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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: What a difference a year makes for Arizona women’s basketball

Courtney Talak
Arizona guard Taryn Griffey (3) runs downfield with the ball in McKale Center during Saturday’s game against University of the Pacific. Arizona defeated University of the Pacific 69-56.

It’s evident a lot has changed for the Arizona women’s basketball team this year.

The roster has been revamped and the new pieces at Arizona head coach Niya Butts’ disposal have quickly resulted in success.

The Wildcats have won six of their first seven games and while it certainly isn’t a finished product, Arizona is already noticeably better than last year’s team,what finished 10-20.

“I know we’re not where we want to be right now,” said Arizona point guard Taryn Griffey. “But I feel like we’re getting there and I’m just really proud of the work we put in and I’m proud of how we look out there.”

Having more offensive weapons, including Griffey, has helped the Wildcats’ offense tremendously.

“We look a lot better than last season,” Griffey said. “So I just feel like we’re getting a lot better and I feel that we’re sharing the ball better too.”

The improved depth—something the team hasn’t had in quite some time—is one major reason for the team’s improvement.

Arizona was forced to have an extremely short bench due to injuries last season and sometimes, they had just six healthy players; but 10 different Wildcats scored in Saturday’s win over Pacific.

Butts said she feels like each and every player on the roster is more than capable of contributing.

“I really like our team. I like our roster and as you can see, we’re playing a lot of kids because a lot of kids can help us and a lot of kids can play.” Butts said. “On any given night, I think any of them could be in the starting lineup, but right now, I like the way we’re rotating them in and I like the way we’re playing.”

It’s also important to note the team is still without LaBrittney Jones, who is arguably the team’s best player. Jones averaged nine points per game last season, which is the most among all returning players. She has also led the team in rebounds per game (5.7).

An injury has kept Jones out of the lineup thus far, but Butts said she’s returned to practice and is close to returning to game action.

“It’s really day-to-day,” Butts said. “She’s practicing now, but we really want to be careful what we do with her when we bring her back.”

Still, it’s impressive what the Wildcats have been able to do without the junior forward’s help.

Since the team has just one more game before heading to San Juan for three games in four days in the Puerto Rico Classic, Butts said it would be a little more challenging to reinsert Jones into the lineup.

That said, Butts said she is happy with how the team has played without her and knows it’s a matter of when, not if, Jones returns to the lineup.

“For now, I think we’re doing a good job of holding [the court] down without her,” Butts said. “Hopefully we can get her back on the court soon, though.”

The Wildcats were picked to finish dead last in the Pac-12 Conference, but with the team already playing well and Jones coming back soon, it appears Arizona has a great shot of proving the voters wrong.

“I can’t say enough about this team,” Butts said. “I just really like where we are right now and now, we just have to continue to grow.”

The team will go for its seventh win of the season and fifth straight on Thursday in McKale Center against Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.

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