Women's basketball travels to Pac-12 tournament
Senior guard Carissa Crutchfield breaks through Southern California’s defense during Arizona’s 54-45 loss against USC in McKale Center on Jan. 12.
The regular season is officially over for the Arizona women’s basketball team and all that’s left is the Pac-12 Conference tournament. The Wildcats are the 12th seed and will take on the fifth-seed USC Trojans today at 3:30 p.m. MST in Seattle, Wash. The game can be seen on the Pac-12 Networks.
The last time Arizona was 12th seed in the conference tournament was in 2012 when the Wildcats upset fifth-seed UCLA before losing to fourth-seed ASU in the next round.
“It’s one game at a time, and it’s win or go home,” UA head coach Niya Butts said. “That’s a different feel … but I’m looking forward to it. They understand the challenges that are ahead. … You play the game for a reason and anything can happen.”
Arizona (5-24) is on a six-game losing streak and most recently lost 90-78 at Oregon in what was an offensive shootout. The Ducks hit 11 3-pointers around the dominating interior play of forward Jillian Alleyne.
However, the Wildcats will see a very different match-up in the tournament. USC is not nearly as fast-paced as Oregon but did manage to defeat Arizona 54-45 in McKale Center in the only match-up between the two teams this season.
Butts said the regular season doesn’t matter anymore and that the team has to have a different mentality now. With Arizona finishing last in the Pac-12, there is really nothing to lose this weekend. It’s human nature to write off the underdog, and that could work to the team’s advantage, particularly if the Wildcats can beat USC and advance deeper in the tournament.
“We have nothing to lose,” senior guard Carissa Crutchfield said. “All we have to do is go out there, play hard and play with some passion and pride, and we could come out with the win.”
USC is coached by Basketball Hall of Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke and will likely take the Wildcats very seriously. Like Butts said, it’s win or go home.
USC is led by the inside-out combination of guard Ariya Crook and forward Cassie Harberts. The duo has combined per game averages of 32 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.4 steals. Harberts finished 12th in the conference in scoring.
Stopping interior presences has been a struggle for Arizona all season, and Harberts will prove no different. Controlling the paint against Harberts and USC will give Arizona its best chance for an upset. Expect to see freshmen forwards LaBrittney Jones and Breanna Workman split time between guarding Harberts.
The Wildcats know that this could very well be the last game of the season but have no intentions of going out against USC.
“Our mentality as a team is just to win and play hard,” sophomore guard Keyahndra Cannon said. “We don’t want to go home on the first night.”
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseOfPayne555