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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Underclassmen step up for Arizona women’s basketball

Rebecca Marie Sasnett

Arizona women’s basketball forward LaBrittney Jones blocks Concordia center Ashley Ellis during Arizona’s 76-55 win against Concordia in McKale Center on Tuesday. Jones is one of several underclassmen on the team who has taken up a bigger role this year.

Senior guard Candice Warthen and senior forward Alli Gloyd are supposed to be the go-to players for an inexperienced Arizona women’s basketball team. They’re the ones who the freshmen and sophomores are to look up to, on and off the court.

Or, as Arizona head coach Niya Butts simply put it at the team’s media day, “We rely on them for everything.”

Yet on the night of Arizona’s first game of the season, an exhibition versus Concordia University, Irvine, it was the seniors who looked on as the underclassmen guided the Wildcats to a 76-55 win.

While Gloyd sat out much of the game with foul trouble and Warthen went a measly 2-12 from the field, other players stepped up.

Sophomore forward LaBrittney Jones was the team’s leading scorer with 14 points. True freshman guard Charise Holloway provided a spark off the bench in the form of three 3-pointers. Redshirt freshman forward Dezja James had a near double-double with 12 points and eight rebounds.

In total, 12 different Wildcats registered minutes. That’s the kind of depth the team could have only dreamed about last season.

“You know, when we heard we had seven new girls coming in, we couldn’t believe it at first,” James said. “That’s a lot of people coming in, but we all get along so well, and spending time off the court definitely contributes to our success on the court and in the game.”

More is not always better, but, in this case, it allows Butts to explore what she has to work with in these early games. For example, the Wildcats at times experimented with a three- or four-guard lineup.

However, for a team that lacks height, they will need to rely more on the play of forwards, such as sophomore forward Breanna Workman, who led the team with 10 rebounds.

Butts said after the game that it’s likely Arizona will continue to play as many players as it did Tuesday. Contributions from more experienced players like junior guards Keyahndra Cannon and Chy Cunnigham will be particularly valuable, as they are by now well-versed in Butts’ system.

“Having a lot of freshmen on the team, sometimes you might be worried about how they might do, how they might adjust and so on,” Warthen said. “But it’s not only the freshmen, it’s everybody coming back this year, and a lot of people didn’t play last year. So just coming back after a bad season, last year is always in the back of your head.”

The hard part now comes in transferring quantity to quality, as there are still a number of kinks to be worked out. For example, Arizona was consistently sloppy with the ball, committing 18 turnovers and not capitalizing on loose balls.

This early in the season, that’s to be expected.

Once the Wildcats lock down on fundamentals, they can focus more on aspects, like 3-point shooting, where they were not as aggressive on Tuesday.

Yet, even if things aren’t up to the speed Butts and the coaching staff would like, Arizona’s depth puts the team in better shape than seasons past.


Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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