It's Carissa Crutchfield's turn for Arizona women's basketball
In what most likely was senior Davellyn Whyte’s final game in an Arizona uniform, the UA’s second all-time leading scorer left it all on the court Thursday afternoon. Whyte finished the Wildcats’ first round conference tournament game with 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists. But Whyte is gone now, and Arizona must look toward the future.
The silver lining in Arizona’s 18-point loss was the performance of junior transfer point guard, Carissa Crutchfield.
Thursday, Crutchfield stood for the most part in the shadow of Whyte’s final game. Though Crutchfield’s night would be overlooked, the confidence and leadership the point guard showed could give hope to head coach Niya Butts about next year’s team.
Crutchfield finished Thursday’s game with only two points, one assist and three rebounds, but she never seemed out of rhythm, whereas in October, Crutchfield constantly seemed lost with Whyte on the court.
As Thursday’s game went along, it became clear the afternoon belonged to Whyte. But Crutchfield kept up with Whyte’s high tempo and tenacious hustle, characteristics that Butts has been looking for from her team all year. They are also the skills that Whyte has perfected over the past four years in Tucson.
Early in the season, Crutchfield struggled to find playing time, as she was still getting adjusted to her new team and new style of play. But as Crutchfield became more comfortable and understood what Butts wanted, she would see an increase in playing time and production.
Crutchfield’s growth in confidence directly made her a better shooter and defender. Thursday was a perfect example, as Utah in the first half shot 11-13 from beyond the arc but in the second half only converted 1-10.
Even though Crutchfield only has one more year of eligibility, she has the potential to be next year’s team leader. As of right now, she is not as much of a deep threat shooter as Whyte, and due to her smaller stature she also isn’t as much of a post-up player. However, if her confidence continues to rise as it has over this season, she and junior forwards Erica Barnes and Alli Gloyd could be a threat next year in the conference for a dynamic run-and-gun team.
Next winter, Arizona will bring back many other talented players who do a variety of skills well. The 2013-14 team doesn’t need to have a single player to focus itself around, like it has for the past four years, but Cruchfield has shown as of late that she has the potential to be the general of a team that will be searching for a new identity.