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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona women’s basketball season ends as Wildcats fall to UCLA in Pac-12 Tournament

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Munir Tufail
Arizona women’s basketball coach Niya Butts stares across McKale Center in disbelief during Arizona’s 63-56 win against USC on Friday, Feb. 5. Butts and the Wildcats defeated USC on Sunday in Los Angeles to gain momentum heading into the Pac-12 Conference Tournament.

Niya Butts’ time as the head coach of the Arizona women’s basketball team is officially over.

The program announced earlier in the week that Butts will be replaced at season’s end, and that end has come, as Arizona lost to the UCLA Bruins 72-51 in the second round of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament.

The No. 11 seed Wildcats pulled off a surprising upset of the No. 6 seed Oregon Ducks on Thursday but couldn’t keep the momentum going against UCLA.

LaBrittney Jones, who scored 26 points versus Oregon, recorded her third double-double of the season and finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Jones scored seven of Arizona’s first nine points of the game and the Wildcats were down by just one point mid-way through the first quarter. But UCLA went on a 13-2 run to make it 23-11 with 8:27 left in the first half.

And UCLA’s lead would only balloon from there as Arizona scored just four points in the second quarter, allowing the Bruins to take 36-15 lead at halftime.

“I thought we started out pretty solid, and then we didn’t score; we couldn’t hit any shots,” Niya Butts said after the game. “We weren’t able to sustain anything, and UCLA was able to get going. It was tough from there.”

For the most part, the first half was a defensive battle. The Wildcats shot just 22.6 percent from the field, while the Bruins shot a modest 36.1 percent. But Arizona had nine first half turnovers, and the Bruins turned them into 11 points. Meanwhile, the Wildcats had zero points off turnovers and zero second-chance points in the first half.

Both teams would have an easier time scoring the ball in the second half, but the Wildcats had no answer for Monique Billings and Nirra Fields, as they combined for 35 points in the game.

A Fields layup gave UCLA a 31-point lead, its largest of the game, with 1:55 left in the third quarter and it put the game far out of Arizona’s reach.

The Wildcats did outscore the Bruins 23-18 in the fourth quarter – the final quarter of Butts’ coaching career at Arizona — and Butts hopes it is a sign of things to come for the program in the future, even if she won’t be a part of it.

“These young ladies are capable of a whole lot,” Butts said. “Hopefully they work in the offseason. They certainly have the potential to be a whole lot better. I wish them nothing but the best.”

The Wildcats finished with a 13-19 overall record, a 3-15 conference record, and the search for a new head coach will start immediately.

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