Arizona women’s basketball knocked off No. 12 Stanford on Sunday, picking up the type of resume win that most NCAA tournament bubble teams salivate over.
Yet for the Wildcats, the win does nothing to improve their postseason chances. Those hopes faded away when the UA began Pac-12 Conference play with seven consecutive losses.
Perhaps that’s why Arizona head coach Niya Butts didn’t sound overjoyed at the postgame press conference. After all, where had this play been all year?
“We know this is only one game,” Butts said. “We certainly don’t want to diminish the fact that it’s Stanford. It’s against a ranked opponent, and they’re among one of the top teams in our league, but at the same time, we know we want to win more basketball games.”
The Wildcats didn’t beat Stanford because of lights-out shooting or a stellar individual performance. The UA shot 40 percent from the field, which isn’t bad but is hardly exemplary.
The difference on Sunday was that Arizona thoroughly carried out its blueprint when the game was on the line. Point guard Candice Warthen hit key baskets. Breanna Workman and JaLea Bennett attacked the Cardinal down low. No one committed any costly turnovers in the final minutes.
“I believe in film and showing them what kind of results you get when executing the way you are supposed to execute,” Butts said. “I’ll show that to them and we’ll go over it as usual and then we’ll get to work.”
More simply put: These types of wins are what happens when everyone buys into the program.
It was only two days prior against California that the Wildcats gave one of their more uninspired efforts of the season. Early in the game, Cal got whatever it wanted in the paint while Arizona started off 3-19 from the field.
The Golden Bears had doubled up the UA 33-16 by halftime. Cal’s final winning margin of 19 points made the game seem closer than it actually was. While Arizona shot the ball only a few percentage points lower than it did against Stanford, a lack of focus haunted the team on both sides.
The UA allowed Cal to shoot 61 percent in the second half, the result of giving up easy baskets around the hoop. The Wildcats also turned the ball over 22 times.
Arizona cut the turnover number in half on Sunday and held Stanford to 40 percent from the field.
“I think we believed,” Butts said. “We believed we could win and also executed the game plan. We did a much better job in this game than we did in our first game versus Stanford.”
If confidence is what has been lacking for this team, then a win over the Cardinal should serve as a propeller going forward.
Arizona still has much to play for, even with the postseason all but out of reach, including the Pac-12 tournament in less than a month.
With a signature win against Stanford under their belt, the Wildcats should face the rest of their schedule knowing they can compete with anyone when the intensity is there each game.
_______________Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.