Arizona women hold off New Mexico State

Box score

TUCSON — The University of Arizona women’s basketball team improved to 7-2 on the season with a 71-59 win Sunday over New Mexico State.

Senior Soana Lucet, with 15 points, was Arizona’s leading scorer for

the second time this season. She was one of four Wildcats to score in

double digits — sophomore Davellyn Whyte had 14 while freshman Erica Barnes and junior Brooke Jackson each had 12.

“It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win,” Arizona coach Niya Butts said. “For our team to grind it out was good to see, but it was a hard win. We weren’t looking as good as usual, but it’s understandable. We have to take care of the ball better, and I’m sure we’ll have this rectified by Tuesday.

“Any time we have a break, it’s good for us, but not playing gets us off a little bit on our timing. Sometimes the only medicine for basketball is playing an actual game. We didn’t shoot very well today, but the second half was better. I think we took too many 3s in the first half, but we didn’t have our legs, so they wouldn’t fall. We have to do better in the transition and keep up the tempo for the entire 40 minutes.”

For the fourth time this season, senior Ify Ibekwe led Arizona on the glass with 14 rebounds, including nine defensively. She also had eight points. Arizona outrebounded New Mexico State 49-31.

Ibekwe was back in action after missing the win at New Mexico while recovering from an illness.

“I haven’t played for longer than the rest of the team, so I anticipated a bit of a slow start, but we came out and did what we had to do,” Ibekwe said. “We took the shots we usually take, but today they just weren’t falling. We have an advantage with having another home game on Tuesday, and we’ll pick it back up before we go out. We have to pick up on what we didn’t do as well and just make it work.”

Poor shooting led to a low-scoring first half, and it ended 32-25 in favor of the Wildcats. Arizona shot 36.7 percent from the field (11 for 30), barely edging out New Mexico State’s 31.3 percent (10 for 32). Barnes scored 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first half.

Both teams picked it up offensively in the second half, with Arizona shooting 48.1 percent and New Mexico State shooting 37.9 percent. The Wildcats earned their biggest lead of the game — 12 points — with a layup from Ibekwe at the 11:23 mark. The Aggies cut the Arizona lead to four points with two field goals and two made free throws with five minutes to play but got no closer.

Freshman Candice Warthen logged the most minutes off the bench with 18. She chipped in with six points and two rebounds.

Junior Shanita Arnold dished out seven assists and Lucet blocked three shots.

Jasmine Lowe was the Aggies’ leading scorer with 14 points. Jasmine Rutledge pulled down six rebounds.