Nov. 13, 2003
Tucson, Ariz. (Nov. 13) - Playing without the services of injured starting guard Aimee Grzyb, the University of Arizona women's basketball team fell to Athletes in Action, 81-77, in overtime during an exhibition game at home on Thursday night.
The contest was a tight one right from the start, and AIA opened the game with a 13-7 spurt. The Cats scrapped back to within two (13-11) at 12:44, but less than a minute later, they were down by six (17-11) again. Arizona clamped down defensively and scored 10 unanswered points to go ahead by four (21-17) with 9:24 to go in the half.
Athletes in Action responded with a 16-5 run to gain a seven-point (33-26) lead at 5:41, and the closest the Cats came for the rest of the half was three points. AIA held a 40-34 advantage at the break.
The Wildcats came out on fire at the start of the second half, ripping off 11 unanswered points in the first five minutes of the period to take a five-point (45-40) lead. AIA chipped away at the Cats' cushion, though, and regained a one-point (57-56) lead with 7:19 to go in the game. Over the final seven minutes of regulation, there were four ties and five lead changes, and at the buzzer, the two squads were knotted at 69-69.
Arizona opened the overtime with a bucket that was quickly answered by AIA. Junior guard Dee-Dee Wheeler drained two free throw attempts to give the Cats a two-point (73-71) edge with 3:50 to go. The Wildcats had a meager one-point (75-74) lead with 2:07 left, then missed five straight shots while AIA rebuilt a comfortable six-point (81-75) advantage. Wheeler made a bucket with just three seconds left to give the game its final margin of four.
"We made a lot of bad decisions tonight. Athletes in Action is a veteran team, but we had every opportunity to win the game at the end of regulation," said head coach Joan Bonvicini, who is in her 13th year at the helm of the Wildcat program. "Defensively, we broke down. We made a lot of young mistakes. It hurt not to have Aimee, but that is not an excuse"
Four Wildcats reached double digits in scoring, let by All-America candidate Shawntinice Polk's double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds. Wheeler just missed a double-double of her own with 15 points and nine rebounds, while racking up eight assists. Freshman forward Shannon Hobson came off the bench for 11 points and three boards, while junior center Danielle Adefeso added 10 points and five rebounds.
As a team, Arizona committed 31 turnovers in the game, obviously missing Grzyb's ball-handling skills. According to Bonvicini, Grzyb has a bone bruise and is expected to return to action on Monday.
The Wildcats, who are preseason ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press Top 25, will officially tip off the season on Saturday, Nov. 22, against Northern Arizona at 2 p.m. in McKale Center.