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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Basketball Guide 2014: Arizona women’s basketball hosts CSU Baskersfield

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Rebecca Marie Sasnett

Arizona women’s basketball head coach Niya Butts yells during Arizona’s 76-55 win against Concordia University on Tuesday in McKale Center. Butts and the Wildcats take on CSU Bakersfield on Monday.

The Arizona women’s basketball team officially opens its season on Monday when it plays host to Cal State Bakersfield for a 7 p.m. start. The Wildcats boast a full, healthy roster, including seven newcomers, after succumbing to a severe lack of depth last season.

During the UA’s lone exhibition game, a 76-55 victory over Concordia Irvine, the depth was on display as 11 players registered 10 or more minutes.

“We have 14 players on the roster,” Arizona women’s basketball head coach Niya Butts said. “Last season, we battled with fatigue and injuries. We feel pretty good with having plenty of people to play this year, and the rest is just us gelling together.”

When starting forward Alli Gloyd got in early foul trouble, forward Dezja James provided instant support on both offense and defense. Charise Holloway also impressed, making a trio of 3-pointers off the bench.

Butts said that she will test out different lineup rotations in the early going to gauge what works best and when.

With a young roster, the Wildcats will still rely heavily on their two seniors, Gloyd and point guard Candice Warthen. Warthen is the leading returning scorer, while Gloyd is coming back from an ACL injury that cost her the entire 2013-2014 season.

“We rely on them for everything, whether it’s offensively, defensive production, or leadership on and off the court,” Butts said. “They are going to have to set good and positive examples. I think they are doing a great job of that so far.”

The two will almost certainly be in the starting lineup on Monday as Arizona faces an experienced Cal State Bakersfield team. The Runners won their first game of the season in dominant fashion by beating Air Force 96-56. Guard Tyonna Outland led Bakersfield with 28 points.

While one game is not much of a sample size, Arizona needs to play a lockdown defensive game — or else the Runners may walk out of McKale Center with the upset. The Wildcats must close out defensive possessions and take advantage of second-chance opportunities, two areas that most concerned Butts.

“I hope to see more,” Butts said. “We had opportunities to come up with some loose balls defensively that we just did not come up with. We have to get on the floor and get those balls.”

Moreover, the UA cannot afford to be as sloppy with the ball as it was against Concordia. The Wildcats committed 18 turnovers to just 10 assists, including four turnovers each from starters Warthen and LaBrittney Jones.

The Wildcats play a deliberately up-tempo style that requires full energy and attention. With so many new pieces, Arizona’s offense is going to take some time to find its rhythm.

Butts said after the exhibition that her team is still “miles and miles away” from where it wants to be.

In the context of the season, an opening night loss to a mid-major opponent would sting, but perhaps what will be more telling than the final score will be how far the team has progressed in the past week of practices.

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Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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