Dec. 31, 2010
TUCSON - The University of Arizona Wildcat women's basketball team won its Pac-10 opener on Friday at McKale Center. For the first time since Jan., 16, 2010, the Wildcats eclipsed the 100-point mark with a 109-94 win over the Oregon Ducks. Arizona advances to 10-2 overall and 1-0 in conference play. Oregon falls to 9-3 overall and 0-1 in conference play.
"What a way to finish it off right in 2010," head coach Niya Butts said. "For us to end on a high note like that and get a win in our first conference game at home, that's huge. For the most part I thought we handled (Oregon's press) well. There were some times where we got a little timid and didn't make the right decision but we shot 70 percent from the field in the second half. A lot of that is us making our shots but also us seeing their defense and getting around the press."
The Wildcats are 10-2 to start the season for the first time since 2004-05. It also marks the first victory in a Pac-10 opener since the 2004-05 slate when the Cats topped Washington, 67-63. Against the Ducks on Friday, Arizona made a school record 46 field goals, replacing the previous record of 45 against Western New Mexico on Dec. 19, 1986.
More history making in today's game includes the highest shooting percentage for a Pac-10 game in Arizona history, 64.8 percent (46-71). It replaces the previous mark of 64.3 percent (36-56) against California on Dec. 27, 2002. The 46 field goals made today are also an Arizona best in conference play.
"Oregon is probably the ultimate running team in the country in the way the play and the way they make your team play," Butts said. "We want to run, too, though. Our first offense is to run the ball. Tonight, we started off blazing and that's the way we want to play. I think we were just the better physically conditioned team. They were getting fatigued out there but we were getting fatigued also. But we kept grinding and pushing and I'll give it to the kids. Last year, two years ago, we would have given in to that fatigue."
Junior Shanita Arnold led all scorers with a career-best total of 25 points. She was 11-of-13 from the field and 3-of-5 from the charity stripe. She also pitched in with seven assists and four steals. Arnold was one of six Wildcats scoring in double figures including senior forward Ify Ibekwe (19), junior guard Brooke Jackson (14), freshman Erica Barnes (13), senior forward Soana Lucet (12) and sophomore guard Davellyn Whyte (11).
"My team was just able to get me the ball and I was able to get a couple layups in transition," Arnold said. "I wouldn't say (this was a coming out game). If it's there, I'll take it. It could be me or my teammates any night. We just had to keep taking it to them and no matter what, just keep shooting the ball. We saw they were getting tired in the end and Coach told us to keep bringing it to them and we were able to keep getting the steals and layups."
Ibekwe led at the glass with 14 boards, including 12 defensively, to go along with 19 points. She collected her third double-double of the season. Whyte also picked up her first double-double of the season with 10 assists to go along with her 11 points. Jackson was 4-of-5 from three-point range and 5-of-6 from the field.
Arizona was solid in its offensive attack. The Wildcats shot 59.5 percent in the first half, 70.6 percent in the second half and 64.8 percent overall. Of the nine Wildcats who logged minutes, all scored at least two points and eight of the nine grabbed at least one rebound.
For Oregon, Amanda Johnson was the leading scorer with 16 points. Five Ducks scored in double digits. Nia Jackson led at the glass with eight rebounds while also dishing out five assists. The Ducks struggled with offense as they shot 39.5 percent in the first half, 36.4 percent for the second half and 37.9 percent overall. Oregon was 33-87 from the field, 13-33 from behind the arc and 15-22 from the free throw line.
Arizona's usual starting five again got the nod on Friday: Arnold, Ibekwe, Jackson, Lucet and Whyte. Junior guard Reiko Thomas saw the most minutes of the bench with 19. She pitched in with eight points, three rebounds and two assists.
The Wildcats will return to McKale on Sunday for a 1 p.m. contest with the Oregon State Beavers to continue Pac-10 play. For tickets to the women's basketball games, call 800-452-2287.
Niya Butts postgame Oregon.