TUCSON, Ariz. ?- The Arizona women’s basketball team overcame several deficits to complete the season sweep of UCLA this evening, defeating the Bruins 76-73 in front of 2010 fans at McKale Center. With the win, the Wildcats improve to 16-8 overall and 8-5 in Pac-10 play. UCLA falls to 15-8 overall and 9-5 in conference games.
Arizona shot 41 percent from the field, 44 percent from three-point range and 64 percent from the free throw line on the game. Meanwhile, UCLA connected on 45, 31 and 78 percent, respectively, on the game. The Bruins out-rebounded Arizona 41 to 36, but turned the ball over 25 times.
“UCLA is a great basketball team, but we showed a lot of character tonight,” Head Coach Joan Bonvicini said. “I am just glad this game is over and I’m really glad that we won. Everyone put in a great team effort. This was a pretty big win and from here we have to take it one game at a time.”
Junior Natalie Jones led Arizona with a career-high 25 points on 8-of-12 (67 percent) from the field, including 4-of-6 from downtown. She also added three steals. “I really pushed Natalie tonight and she ended up having a career high,” Bonvicini said.
Senior Dee-Dee Wheeler and freshman Ashley Whisonant tallied 14 points and two steals apiece. Senior Danielle Adefeso pulled down a team-high nine rebounds. She also scored eight points and blocked two shots.
UCLA jumped out to a 16-2 lead as the Wildcats failed to score a field goal for the first 6:01 of the game. Arizona answered with a 7-0 run to cut the lead to seven, and later made it a five-point game on a pair of Wheeler free throws. The Wildcats tied the game at the 2:28 mark on a Wheeler three-pointer and took their first lead of the game (28-26) just over a minute later on a Whisonant trey. Arizona went into the locker room at halftime up by four points, 32-28.
“When they were up at the beginning of the first half, the first thing to do was not to panic,” Bonvicini said. “We were clearly getting out-rebounded and so we knew we needed to step up. We did that and at halftime we were leading.”
Arizona shot just 35 percent from the field on the half, compared to the 41 percent of the Bruins. UCLA also out-rebounded the Wildcats 19 to 16. There were 26 turnovers on the half ?- 16 by the Bruins and 11 by Arizona. Whisonant paced Arizona with nine points, followed by Wheeler with seven. Adefeso pulled down a team-high four boards on the half.
UCLA scored the first four points of the second half in less than a minute to tie the game at 32. Both teams then traded several baskets before the Bruins used a 7-0 run to go up by four, 50-46. Arizona then went on its own 7-0 run to take a three-point lead. A Jessica Arnold three-pointer just over two minutes later gave the Wildcats a seven-point lead (59-52), but the Bruins wouldn’t die, scoring eight straight points to go up 60-59.
Arizona then scored six in a row to take a 65-60 lead, but UCLA cut it to one on free throws. The Bruins took the lead back at the 2:59 mark, but the Wildcats quickly regained the lead on a pair of Shannon Hobson free throws. A Wheeler jumper with 1:38 left put Arizona up by three.
After both teams traded baskets, the Bruins’ Lisa Willis hit a three with 11 seconds left to tie the game. She then fouled Wheeler on the next possession. Wheeler made one of two free throws to give the Wildcats a 74-73 lead. However, Willis committed another foul after the miss to send Jones to the free throw line. After Jones made both baskets, UCLA’s Nikki Blue attempted a half-court shot as time expired that hit the rim but didn’t go in.
Arizona hosts Southern California at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12. The game will be televised live to a national audience on FSN. The Arizona Athletics Department will collect band-aids, bandages and other first aid supplies for the earthquake victims of southeast Asia during Tsunami Relief Day. Fans can drop off first aid supplies in front of the McKale Ticket Office beginning at 2:30 p.m.