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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


‘Cats eye winning season

Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Arizona women’s basketball team has the opportunity to accomplish something that has not been done in five years.

It’s simple.

Pending its play in the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament, if the Wildcats (13-12, 6-8 Pac-10) can split their next four games, they will finish the regular season above .500 for the first time since the 2004-05 season.

This is easier said than done. Starting tonight at 7 in McKale Center, Arizona will play a red-hot California team that has won 10 of its last 12 games and four in a row. After this, it will continue to face a tough slate of games that stand in the way of a winning season.

In her second year as head coach, Niya Butts is aware of the importance in breaking the losing season streak but was not ready for her team to look past Cal.

“”When you measure how you’re doing as a team and where you are as a program, certainly (a winning season) would be a good accomplishment for us considering that hasn’t happened for a while,”” Butts said. “”But at the same time, we’re still looking at that day-by-day, game-by-game approach.””

The Golden Bears (16-10, 10-5) run their offense through senior guard Alexis Gray-Lawson who is the conference’s second-leading scorer. She torched the Wildcats for 39 points the last time the two teams played in a 73-53 Cal win at Berkeley.

Her outburst was a focal point in practice this week for Arizona as the Wildcats simulated ways to prevent her from a repeat performance.

“”To have a kid hang 39 points on us last time, that is unacceptable,”” said assistant coach Sue Darling. “”I think we are going to do a much better job guarding her this time.””

After a tough loss to ASU on Sunday, the Wildcats are back in the comforts of McKale Center, where they have defended their home court this season with an 8-4 record.

The Wildcats’ fan base has grown with every win, and UA will need the energy of a home crowd against a likely NCAA Tournament-bound Cal team.

“”I certainly think our crowd has been pretty good this year, and we wouldn’t have won some of the games at home if we hadn’t had them behind us,”” Butts said.

McKale Center was home to Arizona’s victory against Oregon on Jan. 16 — its only win against a team that sits higher in the Pac-10 standings than it does.

Echoing Butts’ “”one game at a time”” approach, Darling talked about Arizona’s struggles with tougher competition and noted how a win tonight against the third-ranked team in the Pac-10 would be a step forward for the Wildcats.

“”We are very good at beating teams who are below us in the standings, and we’ve only beaten one team above us,”” Darling said. “”For me, that’s our next step: to beat somebody above us in the standings.””

Tonight marks one of only two remaining home games for Arizona, and one more win in McKale Center would solidify the program’s progress in front of its fans.

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