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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona defeats Pacific 69-56 to stay undefeated at home

Courtney Talak
Arizona guard Taryn Griffey (3) runs downfield with the ball in McKale Center during Saturday’s game against University of the Pacific. Arizona defeated University of the Pacific 69-56.

Malena Washington and A’Shanti Coleman both had a career-high in points as the Arizona women’s basketball team beat Pacific (4-4) 69-56 on Saturday afternoon at McKale Center.

The win pushes the Wildcats to 6-1 on the season.

“It feels great to be 6-1, 7-0 would be better, but 6-1 feels outstanding as well,” Arizona head coach Niya Butts said. “We’ve been in some tight ballgames this year already and to stick together as a team and handle that adversity…I can’t say enough about this team. I just really like where we are right now and now we just have to continue to grow.”

The first half was a back and forth affair.

In the first quarter, there were ten lead changes, and neither team led by more than three points.

Washington came off the bench and immediately hit a three to put Arizona up 11-9, but Pacific would tie things up shortly after.

Farrin Bell dished it to a cutting Brianna Workman to put Arizona up 15-13 later in the first quarter, but Pacific would respond with a three-pointer to re-take the lead. There would be two more lead changes in the quarter, but a bucket by Workman would give the Wildcats a 19-18 lead after one.

In the second quarter, Bell would hit a runner to extend Arizona’s lead to 28-22, but the separation wouldn’t last as Pacific would cut it to 28-26.

Then, Lauren Evans drove the basket with less than a minute left in the quarter and finished through traffic to put the Wildcats up 30-26 heading into halftime.

The Wildcats held the Tigers to a 31 percent field goal percentage and shot nearly 50% from the field themselves, but Pacific’s 11 offensive rebounds and Arizona’s nine turnovers kept the Tigers in it.

“We gave up 11 offensive rebounds in the first half and that’s certainly not something you want to do,” Butts said. “We need to do a better job of finishing our defense as well as taking care of the basketball.”

Neither team was able to pull away from the other in the first half, but Arizona would manage to get some space in the third quarter.

It would take some time, however.

A Nasha Queenland three-pointer to start the quarter would bring the Tigers within one, and the Wildcats struggled to get their own offense going. The Tigers started the second half in a 2-3 zone, which stymied Arizona. It couldn’t generate quality looks and the team missed its first four shots of the quarter.

The Wildcats’ defense preserved the lead until the offense finally got things started, however.

Washington hit a three and then Workman got a steal and took it coast to coast for the bucket to put Arizona up 35-29. Workman would then get a steal on the ensuing inbounds pass and lay it in to bump the lead to up to 37-29.

“I think initially we didn’t handle it very well,” Butts said of Pacific’s zone. “I didn’t like our spacing at all, our passes were too long, and we were fumbling the ball around the perimeter, but I think once Malena got going and we got adjusted to it, we started to have a little bit more confidence.”

Washington’s hot shooting would continue and she would make three more three-pointers in the period and Arizona’s lead would balloon to 49-38, its biggest lead at the time.

“That feels good to help get my team over the hump,” Washington said. “I know we we’re kind of close going into the second half, so those threes were a crucial time to give us momentum.”

Washington and her shooting have been a big reason why the Wildcats have succeeded so far this season.

“I was thinking ‘shoot the ball, kid,’”” Butts said. “She has the green light, she knows that. She was shooting the ball with a lot of confidence, her teammates were giving that confidence to her, and it was a nice thing to see.”

It was Washington’s second game in a row in double figures, and she’s become a dangerous weapon off Arizona’s bench.

“She’s huge for us, coming off the bench and giving us instant offense as well as that spark and leadership on the floor,” Butts said.

Pacific would wind up cutting the lead to 49-43 early in the fourth quarter, but that’s as close as the Tigers would get, as the Wildcats would go on to win 69-56.

Aside from Washington’s 21 points, it was a balanced effort by Arizona. Ten different players scored and 19 of the Wildcats’ 25 made field goals were assisted on.

“We had too many first half turnovers, but in the second half we redeemed ourselves in that,” Butts said. “I’m just really proud of this group. We shared the ball really well.”

Arizona finished the game shooting 46 percent from the field, while they held Pacific to a 34.5 percent field goal percentage.

“That team came in averaging 70-plus points [per game], and we were able to hold them to 56. That’s not a bad defensive effort,” Butts said.

One reason for the team’s success on the defensive end was due to the paint protection of A’Shanti Coleman. The lanky forward had four blocks and was making it difficult for the Tigers’ to finish around the basket.

“She is just long, she has her hands up, and doesn’t have the biggest frame and we’re still trying to get her to be a little more physical, and pick up a little more weight, but she was just much more effective today,” Butts said.

Now on a four-game winning streak, the Wildcats will have some will much needed time off before they return action on Dec. 10 against Louisiana Tech.

That game will tipoff at 7 p.m. at McKale Center, and it’s the final game before the team heads to San Juan for the Puerto Rico Classic.

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