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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “W-hoops offense hitting inside, out”

    Arizona forward Ify Ibekwe leaps toward the basket in a 68-44 win against Oregon on Saturday in McKale Center. Ibekwe said one of the keys to winning the game was scoring points in the paint.
    Arizona forward Ify Ibekwe leaps toward the basket in a 68-44 win against Oregon on Saturday in McKale Center. Ibekwe said one of the keys to winning the game was scoring points in the paint.

    The story of the year for the Arizona women’s basketball team has been a lack of offensive production. After back-to-back performances in which the team only scored 38 points, head coach Niya Butts went back to the drawing board.

    “”You want to change it up,”” Butts said. “”We want more firepower coming off the bench because coming off the bench with a little more firepower can shake things up a bit.””

    Arizona’s offensive struggles started with the inability to get its forwards going. Early in the game, the Wildcats weren’t able to get points on the board and would begin second halves with large deficits.

    “”The problem with our inside game and the outside game is that its been taken away from the very start,”” Butts said, “”especially when we struggle offensively in the half court.””

    The alteration of the lineups started after injuries to freshmen guards Courtney Clements and Reiko Thomas. Other players needed to step up to fill the spots of Arizona’s shooting guards.

    In the UA’s game against Washington on Jan. 29, Butts switched from a two-forward, three-guard offense to a bigger lineup with three forwards and two guards. The production from the post lifted the Wildcats over Washington for their first Pacific 10 Conference win of the season.

    Arizona’s offense has adjusted to fit the intensity level that comes with Pac-10 play. Instead of struggling to get the ball into the forwards in the paint, Arizona has found a way to balance its attack between perimeter shooting and an offensive presence down low.

    “”One of our keys to the game was points in the paint. That’s when our guards have to start attacking and dishing,”” forward Ify Ibekwe said after a win against Oregon.

    Butts and the coaching staff have made other adjustments, like bringing other players off the bench to give Arizona extra spark when starters are struggling offensively. Clements and Thomas have adjusted to their new roles, and their shooting ability and experience level can give Arizona the advantage when it comes to bench play.

    “”Our coach really stresses to attack the basket. Everyone wants to get to the foul line. We want to get points in the paint,”” Clements said. “”The first thing for most of us is attack, then shoot the shots.””

    The lineup modification has also given other players the chance to get involved. Senior forward Sarah Hays has started four games for the Wildcats. Sophomore guard Faihza Hill has also had the chance to get involved and gave Arizona an edge in outside shooting.

    Senior Amina Njonkou has recently been the spark for the Wildcats. In Arizona’s win over Washington, Njonkou recorded a double-double in the first half. Most recently, Njonkou scored in double figures in the home win against Oregon after coming into the game from the bench. Although this may not be a permanent adjustment, it shows that Arizona has the ability to switch up the lineups and give the Wildcats the advantage offensively.

    “”(Against Oregon) coach told me that she needed me to bring energy off the bench. I think it worked,”” Njonkou said. “”I can say I had energy coming off the bench.””

    A good combination has emerged for the UA that could be the key to being an upset team in the Pac-10. The balance between perimeter shooting and getting points in the paint is what the offense has been missing all season. Both parts of the offense depend on each other and are necessary for Arizona to pick up momentum for other aspects of the game.

    “”We’re more lethal if we have guard play and post play,”” said junior point guard Ashley Frazier. “”We can’t just depend on the post. When they kick it out we need to be ready to knock down the shots.””

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