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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


LaBrittney Jones posts double-double as Arizona beats Alcorn State in regular season opener

Steven Spooner
Arizona forward Labrittney Jones shoots upward for a field goal during Arizona’s 74-59 win against Alcorn State on Sunday, Nov. 13 in McKale Center.

Adia Barnes is officially in the win column as the head coach of the Arizona women’s basketball team.

Behind a double-double from LaBrittney Jones and 13 points from Malena Washington, the Wildcats knocked off Alcorn State 74-59 in their season opener on Sunday afternoon in McKale Center — Barnes’ first game at the helm.

“It’s awesome to have win number one, but we definitely have some things to work on,” said Barnes, who mentioned she was more excited than nervous to make her debut. ”It was a good challenge playing against a team that’s good at penetrating and transition offense, so it was good test. It shows some areas we need to get better in.”

Jones scored 18 points on 8-14 shooting, and recorded 10 rebounds, along with three blocks and two steals as the Wildcats led wire-to-wire for the victory.

“I thought she was a little soft in the first half, and I said ‘LaBrittney, we need points in the post,'” Barnes said of Jones. ”We had a clear advantage in the post…She did a much better job in the second half, but what I really liked what she did were the 10 rebounds…I thought that was really good.”

12 of Jones’ 18 points were scored in the second half.

“I think I was just going too fast at the beginning of the game and once I was able to slow down, I was able to finish more,” Jones said. “Coach (Barnes) was telling me to slow down and I did that.”

Early on, it wasn’t just Jones that was playing too fast.

Arizona missed five of its first six shots, as it struggled with Alcorn State’s defensive pressure, while Alcorn State didn’t get on the board until midway through the first quarter.

“Initially we weren’t executing the way we were supposed to break (the press) and then we were just letting the defense dictate what we were doing — we were really rushed and we didn’t have to be,” Barnes said. “We definitely have to work on that.” 

But Washington got things going for the Wildcats, scoring nine of Arizona’s first 14 points, helping the Wildcats jump out to a 14-3 lead with 3:58 left in the first quarter.

“I try my best to bring energy to start us off good,” Washington said.

Washington, who came off the bench in the team’s exhibition on Tuesday for disciplinary reasons, returned to the starting lineup and had 11 first half points.

“It was really important because in the first half we missed a lot of layups,” Barnes said of Washington’s first quarter spark. “Malena’s attack mentality I really love. We talked about that — we always want to attack on offense and defense and assert ourselves in both areas, and I thought she did a good job of that.”

However, Alcorn State would respond with a 10-2 run of its own, and Arizona’s lead was just 16-13 at the end of the first quarter.

Tia Sanders opened the second quarter with a 3 to tie things at 16, but Arizona was able to get some separation, outscoring Alcorn State 16-11 in the period to take a 32-24 lead at halftime.

Both teams shot under 40 percent in the first half, but Arizona had 10 offensive rebounds and eight second chance points to help them grab the lead.

Then the Wildcats’ offense picked up in the second half, as they shot 51.4 percent as a team.

“That was all them,” Barnes said, crediting her players. “We just talked about some adjustments at halftime, some areas that we thought were open that we needed to adjust to…and they just came up and they wanted to start making shots inside…they took it upon themselves. They just did a good job of talking and getting it done and [Jones] went stronger, not worrying about the contact.”

UA freshman point guard Lucia Alonso added 10 points and seven rebounds, while Destiny Graham dominated the paint, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking two shots.

The Wildcats outscored the Braves 21-12 in the third quarter, and Alcorn State would outscore Arizona 23-21 in the fourth quarter, but the Braves weren’t able to cut UA’s lead to single digits.

Arizona finished with a 56-39 edge on the boards, but had 21 turnovers and missed several layups, which Barnes said the team will be trying to fix in practice this week.

“The thing I would take away from this game is not doing a great job against their pressure and letting them dictate what we do, but that’s something that’s easy to fix,” Barnes said. “We’re going to be working on that.”

The Wildcats return to action Friday, Nov. 18 when they travel to Fairfax, Virginia to take on George Mason. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.

You can follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.

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