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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats come out slow but find their way in exhibition contest


The Arizona Wildcats played hard and fast, and finished off the Eastern New Mexico Greyhounds with a final score of 69-50. Arizona Senior Guard JaLea Bennet finished with a double double of 35 points and 10 rebounds. 

The Arizona women’s basketball team toppled Eastern New Mexico, 69-50, in their first exhibition of the season on Monday, Oct. 30. First game jitters were abundant, and a mesh of new faces and uncertainty was on display; especially in the first quarter as the Wildcats struggled to find their way, and gave up an early lead.

“It was ugly at times,” said Arizona head Coach Adia Barnes said. “We had some pretty good execution, with a lot of young players out there, but there was still a lot we needed to improve on.”

That was until senior JaLea Bennett checked in. Bennett helped the Wildcats get into the first half, with a 32-22 lead on the shoulders of her 17-point production. Throughout the night Bennett was aggressive, and showcased her finesse and power in the paint, spinning her way around defenders and grabbing rebounds.

“Coach Barnes told me to attack,” Bennett said. “When I first got in I shot two jump shots, and then coach Barnes told me to get the ball and attack, because they can’t guard me. So I did.”

Bennett ended up having a career night, scoring 35-points in 25 minutes, demolishing her personal best of 21-points scored versus Southern Utah last year. She played more confidently in comparison to her last three seasons, and showed that she has the ability to carry the Wildcats through what may be a difficult, rebuilding year. 

“If I play confident and the freshmen see it then they have a reason to be confident, and it helps them play better,” Bennett said.

Sophomore guard Lucia Alonso had six-points to lead the team in the first quarter, higher then her last season average of 5.3, and helped keep the score close with ENMU. Early on the offense generated most of their production with Alonso at the arc, and appeared to have trouble creating lanes early in the game. She finished the game with ten points, six from the perimeter.

Bennett and Alonso led the team in points on the court, and look to take the helm of a developing team this season. 

“They both have improved not only on the court, but off the court. All the little things they do, like lead lay up lines, and leadership in the locker room, you wouldn’t see JaLea or Lucia do that last year,” Barnes said. “They’re really embracing that leadership role.”

Kat Wright, the senior forward from Florida Atlantic, also had her debut for the Wildcats. Wright, who averaged eleven points a game last season, was expected to be highly productive against the Greyhounds, but after twenty three minutes of playing time she scored no points, and had only one rebound. 

“People forget that Kat’s been out for a long time,” Barnes said. “Once she gets her confidence back she’ll be fine. I think there’ll be nights where she goes seven for eight.”

It wasn’t until the late third quarter when Wright finally scored, draining one her signature threes. 

A variety of freshman were cycled on the court throughout the game. Some notable performers were Sam Thomas, the six-foot forward from Michigan, and guard Sammy Fatkin. 

“It was a good time for the freshman, like Sammy and Sam Thomas to get those jitters out. Learning through that, they’ll get better next game, and by the time we get to the non-conference schedule, they’ll be prepared,” Barnes said.

Thomas showed a lot of potential for the upcoming season as she was all over the court, creating turnovers on defense and consistently driving to the basket with the ball. 

“Sam did a really good job of stepping up,” Bennett said.

Thomas finished the night with four-points and five rebounds, the second most out of the freshmen. 

Fatkin also had an impressive performance in her first game with the Wildcats. She went two for three on the night, and ended up scoring five-points and three rebounds.

The Wildcats take on Western New Mexico in another home exhibition on Monday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m.

Follow Ian Tisdale on Twitter

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