TUCSON, Ariz. ?- The No. 24 Arizona women’s basketball team won its 30th-consecutive home game tonight, easily defeating Texas El Paso 79-47, as the Wildcats scored 44 points off 34 Miner turnovers. With the victory, Arizona improves to 4-1 on the season.
Arizona shot 48 percent from the field and 57 percent from three-point range on the game, but just 54 percent from the free throw line. UTEP connected on just 33 percent from the field, 36 percent from beyond the arc and 77 percent from the free throw line. The Wildcats also out-rebounded the Miners 36 to 33.
“I thought defensively we were pretty good ?- we forced UTEP away from what they wanted to do,” Head Coach Joan Bonvicini said. “Our rebounding needs to get better. We also had some foul trouble. We’re still getting too many fouls.”
Ten of the 11 Wildcats that suited up for the game scored, led by junior guard Natalie Jones, who posted a game-high 17 points on 7-of-11 from the field. She also added four assists and three rebounds. “Natalie had her best game with the Wildcats,” Bonvicini said. “She’s starting to play with more confidence. She’s such a good defender. She’s starting to really understand the game and reading things a lot better.”
Senior point guard Dee-Dee Wheeler finished with 16 points, five steals, three assists, two rebounds and a blocked shot. Three players -- junior center Shawntinice Polk, sophomore Shannon Hobson and freshman Jessica Arnold ?- finished with nine points apiece for Arizona. Polk also pulled down a team-high six boards.
Arizona dominated the entire first half, holding the Miners scoreless for the first 4:19 of the game and then for the next 5:21, allowing the Wildcats to take a 20-5 lead. Arizona led by as many as 31 points and took a 27-point lead (44-17) into the locker room at halftime.
The Wildcats shot 57 percent from the field and 75 percent from three-point range, but just 56 percent from the free throw line in the first half. Meanwhile, UTEP connected on just 25 percent from the field and from downtown. Both teams pulled down 15 rebounds on the half, but Arizona forced 19 Miner turnovers. Jones led all players with 15 points on 6-of-7 (.857) from the field.
The Miners cut the Wildcat lead to 24 early in the second half, but Arizona went on a 14-0 run to go up 64-26 with 9:50 left in the game. Arizona went on to win 79-47, outscoring UTEP 35-30 in the second half, the first time the Wildcats have outscored an opponent all season. Arizona shot 41 percent from the field on the half, compared to the 40 percent of the Miners. Wheeler led the Wildcats with 10 points on the half.
Arizona hosts the Mission Management & Trust Fiesta Classic Presented by the Sheraton Tucson Hotel this Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 4-5. The complete tournament schedule is as follows:
Saturday, Dec. 4
Delaware vs. Weber State 1 p.m.
Arizona vs. UNC-Greensboro 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 5
Consolation Game 1 p.m.
Championship Game 3:30 p.m.