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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Confidence issues plaguing Wildcats

Arizona women’s basketball head coach Niya Butts and the rest of the coaching staff has tried to diagnose the problem with the Wildcats in their current conference rut — one that’s seen them go 2-7 in their last nine outings.

She’s talked about rebounding, shot selection, defense and energy, all things that can drive any coach mad if they are not in place. Despite that, as far as I know, there’s one thing that has not been discussed. It only takes one trip to McKale Center to see what the problem is with the team: confidence.

Watch a Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks or Oklahoma City Thunder game when you get a chance. What you’re looking for is the way Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Durant react when they miss shots. They keep shooting. They hustle down the court to get stops and maybe get another attempt at the previous shot. All three players have a “killer instinct” that can’t be coached or taught.

The Wildcats do not have such an instinct.

When Arizona wins, it finds ways to win big in many different fashions. There have been game-winning shots, like sophomore Erica Barnes’ against Oregon State. There has been high scoring, like when the Wildcats topped the 80-point mark in wins against BYU-Hawaii, Georgia Southern, Syracuse, New Mexico State and Oregon.

When Arizona gets down, it’s not out of line to feel bad for the Wildcats. Shots don’t go in or a turnover is committed and it becomes an easy bucket for the opposition, leading to a forced deep ball that may or may not go in, starting the cycle again.

The current four-game losing streak certainly doesn’t help, nor do this week’s opponents — Cal on Thursday night, and fourth-ranked Stanford on Saturday afternoon. Both games will be played at home, which Butts has said helps her team.

“We’re ready to play in front of our home fans, hopefully get some good vibes from them and do what we need to do,” Butts said.

That’s a nice sentiment, but what’s going to happen when the best offensive rebounding team in the Pac-12 begins to muscle the Wildcats out of the paint? What happens if Arizona’s leading scorer, Whyte, misses her first three shots, pulls a LeBron, and chooses to defer all game?

Addressing that specifically, Butts said the team will just have to keep pushing regardless.

“We just have to be physical and push back, or hit first,” Butts said. “We have to continue to keep them encouraged. Encourage them to take those shots, but also making sure that we’re doing things offensively to get that confidence.”

If Arizona doesn’t get out of the mental rut it’s in, it could be a long rest of the season for the Wildcats. They’re halfway through conference play and playtime is over.

— Cameron Moon is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatSports.

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