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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Women’s hoops confident in Pac-12 Tourney chances despite inconsistency

The season for the Arizona women’s basketball team has been a roller coaster. An 11-1 record was followed up by a 3-12 showing, including a disheartening and head-scratching eight-game losing streak — six of which were lost by a total of 36 points.

The losing streak ended last Thursday, as Arizona (14-13, 3-11 Pac-12) pummeled Washington State 90-51. With it went the long faces and shocked looks of players and coaches after games, as they struggled to find the right way to put into words how another game slipped away in what started out as such a promising season.

In Tuesday’s press conference, the tone from head coach Niya Butts was different than most recent meetings. Butts sounded refreshed after losing the burden of the slump, but as any coach would, remained focused on the next opponent.

“I hate to be repetitive, but it’s one game at a time, and just trying to continue to improve and get better at the things we’re doing well at the moment,” she said. “Obviously, we want to correct or fix the things we’re not doing well, or haven’t been very consistent at.”

So far this season, that has been just about anything you can think of. The Wildcats have been inconsistent on the glass — they’ve outrebounded teams by as many as 21 and lost. They’ve had poor performances from team leaders such as senior point guard Shanita Arnold and leading scorer Davellyn Whyte.

There have been emotional letdowns, such as falling to Cal at home in overtime after trailing by double digits until just under the ten minute mark in the second half, a game coach Butts thought the team deserved to win because of “what was in their chest.”

In sports, oftentimes, a team’s success is measured by regular and post-season record. Its record might not show it, but this team has been a success. Teams in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, when it seems as though everything they did was wrong, might fold. It’s a testament to the coaching staff and leadership of the team that the Wildcats still hold their heads high and remain positive as the season winds down.

“We’re fighting to get better as Arizona,” Butts said. “We’re fighting to see some sort of difference in our team, in our players.”

The focus for players has switched from trying to find the sort of confidence a winning team displays to finishing strong, Whyte said.

“Of course, it’s one game at a time, but looking at the whole picture, we just have to finish strong,” she said. “That’s the big thing right now.”

The recurring theme from the team, apart from taking the season “one game at a time” has been exhibiting some fight and some heart. Arizona has certainly done that in a season that looked as though it was about to fold on top of itself in the midst of injuries to key players like sophomore forward Erica Barnes and guard Candice Warthen, as well as the eight-game slump.

The Wildcats head into Los Angeles to face UCLA and USC this week for two of their final three games. The Pac-12 tournament is right around the corner, and Whyte remains positive about her team’s chances despite being alone in last place in the conference.

“If we play like we’re capable of, and push everything else to the side,” Whyte said, “I think we can be in the championship game for the Pac-12 tournament,”

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