TUCSON, Ariz. ?- The No. 25 Arizona women’s basketball team extended its home winning streak to 31 in exciting fashion, defeating UNC Greensboro by 50 points, 98-48, in the first round of the Mission Management & Trust 2004 Fiesta Classic at McKale Center this afternoon, and setting a new tournament record for points in a game along the way. With the win, the Wildcats improve to 5-1 on the season.
Arizona shot 53 percent from the field, 28 percent from three-point range and 69 percent from the free throw line on the game. Meanwhile, UNCG made just 29 percent of its shots from the field and 65 percent from the charity stripe. The Spartans were 0-for-12 from downtown. The Wildcats out-rebounded UNCG 46 to 34 and forced 26 Spartan turnovers.
“Today we played a team game,” Head Coach Joan Bonvicini said. “We were unselfish and we had good passing. We’ve been really struggling to play through the second half. We wanted to keep the intensity up and play hard. It was a good win for us.”
Senior Dee-Dee Wheeler led a group of five Wildcats in double-digit scoring, finishing with a game-high 19 points, including two three-pointers. She also added six assists, five rebounds and four steals.
Freshman Ashley Whisonant finished with a career-high 16 points, while junior Natalie Jones chipped in 15 points and seven boards.
Junior Shawntinice Polk was just shy of a triple-double, tallying 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks in just 18 minutes. It was her third double-double of the season.
Rounding out the group was senior Katrina Lindner, who totaled a career-high 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting, including 3-of-4 from downtown.
The Wildcats quickly built a large lead in the first half, using an 11-3 run to take a 20-point (34-14) lead. Arizona then outscored the Spartans 19-10 for the remainder of the half to go into the locker room up by 29, 53-24. The 53 points was a first-half season high for Arizona.
The Wildcats shot 50 percent from the field on the half, compared to the 30 percent of UNCG. Arizona also out-rebounded the Spartans 23 to 20 and forced 15 UNCG turnovers while committing a season-low four.
Whisonant and Wheeler led the Wildcats with 14 points apiece, while freshman Chari Smith pulled down a team-high seven boards on the half. Wheeler made her first three-pointer of the season at the 2:38 mark.
Arizona scored the first 10 points of the second half and never looked back, building its lead to as many as 52. The Wildcats shot 56 percent from the field and 38 percent from beyond the arc on the half, while the Spartans shot just 27 percent. Arizona also out-rebounded UNCG 23 to 13. Jones led the way with 10 points for the Wildcats.
The championship game will be the battle of the Wildcats as Arizona faces Weber State for the tournament title at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow. “Tomorrow is going to be a good game,” Bonvicini said. “Weber State does a good job of shooting, boxing out and rebounding. They execute well and they can get it done down low, too. We’ll defend them by getting out and pressuring them and getting through screens.”
Delaware and UNC Greensboro face-off at 1 p.m. in the consolation game.