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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona women’s basketball defeats Oregon in first round of Pac-12 Conference Tournament

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Angeline Carbajal

Arizona forward LaBrittney Jones (24) bypasses Stanford forward Erica McCall (24) while making a jump shot in McKale Center on Feb. 8. Jones returns for her junior season as a veteran leader for a determined Wildcat team.

The 11th-seeded Arizona women’s basketball team will live to play another day as it upset the sixth-seeded Oregon Ducks, 74-68, in the opening round of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament.

“It’s March,” Arizona head coach Niya Butts said. “Anything can happen in March.”

LaBrittney Jones scored a season-high 26 points, while Malena Washington and Breanna Workman each had 14 points of their own, as the Wildcats withstood a fourth-quarter Oregon run en rout to the victory.

“They did it together,” Butts said. “They stayed together even on the bench even when Oregon made their run, and so I’m proud of this group.”

After outscoring the Ducks 22-7 in the second quarter, the Wildcats would hold a 12-point lead heading into halftime.

Jones scored eight of her 26 points in the third quarter and Workman hit a 3-pointer by right before the third quarter buzzer.

However, the Ducks would heat up in the fourth quarter, scoring 28 points, and slowly chipped away at Arizona’s lead.

A layup and two free throws by Maite Cazorla cut the Wildcats’ lead to 67-62 with 3:13 left, and Jacinta Vandenberg tack on another pair of free throws a minute later to make it a 67-64 game.

The Wildcats have had trouble closing out games this season, namely blowing a five-point lead with a minute to go on Senior Day a couple weeks ago, but that wouldn’t be the case this time.

“Me, [Jones], and [Washington] stayed calm for the rest of our team,” Workman said. “We didn’t get too frantic or worried about it. [We] kept running the offense, keep doing the things we needed to do, keep pushing at them.”

The team hit five of its six free throw attempts down the stretch and got the stops it needed to seal the victory over the sixth-seeded Ducks.

“We did it with our defense at the end,” Butts said. “We were able to make enough plays and we were able to get some production offensively. I’m so proud of our group for playing tough today.”

With it being announced on Tuesday that Butts won’t be returning to the program next season, the players found this to be a perfect opportunity to show their gratitude for their soon-to-be-departing head coach, and they capitalized.

“Me personally and I know a lot of my teammates wanted this a lot for her,” Workman said. “She did a lot for us and that’s the best way to show our appreciation is to get this win.”

“We know it’s our coaching staff’s last time at this, and so we wanted to give it our all for them,” added Jones.

For Butts, it was her chance to thank the University of Arizona.

“I’m happy to be here for as long as I can,” she said. “I want to take this opportunity, where I have a national audience, to say thanks to everybody at Arizona, from our fans, to the [athletic director], to administration. Those people have been fantastic to me and I am so grateful, extremely humbled, and blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of something special.”

“I will tell everybody that will listen to me that it’s a great place.”

Meanwhile, the season will continue for at least one more game – a matchup against the third-seeded UCLA Bruins on Friday at 3 p.m.

“The idea in March is to win the game in front of you,” Butts said. “We took care of Oregon today…and we get the opportunity to play against UCLA, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

UCLA beat Arizona handily when the two teams squared off earlier in the season but, as Butts said, anything can happen in March.

Jonathan Hawthorne contributed to this story. 

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