Arizona women's basketball not finishing strong
Women's hoops might finish short of preseason goal
After dropping its fifth consecutive conference game, the Arizona women’s basketball team (11-10, 3-7 Pac-12) currently sits tied for eighth in the Pac-12 standings, and is in danger of repeating the failures of last season.
In 2011-12, the Wildcats began the season strong, opening conference play with an 11-1 overall record, but with an inconsistent lineup, they fell down the stretch, winning only four of their final 20 games. This season Arizona started off with a similar bang, finishing non-conference play with a 9-3 record, including some impressive road victories.
Senior captain Davellyn Whyte is expected to finish her final season as at least the second in all-time scoring in Wildcats history, although she has yet to reach the NCAA tournament as a Wildcat.
The Wildcats were picked in the preseason coaches’ poll to finish dead last in the conference, but they appeared to be defying the coaches and playing more as a middle-of-the-road team that could give some of the elite teams a run for their money. Even though they lacked size and strength, the athleticism that head coach Niya Butts had boasted about early in the season seemed to be compensating for the Wildcats’ weaknesses. Then an early home conference loss to Oregon State exposed some of Arizona’s weaknesses on both sides of the ball.
Tyler Baker / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA's Women's Basketball lost Sunday afternoon to Washington State University at Mckale Center.
“We just weren’t able to finish plays,” Butts said following the loss to the Beavers. “They played at a pace we wanted them to for the most part. We didn’t make enough plays or get enough stops.”
Two days after the loss to Oregon State, the Wildcats were able to rebound with a 100-68 victory over Oregon. The 32-point victory against the Ducks isn’t as impressive as it might have felt at the time; Oregon is currently in last place with a 3-19 overall record.
Since that weekend, the Wildcats haven’t been the same. They lost starting junior guard Kama Griffitts for four games due to personal reasons, which hurt the Wildcats’ scoring, and their athletic full court defense no longer translated into points. Arizona did manage to come away with a close four-point road victory at Utah, but the Utes are sitting in 11th place.
The Wildcats are one of the more athletic teams in the conference. Arizona is sixth in points per game (63.9), fifth in assists (13) and third in steals (9.95). Arizona runs the court well and gets many possessions, but all the athleticism and hustle hasn’t equaled many victories lately because it hasn’t been able to finish plays. The Wildcats are ninth in scoring defense (64.5), 11th in field goal percentage (.36) and defensive field goal percentage (.39), and 10th in the conference in rebounding margin (-0.2), all while averaging 19.1 turnovers per game.
Arizona has played better since the return of Griffitts, but a nine-point loss to seventh place Washington State last Sunday brought up memories of last season.
The Wildcats have won three conference games this season, the same number they won in all of last year. But with two road games this weekend in northern California against No. 4 Stanford and No. 6 California, don’t expect them to surpass that record this weekend. With only six regular season games following this weekend, three of them against teams with better records, it looks as if it will be tough for the Wildcats to even earn a spot in the NCAA women’s NIT.
“Taking Davellyn in her final year to the tournament, that is currently a goal for this team,” Butts said in October. “We want to get there.”