The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

69° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Changes paying off for W-hoops

    Arizona forward Ify Ibekwe drives through the lane during a 68-44 UA win against Oregon on Feb. 7 in McKale Center. Ibekwe, the Wildcats most consistent offensive threat this season, scored a career-high 27 points in Sundays win against USC in Los Angeles.
    Arizona forward Ify Ibekwe drives through the lane during a 68-44 UA win against Oregon on Feb. 7 in McKale Center. Ibekwe, the Wildcats’ most consistent offensive threat this season, scored a career-high 27 points in Sunday’s win against USC in Los Angeles.

    With the season winding down, Arizona women’s basketball team has faced the reality of their season. Niya Butts’ first year as head coach is a rebuilding transformation that can only build on experience for more success in the program. In her first year of coaching, she’s figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and that means trying to match new players with new techniques to find the right combination.

    Mixing the Lineups

    One of the key factors to finding success is Butts’ ability to find her players strengths and use them to Arizona’s advantage. This includes switching starters for bench players in game time situation. Recently, Reiko Thomas and Courtney Clements, who have both been starters, have been providing a spark off the bench for the Wildcats. Thomas has returned to her starting position after an ankle injury, but Clements remains a deadly three-point threat in Butts’ arsenal.

    In Arizona’s victory over Oregon, it was senior Amina Njonkou who energized the Arizona offense and gave them the fighting spirit to defend home court.

    “”Today, coach told me that she needed me to bring energy off the bench,”” Njonkou said. “”I think it worked. I can say I had energy coming off the bench.””

    Njonkou has not started a game since Arizona’s loss to Oregon State, and in her bench play, the Wildcats have won two games against the Pacific 10 conference.

    The switching of the lineup also gives other players, like senior Sarah Hays, minutes in the game to be productive. Although the Arizona bench does not excel in depth, it still gives the Wildcats the freshness and surprise they need to make games close against the Pac-10.

    Defensive Presence

    The change of personnel has also brought a new intensity level to Arizona. Not only are they causing havoc on the court, they are also finding ways to produce their own points. Although constant scoring has not been perfected, the Wildcats have the ability to stop teams on runs, and push the momentum in their favor.

    Earlier in the season, the Arizona defense would break down late in games. However, Butts has encouraged her squad to make it through the entire 40 minutes.

    “”We’ve got to get stops. We’ve just got to get stops,”” sophomore forward Ify Ibekwe said. “”We have to keep teams from shooting all those threes. And we have to out rebounds them””.

    These seemingly simple aspects of the game are some of the main problems for Arizona. In order to have a synchronized game, the Wildcats must combine their defensive mindset with a hunger for the opposite basket. This way both ends of the court are equally important to the Wildcat’s overall strategy.

    Their defense has given way to offensive success. Against USC, Arizona forced 21 turnovers and scored 24 points off of the Trojans’ mistakes.

    For Butts and the Wildcats, the spark starts on the defensive side of the ball. Their ability to transfer momentum from one end of the court to another has them looking like a whole different team.

    The main difference in Arizona’s recent play? Butts attributes it to something as simple as will.

    “”They finished plays. They decided that they wanted to do something and stepped up to the plate.””

    More to Discover
    Activate Search