Wildcats Top Highlanders, 53-48
Dec. 17, 2008
TUCSON, Ariz. - Sophomore forward Ify Ibekwe had 23 points and a game-high 15 rebounds to lead Arizona to a 53-48 win over visiting UC Riverside, Wednesday evening in the McKale Center.
The win gives the Wildcats a season-best three-game winning streak headed into the Christmas holiday break, a streak that was compiled by sweeping the homestand that ended this evening.
Ibekwe recorded her 6th double-double of the season and 4th game of the season with at least 15 rebounds. Ibekwe leads the Pac-10 with a rebounding average of 11.9 per game.
Defense was again the name of the game for the Wildcats as they limited the Highlanders to just 17 field goals and a .309 field goal percentage. The Highlanders were also limited to three-point shots for the first 19 minutes of the game, failing to convert a conventional field goal until Roney Friend hit a short jumper with 1:09 left before the break.
The Wildcats used a mix of man-to-man and zone defenses in the first half before strictly sitting in a zone for the second half. The Highlanders, who were 7-of-22 from beyond the arc, relied almost entirely on Kemie Nkele for their offense.
Nkele led all scorers with 27 points to go along with nine rebounds, but she was just 9-of-26 from the field overall with a 6-of-13 ledger from distance. A five-point halftime edge for the Wildcats was stretched to nine on a pair of occasions midway through the second half, but Chanel Foster converted a steal and lay-up before Nkele drained a trey to spark a 7-0 run that cut the gap to two.
Nkele cut the lead down to two for the final time with 1:39 left after hitting a pair of free throws, but Ibekwe answered with a 15-foot jumper from the baseline with 1:10 remaining. Courtney Clements stole the ball on the next UCR possession and went the distance for a lay-up and 49-43 advantage that proved enough for the victory.
After another cold first half shooting, the Wildcats were an even 50 percent (11-of-22) after the break and committed a season-low 12 turnovers. Despite not hitting a three-point shot, the Cats continued to convert at the free throw line, knocking down 9-of-11 attempts.
While Ibekwe led the charge on the boards, four of her teammates also had at least four rebounds to anchor a 41-31 edge on the glass. Sarah Hays came off the bench with Amina Njonkou in foul trouble and gave the Cats eight solid minutes with four points and five boards in the first half.
Though no other Arizona player tallied double figures, Reiko Thomas and Clements each had 8 points and four rebounds. Ashley Frazier had another steady game at the point, scoring six points to go along with five rebounds and five assists.
Friend tossed in seven points for UC Riverside (3-6) while Tainoisouti Lott added six points and five boards for the Highlanders, who went 0-2 on their swing through Arizona.
Arizona (6-4) is off for 12 days before returning to the court on Monday, December 29 at Boise State with tip-off scheduled for 6:00 p.m.