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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

UA gets UCLA in Pac-12 tournament

Arizona women’s basketball faces UCLA Thursday afternoon in the first round of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, held in Seattle, Wash. The No. 11 seed Wildcats (10-19, 3-15) are up against the same Bruins team that handed them a 75-41 defeat in Los Angeles less than two weeks ago.

“It doesn’t hurt that we played them only a few games ago,” Arizona women’s basketball coach Niya Butts said. “It will still be fresh, but we look forward to seeing them on a neutral court.”

The Wildcats were dominated in practically every area in the road loss to UCLA.

The Bruins capitalized on an abundance of Arizona turnovers, shot 46 percent from the field and held the UA to 18 percent shooting in the second half. Arizona was also out-rebounded 50-32.

The loss, which came on UCLA’s Senior Day, was perhaps Arizona’s most uninspired performance of the season.

Arizona should head into the rematch with greater confidence following a 64-41 home win over Utah in the regular-season finale.

The Wildcats displayed one of their best offensive displays of the season, shooting 52 percent, while preventing the Utes from getting many open looks. Utah scored just 12 points in the second half.

“We defended very well, and on top of that, we scored,” Arizona guard Candice Warthen said. “So as those have been problems for us in previous games, we’ll just have to carry this momentum over. If we defend and score, we’re going to give ourselves a chance.”

Arizona will rely on Warthen for a bulk of the scoring, as has been the case all season. The senior leads the team with 12.8 points per game and was named an All-Pac-12 Conference Honorable Mention on Tuesday.

When Warthen is shooting well, it usually means that the Wildcats’ offense is working.

A supporting cast of JaLea Bennett, Malena Washington and LaBrittney Jones have also shown glimpses of offensive potential, although rarely together on the same night.

Arizona’s lack of consistency, not just across the season but within a single half, plagued the team through conference play. The solid final performance against the Utes, however, should clear some of Butts’ woes.

“When you play well defensively and well offensively, we will certainly break down this film and watch what we did, how we did things,” Butts said.

While the Bruins have a wider range of weapons than Utah, they have struggled in their own right and finished the regular season with a 74-61 loss at Washington.

UCLA is a middle-of-the-pack shooting team led by guard Nirra Fields. Kari Korver, a strong outside shooter, may be able to do the most damage if she gets hot.

The Bruins lack of size plays to the Wildcats’ advantage, especially in defending the paint.

As long as the Wildcats take care of the ball and don’t suffer any major cold spells, they should find themselves in position to win.

If the Wildcats were to advance, they would face No. 3 seed Stanford on Friday, which lost to Arizona in Tucson earlier this season.

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Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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