By Th‚oden K. Janes
Arizona Daily Wildcat
If JiJi Sweet had done things her way, she would probably be shooting 74.3 percent from the free-throw line right now rather than 71.7 percent. Furthermore, the UA women's basketball team might have beaten No. 24 Oregon 79-74 last night at McKale Center, rather than 78-74.
But she chose to do it Coach's way.
After converting the first part of a one-and-one with 3.1 seconds left in the game that increased Arizona's lead over the Ducks to four, Arizona coach Joan Bonvicini told the senior guard to miss the second free throw and let the clock run out.
She hesitated a moment, and seemed to look at Bonvicini as though to say, "Do I really have to?" Then she slammed the ball off the backboard, missing the rim completely.
"I was thinking, 'should I miss or should I shoot it and make it?'," Sweet said with a devious smile, and then added, half-jokingly, "I was thinking about keeping my free-throw percentage up."
This may seem a trivial matter compared to what the UA (9-9 overall, 4-2 in the Pacific 10 Conference) had actually achieved in beating Oregon Ä its first win against a ranked opponent in six attempts this season Ä but the reality was that Arizona could have cared less that the Ducks were in the Top 25.
"I didn't think about them being ranked. I mean, Oregon is a good team but this game was more about us mid
doing well in the conference," Bonvicini said after the victory.
Said Sweet: "We thought about Oregon as a team, as a good team. We were not thinking, 'Oh, they're a ranked team, uh oh.'"
Whether or not the Ducks (11-4, 4-2) had Arizona scared, they sure didn't look like one of the nation's best in the early going. And neither did the Wildcats.
Turnover after turnover plagued both teams, as did missed shot after missed shot. Through the first 8:33, it was 11-10 Oregon. Hardly a thrilling game.
But with just over three minutes left in the first half and the UA leading 26-25, Sweet and backcourt mate Brenda Pantoja exploded for six and five points, respectively, to put Arizona up 37-25 heading into the locker room at halftime.
In the second, the Ducks made several mini-runs that finally brought them to within three when the Ducks' Jessica Schutt buried a three pointer with :04.9, but Sweet put the game out of reach by hitting the front end of her one-and-one less than two seconds later.
"We try to keep focused on getting it a basket at a time," Pantoja said. "We just never let them get the upper hand. They made a run, but we always came back and had somebody score."
Said Bonvicini: "When we play together and play good team basketball, we are a very good team," Bonvicini said. "We're getting McKale as a home-court advantage and it's getting better each game."
The Wildcats play Oregon State at 7 tomorrow night at McKale.
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