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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Wildcats knock off Louisiana Tech 77-67 for fifth straight victory

Four Wildcats would score in double figures as the Arizona women’s basketball team would knock off Louisiana Tech 77-67 on Thursday night at McKale Center.

It’s the fifth straight win for the Wildcats and gives them a 7-1 record through the first eight games. It is the team’s best start since 2011.

The teams traded baskets at the very beginning of the game, but a dazzling spin move by JaLea Bennett would give the Wildcats an 8-6 lead with 6:42 left in the first quarter. She had 14 points on the night.

Then, Malena Washington would come off the bench and provide instant offense for Arizona.

She intercepted a pass and took it the other way for a layup to extend Arizona’s lead to 10-6, then on the next possession, Washington found Dezja James under the basket with a wraparound pass. James would lay it in and make it 12-6.

A few minutes later, Washington would knock down a three to make it 17-8. She would finish the game with 11 points.

The Wildcats dominated the quarter and a jumper by Destiny Graham would put them up by 10 with just 17 seconds left, but Louisiana Tech’s Ashley Santos would hit a three-pointer as time expired to make it 24-17 after one.

The Wildcats were able to score at will, as they shot 65 percent in the opening quarter, but they only found themselves up by seven because they simply couldn’t get any stops. The Lady Techers shot 50 percent from the field.

“We couldn’t get anything going defensively,” Arizona head coach Niya Butts said. “I think we allowed too many points early in the first half and they shot way too high of a percentage. We pride ourselves on our defense and we weren’t able to get any stops.”

In the second quarter, Louisiana Tech would continue to have no trouble scoring, while the Wildcats’ offense would cool off a bit.

A three-pointer by Tiara Davenport would cut Arizona’s once double-digit lead to just two with 7:37 left in the second quarter.

The Wildcats did manage to create some separation as the quarter came to close, however. Farrin Bell made a layup and then got an and-one a couple possessions later to put Arizona up 37-31 with 1:48 left in the half.

Bell, who started at point guard in the absence of injured Taryn Griffey, finished with 10 points and five rebounds. Griffey got hurt in practice, but Butts said she should be back for the team’s next game. The team was being overly cautious.

“Farrin Bell did a great job of filling in and stepping into that role,” Butts said. “We feel good about that decision [to hold Griffey out].”

The Wildcats would be up 39-33 at the half, but it felt like it should’ve been more that due to team’s hot shooting. But turnovers and poor defense prevented them from taking a larger lead.

“We turned the ball over and missed some easy shot opportunities there and we were fouling,” Butts said. “They went to the free throw line a lot during that time and we can’t do that. We have to be more disciplined than that. “

In the second half, Arizona’s offense again came out on fire.

It looked as if Arizona might pull away, but Louisiana Tech’s Brandi Wingate had other plans. She had eight third quarter points and would cut the Wildcats’ lead to just six late in the quarter.

The Wildcats got it back to eight, then as time expired, Lauren Evans grabbed an offensive rebound and lay it up and in to put the team up 58-48 heading into the fourth quarter. Offensive rebounds and second chance points were the story of the night for Arizona it seemed.

“What I did like is we got 20 more shot attempts than them,” Butts said. “We went to the boards, 17 offensive boards, and we were able to get 22 second chance points off those rebounds.”

In the fourth quarter, Wingate again would make things difficult on Arizona’s defense and Louisiana Tech would make it a six-point game with 2:25 left. It wouldn’t get any closer than that, however, and Arizona would hold on to win 77-67 despite Wingate’s 26-point effort.

“I certainly didn’t like our effort defensively in terms…we couldn’t do much with Wingate,” Butts said. “26 points and 10-13 at the foul line. We really did not effect here at all. They did a really good job of getting her the basketball.”

Nonetheless, the team picked up its seventh win and is now 5-0 at home.

“At this point in the season to be going into Finals break at 7-1, taking care of home court before the Christmas holidays is big for us,” Butts said. “We want McKale [Center] to be a tough place to play in and we want to make sure our fans leave the arena feeling good about that.”

Still, there is notable room for improvement.

“Of course we’re very happy with the success we’ve had, but we can be doing a lot better,” JaLea Bennett said. “We should’ve played a lot better, executed a lot better, and we should’ve defended a lot better too.”

The Wildcats will now head to San Juan to take part in the Puerto Rico Classic. The team will play three games in three days, and its first game in the tournament is against SMU on Saturday Dec. 19. Tipoff is at 11:15 a.m.

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