March 13, 2009
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - All-Pac-10 forward Ify Ibekwe tallied 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead #9-seeded Arizona to a 79-72 win over 8th-seeded Washington State, Thursday evening in the opening round of the 2009 State Farm Pac-10 Women’s Basketball Tournament at the Galen Center.
A game that saw nine ties and nine lead changes was decided thanks to two second half spurts as Arizona pulled away for its first Pac-10 Tournament win since a 69-58 win over Oregon State in 2007.
The teams traded buckets through much of the start to the second half before the Cougars crept ahead with a brief spurt. Danielle LeNoir hit a three in the corner, then Jazmine Perkins converted in transition after a blocked shot by Ebonee Coates to give Washington State a 56-50 lead.
The lead was shortlived as Arizona answered with a 8-2 run to draw level again with 8:19 remaining. Following a free throw by Amina Njonkou, Ibekwe nailed a pair of jumpers and added a free throw before Courtney Clements converted a fastbreak lay-up after a steal and assist by Ibekwe to tie the game at 58-58 with 8:19 remaining.
The three-point shot, once an achilles heel of the Wildcats, delivered the knockout blow to the Cougars as Ashley Frazier broke a 60-60 deadlock at the 6:52 mark with back-to-back treys. Ibekwe dropped a high-low pass down to Njonkou to complete a 8-1 run and Arizona grabbed a 68-61 lead.
Ebonee Coates answered with an uncontested lay-up, but Clements continued her strong performance with a deep three from the top of the key with a hand in her face to give the Cats their biggest lead of the game to that point, 71-63, and a cushion that would prove enough for the win.
April Cook did her best to keep her team in it with a pair of late three-pointers and three free throws, but Frazier knocked down a pull-up jumper from the free throw line, then Reiko Thomas hit a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to nine. Thomas added two more late free throws between single tallies by Frazier and Clements to fend off any comeback attempt.
The Wildcats finished the game a solid 30-of-62 (.484) from the field and 6-of-13 (.462) from three-point range to overcome a woeful 13-of-25 (.520) clip at the free throw line. The Cats also bounced back from a slow start on the glass to achieve a 44-36 rebounding advantage.
The first half was truly a tale of two as each team took turns putting its stamp on the game. Washington State came out firing from three-point range, burying 8-of-14 (.571) from beyond the arc. Katie Appleton hit three-straight while April Cook hit an early pair to give the Cougars a 28-17 advantage with 7:54 before the break.
The final eight minutes, however, were claimed by the Wildcats as they finished with the slim advantage. Courtney Clements caught fire after a slow start and scored 10 points during a 13-3 run that gave Arizona its first lead at 31-30 with 3:36 remaining.
Arizona was an even 50 percent (16-of-32) in the opening stanza and dominated play inside with a 20-6 advantage in the paint. After its hot start, Washington State made just 3-of-10 down the stretch and finished 13-of-33 (.394) including misfiring on each of its last four three-point attempts.
Cook led the way for Washington State (11-19) with 22 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists, but was just 6-of-20 from the field. Katie Appleton added 14 points and five assists while Perkins and Danielle LeNoir each had 10 points.
Ibekwe added five assists, two blocked shots and two steals to her game-high scoring and rebound totals. Clements finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds while Njonkou added 15 points and 8 rebounds. Frazier finished with 12 points, 9 in the second half, and dished out four assists.
Arizona (12-18) takes on top-seeded Stanford in quarterfinal round action with tip-off scheduled for 5:00 p.m. (PST)