PULLMAN, Wash. ?- The No. 25 Arizona women’s basketball team, playing without starters junior center Shawntinice Polk and freshman guard Jessica Arnold, edged Washington State 54-51 at Friel Court tonight. With the win, the Wildcats improve to 10-2 overall and 2-0 in Pac-10 play.
Arizona shot a season-low 31 percent from the field on the game. The Wildcats were 40 percent from three-point range and 57 percent from the charity stripe. Meanwhile, Washington State connected on just 27 percent of its shots, including 18 percent from downtown. Arizona was out-rebounded 52 to 40, its highest rebounding deficit of the season.
“This was an ugly game,” Head Coach Joan Bonvicini said. “I knew it was going to be tough. We spent eight hours in the airport and seven hours on a bus coming here yesterday. You could tell our kids were tired. We didn’t rebound well, but we found a way to win. This was really a must-win for our confidence.”
“We haven’t been able to make any adjustments to the injuries (of Polk and Arnold), because we didn’t even practice yesterday, we just had shoot-around,” she continued. “Now we can go back home and regroup before facing Arizona State next week.”
Senior Dee-Dee Wheeler led all players with 23 points. She also added team highs of nine rebounds, four assists and four steals. Junior Natalie Jones was the only other Wildcat in double-digit scoring with 13 points. She also pulled down six boards and nabbed four steals.
Arizona jumped out to a 14-0 lead, holding Washington State scoreless for the first 8:15 of the game. The Wildcats later led by as many as 15, but the Cougars used a 6-0 run to make it a nine-point game and later cut it to five (20-15). Arizona answered with five straight points to take a 25-15 lead, but Washington State scored the final four points of the half to make it a six-point game (25-19) at halftime.
Neither team shot well on the half. Arizona connected on just 9-of-31 (29 percent) from the field, while Washington State made 18 percent of its shots. The Wildcats were 4-of-9 (44 percent) from three-point range, compared to the 11 percent of the Cougars. However, Arizona lost the rebounding battle 28 to 24. Both teams committed 12 turnovers.
Wheeler led all players with 11 points, four assists and four rebounds, while Jones added eight points and three steals. Freshman Chari Smith pulled down five boards to pace the Wildcats.
After Arizona scored the first basket of the second half to extend its lead to eight, the Cougars narrowed it to two on two occasions. The Wildcats used a 6-0 run to extend the lead back to eight, but Washington State then scored seven in a row to make it a 41-40 game. The Cougars cut it to two twice, but that was as close as they would get.
Arizona shot 32 percent on the half, compared to Washington State’s 39 percent. The Cougars out-rebounded the Wildcats 24 to 16 on the half. Wheeler led the team with 12 points.
Arizona concludes its four-game road swing with a 6:30 p.m. game at instate rival Arizona State next Monday, Jan. 3, at Wells Fargo Arena.