A late comeback attempt fell short as the Arizona women’s basketball team lost its fifth straight game this season at the hands of the UAB Blazers (6-3), 63-53, on Thursday in Birmingham, Ala.
The Wildcats (1-7) dug themselves an 11-point hole early in the first half as the offense struggled yet again. The team shot merely 33.3 percent for the game. Arizona’s leading scorer, Candice Warthen, finished with just 6 points on 3-16 shooting from the field, and the team as a whole didn’t fare much better.
“Everyone has their nights when their shots won’t fall,” senior guard Kama Griffitts said. “We just have to come back from it and do better the next game.”
After being down by 10 at halftime, the Wildcats continued to shoot poorly, and the UAB lead ballooned to 15 points behind UAB sophomore guard Chelsee Black and senior forward Karisma Chapman. Black went 11-12 from the free throw line, and the two combined for 27 points and 14 rebounds.
Arizona’s offense continued the season-long theme of hot and cold streaks with a 10-0 run late in the second half to cut the UAB lead to 47-45 with 7:48 left in the game. However, after taking a 52-51 lead with 3:59 left, the Wildcats were outscored 12-1 to finish out the game.
“We made a surge late, but made mistakes in the last minutes,” UA head coach Niya Butts said in a press release. “We started to make some plays defensively, giving them a tough time, but we didn’t always capitalize offensively as a team.”
Senior forward Erica Barnes was one of the few bright spots for the Wildcats, as she played 28 minutes off the bench and led the team in points (11) and rebounds (7). However, her production off the bench was not enough to get Arizona over the hump.
Even against a smaller UAB team, rebounding and points in the paint were catastrophic issues for Arizona. The Wildcats were outrebounded 44-36 by the Blazers and lost the points in the paint battle by a 32-22 margin. This marks the third straight game in which the Wildcats have lost the rebounding margin and the fifth straight game in which they’ve been outscored in the paint.
Not only are rebounding and points in the paint key to victory, but they are paramount for an undersized and inexperienced Arizona squad. Three games remain in non-conference play for Butts to improve upon these areas. If there is no improvement, Arizona will struggle to consistently win Pac-12 conference games this season.
Looking ahead, the Wildcats have 10 days off before playing at home against Texas Tech on Dec. 15. Griffitts said she thinks the 10-day break is exactly what the team needs.
“It’ll be really good for us,” Griffitts said. “We have a lot of learning to do and [we’ll] focus a lot on our defense.”
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseofPayne555