TUCSON, Ariz. ?- It was a night of milestones as senior point guard Dee-Dee Wheeler scored an Arizona single game record-tying 35 points and the Arizona women’s basketball team won its 33rd consecutive home game with a 96-80 victory over UC Santa Barbara in front of 2,035 fans at McKale Center tonight. With the win, Arizona improves to 7-2 on the season.
In addition to the 35 points, Wheeler pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds for just her second career double-double. The senior also drained a career-high seven three-pointers, which also ties a school record for most treys in a game. She was 13-of-22 (59 percent) from the field and 7-of-11 (64 percent) from downtown. She added five assists and four steals.
“Dee-Dee played her best game ever as a Wildcat,” Head Coach Joan Bonvicini said. “She played like a senior. She played like a leader. I think as the game kept going, she took the game into her own hands from rebounding to scoring.”
Junior Natalie Jones also tallied a career-high on the night. The guard finished with 23 points on 8-of-10 from the floor, including 4-of-5 from downtown. She added eight assists, three rebounds and two steals. Meanwhile junior center Shawntinice Polk tallied 17 points, four rebounds and four assists.
“This was a statement game for us,” Bonvicini said. “UC Santa Barbara is the best team we have played at home. We knew we had to be aggressive. They were going to come out on fire after a 10-day layoff. The key for tonight was to play aggressively.”
Arizona shot 54 percent from the field, 57 percent from three-point range and 78 percent from the free throw line on the game. The Wildcats made a season-high 12 long balls, tied for the second highest trey total in school history. The Gauchos combined for a 43 percent shooting percentage. Both teams pulled down 33 boards and committed 17 turnovers on the game.
Arizona opened the game on a 7-0 run, and quickly built a 10-point lead (20-10). After the Gauchos cut it to six, the Wildcats scored 10 straight points to take a 39-23 lead. UCSB closed out the half on a 9-2 run to go into the locker room down by 10 points, 46-36.
Arizona shot 53 percent from the field, 60 percent from downtown and 80 percent from the free throw line on the half. The Gauchos connected on 47 percent from the field, 57 percent from three-point range and were a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. The Wildcats out-rebounded UCSB 16 to 14 and forced 10 Gaucho turnovers on the half.
Jones led a group of three Wildcats in double-digit scoring on the half with 14 points on a perfect 5-for-5 from the field, including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. She also tallied six assists and two steals on the half. Wheeler added 11 points, while Polk had 10.
Arizona scored the first four points of the second half and built its lead to as many as 15 points (65-50). However, the Gauchos used a 9-1 run to make it a seven-point game. The Wildcats later used a 15-4 run to take an 85-67 lead and put the game away for good.
The Wildcats shot 55 percent both from the field and from downtown on the half. Wheeler paced Arizona with 24 points and 10 boards in the second half alone.
Arizona plays the first of four road games at 2 p.m. (CDT) this Sunday, Dec. 19, at Chicago State.