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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona hits speed bumps

The Arizona women’s basketball team cruised to a 5-1 record before students headed home for winter break. 

Led by strong contributions from freshman Davellyn Whyte, junior Ify Ibekwe and junior transfer Soana Lucet, the Wildcats (7-7, 3-1 Pac-10) looked poised to finish their stretch of non-conference games on a high note before Pacific 10 Conference play began.

Arizona’s fast start came to a halt against New Mexico on Dec. 9, when the Lobos (9-5) handed the Wildcats an 81-61 loss at McKale Center, beginning a stretch of three consecutive losses for head coach Niya Butts’ squad.

“”Some nights we have trouble gelling in the beginning of games, but that just gets better as we play more games, and we are all working hard which is good,”” said sophomore guard Brooke Jackson.

In their next game in Atlanta, Ga., against then-unranked Georgia Tech, the Wildcats struggled to find offensive rhythm, resulting in a 70-48 loss. Their defeat at the hands of the Yellow Jackets (13-3) was followed by a 65-53 defeat against UC-Riverside — a game in which Arizona shot just 28 percent.

Arizona rebounded at home against Alabama A&M, riding an exceptional performance by Whyte, who finished with a game-high 21 points in the 86-50 win to end non-conference play.

Hoping to build some momentum in their Pac-10 opener against UCLA, the Wildcats lost 67-58 at home thanks to strong second-half shooting by the Bruins.

The crowd at McKale Center was treated to a thrilling game on Jan. 3 when Arizona faced USC.

Whyte tied the school scoring record for a freshman, netting 34 points in the game while playing a major role in orchestrating a 24-point comeback against the Trojans.

The Wildcats went on a 42-11 scoring run that lasted 17 minutes over two halves, only to yield a 19-2 USC run that pushed the game into overtime, where Arizona eventually fell 81-78 in a hard-fought effort.

“”In the USC game we were down by a lot,”” Jackson said. “”Even though we lost, we showed we were tough enough to hang in there and battle back to make it close.””

Butts’ team split their two-game set with the Washington schools on the road, recording their first conference victory against Washington State, with Ibekwe scoring 21 points.

With a 1-3 conference record, Arizona ranks eighth in the Pac-10. At the moment, the team finds itself at an important intersection of the season. 

It is early enough in Pac-10 play that a string of wins can put them near the top of the conference, but the Wildcats will have little chance to catch their breath as they face tough competition night-in and night-out.

Over the winter break, Butts and Wildcat players were quick to identify issues that needed to be resolved, from bringing the same intensity and energy to the court every night to reducing the amount of turnovers committed each game. However, Butts and the Wildcat players still see positives and growth in the future.

“”I think our mental toughness was definitely something that showed (over the break),”” Jackson said. “”I definitely think the team is growing together; the chemistry is there.””

Behind the trio of Whyte, Ibekwe and Lucet, the top three scorers respectively, the Wildcats will look to establish a consistent brand of basketball that will propel them from the bottom to the top of the conference.

Arizona will welcome Oregon State (9-4, 1-2) to McKale Center on Thursday, a game scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m.

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