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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats find early road success, match last year’s road wins

Jesus Barrera

Arizona guard Taryn Griffey (3) runs after Eastern New Mexico in McKale Center on Tuesday, Nov. 10. Griffey and the Wildcats’ defense has held opponents to 33 percent shooting on the season.

The Arizona women’s basketball team has only played five games, but the Wildcats have already matched their road win total from last season.

The Wildcats (4-1) rallied late to defeat North Texas 51-44 in Denton, Texas, on Friday for their second road win of the season.

The Mean Green started the game on a 15-5 run, but the Wildcats cut the deficit to just four at halftime thanks to three first-half 3-pointers by JaLea Bennett. 

Bennett, who grew up near UNT, went 6-for-9 from the field and led the team with 17 points.

“She stepped up big time,” said Arizona head coach Niya Butts. “She really made some tough baskets today. She finished from the 3-point line and she showed up when some of our other scorers didn’t do much.”

Taryn Griffey tied the game at 28 in the start of the third quarter, but Mean Green took a 32-28 lead with just under five minutes left in the quarter. 

Arizona’s defense took over from then on, however. North Texas did not score another point in the quarter and Wildcats tied things up heading into the fourth quarter thanks to a jumper from Malena Washington and two free throws from Bennett.

The Wildcats held North Texas to just four third-quarter points, as the Mean Green shot just 25 percent from the field in the second half.

“We made some adjustments on their ball screens where they were attacking us a lot in the first half and we were helping too much,” Butts said. “And we just locked in from there. We got aggressive on the offensive end and just started to make some plays.”

The fourth quarter was much of the same. Arizona’s defense locked in. 

Breanna Workman started the quarter with a layup to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game and Arizona found itself up 38-32 two buckets later.

Two free throws by Workman would put the Wildcats up by eight—their largest lead of the game—with just over three minutes left, as Arizona held on for its fourth win of the year.

It wasn’t a sharp game for either side, as the teams combined for 50 turnovers.

“It was ugly; there’s no other way to say it. It was an ugly win,” Butts said. “But we’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day. We’re going to take this one and get out of here.”

The Wildcats will begin a three-game home stand Wednesday against New Mexico State at 7 p.m. Pacific and Louisiana Tech will then travel to Tucson on Saturday and Dec. 10, respectively.

New Mexico State comes to McKale Center sporting a perfect 6-0 record. 

Arizona’s defense has held its opponents to a 33.3 percent field goal percentage this season, but the Aggies will be one of the better offensive teams the Wildcats have faced. New Mexico State has made 43 percent of its shots this season and has four players that average over 10 points per game. 

The Aggies’ balanced and potent offense could present a challenge for Arizona’s stout defense. 

Pacific (4-2) does not boast the type of offense the Aggies do, as the Tigers have shot just 33 percent this season. They do have two 3-point marksmen in Hailie Eackles and Erin Butler, though. 

Eackles is averaging 16.2 points per game this season and has made 18 of her 46 3-point attempts (39.1 percent), while Butler has connected on 17 of her 46 3-point attempts (37 percent).

Opponents are shooting just 24.3 percent from behind the arc against Arizona, however, so the Wildcats may be able to stifle their perimeter games. 

Tip off against Pacific is set for 1 p.m. Saturday in McKale Center. Both games will be streamed on Arizona Athletics.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.

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