce.

"I thought we didn't come into the game mentally prepared," Barnes said. "In the beginning, everybody was running around with their heads cut off. We need to concentrate on getting better as a team and stop worrying about getting better as individuals."

"Some of these kids are going to have to grow up real quick," Bonvicini said of her team, which features six freshmen. "Some of the things you do in high school you can't do here, so we're going to have to make some adjustments."

In contrast, the Wildcats' second-half play was excellent, and Arizona battled back from being down 15 with 4:46 left in the game

and trailed just 68-67 at the 1:05 mark.

With :32 left, Pantoja buried her 27-footer, which would have tied the game had it not come after a Saints defender was whistled for a reach-in foul. The foul sent her to the line for a one-and-one, but she missed the front end. Following a Portland turnover and two UA timeouts, Pantoja tried another three with about four seconds left, but it sailed two feet too long.

"We played pretty hard, but I don't think we played with a confident intensity until the last three or four minutes," Bonvicini said. "The kids are going to learn real quick about college basketball."

NOTE Freshman center Marte Alexander did not play Saturday because of a foot injury. Sophomore center Jacque Clark, who is still recovering from back problems, also did not play.

The absence of the UA's only two centers left a void in the low post, which helped the Saints outrebound Arizona 50-39. Additionally, 6-foot-1 Michelle Giordano, 5-11 Keisha Johnson and 6-3 Fatima Imara combined for only 18 points.

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