W-hoops falls to the Trees
Another chapter in Arizona women's basketball lore was finally completed after NCAA Tournament dreams came to a close in Los Angeles with a loss to the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal, 72-52, on March 12.
After squeezing by Washington State in the first round of the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament on March 11, the Wildcats (14-17, 6-12 Pac-10) were unable to quell the offensive juggernaut that is the Stanford Cardinal (31-1, 18-0).
""We just didn't have enough power down the stretch to stay in it,"" said head coach Niya Butts. ""But we fought hard and I'm certainly proud of (the team) for that.""
After the tip, Arizona's upset dreams began fading fast.
With 10:34 left in the first half, the Wildcats had only managed to put away 3-for-15 field goals, giving the Cardinal a 16-7 advantage.
Turning toward Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and forward Ify Ibekwe, Arizona cut its deficit to three points after three consecutive Ibekwe buckets with 7:46 showing on the clock.
Stanford's offense opened up again and responded to the Wildcats push by orchestrating an 18-11 run over seven minutes of play, giving the Cardinal a 10-point, 34-24 lead going into the locker room.
""They're so well-versed offensively,"" Butts said. ""If you don't go at them, I think you're just sitting back and playing into their hands.""
Returning to the court, Stanford maintained the offensive hand for the first five minutes.
With help from forwards Ibekwe and Soana Lucet, Arizona rallied back for a 9-2 run with the final bucket of the surge coming off a 3-point shot from guard Brooke Jackson that brought the Wildcats within three.
The Arizona offensive spurt prompted Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer to bring in All-American Jayne Appel, whose sore ankle had kept her out for a majority of the contest.
""Appel is a whole other dimension. She requires so much attention, and she's such a great passer,"" Butts said. ""Even when you double-team her, she finds the open player, and they just rotate the ball so much better when she's in the post.""
After back-to-back 3-pointers from guards Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen and a jumper from guard JJ Hones, the Cardinal advantage returned to double-digits from 11:47 until the final buzzer.
With a seven-point lead, Stanford turned toward Appel and Pac-10 Player of the Year Nnemkadi Ogwumike, whose combined efforts brought the next 14 Cardinal points and took Stanford to a 64-49 lead with three minutes left to play, the glass slipper all but breaking for Arizona's Cinderella story.