Arizona women's basketball treading water
At 5-3 the Arizona women's basketball team is sitting in the middle of the Pac-12
The Arizona women’s basketball team was picked to finish dead last in the preseason Pac-12 coaches poll.
But so far, it has done what was expected of them in their non-conference schedule. The Wildcats have beaten the teams they were expected to and have struggled to play consistently against their tougher opponents.
“I like our non-conference schedule,” head coach Niya Butts said before the season. ”It’s going to challenge us, and also give us a chance to grow and figure out our rotations before the tough Pac-12 play.”
With a non-conference record of 5-3 Arizona currently sits in seventh place in the Pac-12 standings. However, their non-conference strength of schedule ranks 240th in the country and is 11th in the Pac-12, just a spot higher than Utah’s 241st ranking. That being said, Utah has taken advantage of their lackluster schedule, as the Utes are 7-0 so far this season.
Compared to last season, the Wildcats finished their difficult non-conference schedule with an impressive 11-1 record, only to underperform in the second half of the season in Pac-12 play, finishing the season 3-14, including an eight-game losing streak.
Many of the Wildcats games have been a tale of two halves this season. Their Nov. 13 victory over UNLV (3-4) aside, Arizona has yet to play a consistent 40 minuets of basketball.
In the first half of their most recent loss to Long Beach State, the Wildcats scored a season high 43 points and shot at a respectable 55.6 percent. But a totally different Wildcat team showed up in the second half, as Arizona only scored 18 points with a 17.9 percent shooting percentage, eventually blowing a halftime lead.
Butts said after the game that the Wildcats’ poor starts were because of a lack of focus and not being ready to respond when teams get hot.
When the Wildcats have been consistent, it usually pays off for them. Senior guard and captain Davellyn Whyte leads Arizona in points (15.8) and assists (5.1) per game. Whyte is also second on the team in rebounds (5.4), just averaging one less rebound per game than junior forward Erica Barnes.
Whyte averages more than 34 minutes per game and has played the entire game twice.
Nevertheless, that could be the problem.
The Wildcats have seen nice contributions from a few other members of the team, but they are not consistent.
On the road against UNLV, junior forward Kama Griffitts scored a career high 25 points, making seven three-pointers. Griffitts has yet to have a performance like she had against the Running Rebels.
Forwards Alli Gloyd and Cheshi Poston have helped with depth in the frontcourt, but neither has stepped up and become a legitimate threat on offense every game.
Butts needs more consistent play out of Arizona if the Wildcats are going to be able to compete in conference play.
“We have to have someone step up when Davellyn is not clicking on all cylinders,” Butts said following their lost to BYU.
Next to Whyte, Barnes entered the season with the most experience on the Arizona team. Barnes started at the center position for the first five games of the season, but following its 64-53 lost to UTEP on Nov. 23, Barnes was moved to the bench. The switch has seemed to work for now. In her three games coming off the bench, Barnes has seen her averages in both point and rebound increase.