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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Women’s basketball can build momentum after Oregon victory

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Jordan Glenn

Arizona women’s basketball guards Charise Holloway (44) and Keyahndra Cannon (15) celebrate Arizona’s 81-78 victory over Oregon on Sunday in McKale Center. Arizona’s first conference victory of the season could be the jump-start the Wildcats need for the rest of the season.

“Celebration” blasted over the McKale Center speakers. Arizona women’s basketball coach Niya Butts bowed to the crowd. 

The players celebrated on the court, giddy with excitement, relief and maybe a little bit of shock.

In a season that has produced a number of empty comebacks and close losses, a down-to-the-wire tilt finally went the Wildcats’ way on Sunday as Arizona beat Oregon 81-78 in overtime.

It was the UA’s first victory in Pac-12 Conference play and its first win of any sort since Dec. 29.

“We’ve been talking as a staff, and we know we need to get that win,” Butts said. “We’ve played close and had people on the ropes for a half, but to actually get over the hump and get it done, I think it’s a springboard for more things to come.”

Now sitting at 1-7 in the conference, the question becomes whether or not the Wildcats can use the momentum from this win to propel themselves back into a respectable standing.

The weaker stretch of the schedule is coming up, so it’s conceivable the UA could earn another handful of victories.

In Sunday’s win as well as the two preceding losses, Arizona displayed progress in a number of areas, the most evident being ball security and rebounding.

For the first time in conference play, the UA had more assists (15) than turnovers (11) on Sunday. While the Wildcats still go into lapses where they’ll make mental mistakes, it’s no longer a widespread problem.

Arizona also continued to display a newfound intensity attacking the glass — winning the rebounding margin over Oregon 53-48. In fact, it was 5-foot-5 point guard Candice Warthen who led the way with 11 boards en route to a double-double.

“The energy was everywhere,” Warthen said. “We came in with a winner’s mindset refusing to lose. Energy came from everyone today, and we found a way to pull it through at the end.”

Arguably the biggest spark for Arizona has been the production off the bench from LaBrittney Jones.

Before the Bay Area road trip, Butts replaced Jones from the starting lineup with Breanna Workman. While Jones struggled to find her groove on the road, she played a big part in keeping Arizona competitive with No. 9 Oregon State this past Friday.

Then on Sunday, the UA forward went for a career-high 30 points, including a number of crucial buckets in overtime. Jones also recorded nine rebounds and a team-high three blocks.

“I think it is as good of a game she has played in a while,” Butts said. “I told her, ‘You could probably put your two best games together that you have played since you’ve been at Arizona, and they probably wouldn’t be as good as the game you had today.’ She was unbelievable today. Unbelievable.”

For Jones and the Wildcats, the key will be to expand on their progress and carry that energy over to the upcoming mountain road trip against Utah and Colorado. If so, Arizona could turn one win into a pair more.

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Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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