Analysis: Fatigue and inconsistency problematic for the Wildcats after fifth straight loss
Freshman forward Sam Thomas (14) reaches for the ball during the game against the San Diego State Aztecs in McKale Center on Dec. 3.
The Arizona women's basketball team tried to end a four-game losing streak at McKale on Sunday, Dec. 3 against the San Diego State Aztecs, but fell 78-67. The 'Cats showed fatigue and scoring inconsistency, which led to another devastating loss. Now sitting on a 2-5 record, Arizona has two games left until Pac-12 Conference play leaving people to wonder what is going wrong on the court?
After five seniors graduated after the 2016-2017 season, the lack of depth and experience were two major concerns for a developing Wildcat team this season. Only seven players on the roster see the court, and three of them are true freshman.
“There is a big learning curve for all of them, and it is competitive without a doubt,” Barnes said. “We’re trying to figure things out with only six or seven players, in terms of who can be a leader, or who can step up and make plays, but you know without three seniors, or that set leadership on the team it’s hard.”
When playing teams like San Diego State, who can field nine or ten experienced players, playing and scoring consistently without getting too tired also poses a tough challenge.
“Some of it is fatigue, we have a really short bench… we’re talking a seven, really six-person rotation,” Barnes said. “I’m trying to rotate people at the two or three to mix things up, but it’s hard. With a longer bench, I would be able to press a little more [on defense], but we just don’t have the personnel.”
Having the energy or momentum to play consistently can make or break a team, and for the 'Cats this season, finding that energy has been tough.
“It’s more fatigue,” junior post-forward Destiny Graham said. “I couldn’t layup stronger later on, I knew I was fading away a lot.”
Scoring when the team needs it most has been a problem for Arizona so far this season, three of their last four losses have been close by eight points or less.
“It’s hard for a young team, because they don’t realize every possession matters,” Barnes said. “Whether it’s a free throw, or a turnover, or a jump shot, if you miss one, it can lose you the game."
Whether it’s been starting the game weak and finishing strong, or vice versa, Arizona has been unable to play consistently for all 40 minutes. In four of their last five losses they have been outscored by the half, sometimes by a margin of 20 points.
“We’ve been losing, and when we lose we either have a good start or a bad end, or a bad start and a good end”, Graham said.
Scoring droughts, or cold streaks at midpoints in the game also puts Arizona at a disadvantage against high tempo teams, and forces them to be in a position where they have to comeback.
“We have these eight minute stretches where we’re not scoring, or six minute stretches, and those are the times when we have to get to the bucket,” Barnes said. ”As young team, though it’s hard to play consistently, and we just don’t have the personnel.”
Against the Aztecs, the Wildcats played stronger on defense, and improved by out-rebounding the Aztecs, and only fielding eight turnovers. Multiple scores had over 10 points, including: Sam Thomas, Sammy Fatkin, JaLea Bennett and Graham. The Wildcats had more shot attempts, but even if they played competitive it still wasn’t enough.
“A lot of it’s the small things we have to improve, like getting fifty fifty ball, and by getting stops we need to,” Barnes said, “but as a young team it’s difficult to play consistently.”
And the only way for the Wildcats to improve is with more experience, practice and time.
“When we get to that point where we can play hard every day, and show up for 40 minutes instead of just 30, that’s when we’ll start surprising people,” Barnes said. “It’s just a process.”
Arizona looks to grab their first win in over two weeks on Thursday, Dec. 7 when they take on the NAU Lumberjacks in Flagstaff at 6:30 p.m.
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