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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

A home trip to heal their wounds

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Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

After a disappointing road trip to Northern California, the Arizona women’s basketball team returns home this weekend for a short two-game stint against the Washington schools.

To regain positioning in the conference table, the Wildcats (9-10, 3-6 Pacific-10 Conference) are looking to rebound against a Washington State (5-15, 0-9) team that is coming off an overtime heartbreak loss to archrival Washington.

Tonight’s contest is matching up to be a more straightforward challenge for Arizona, as the Washington State Cougars — a team expected to finish sixth in the Pac-10 preseason polls — are now sitting with zero conference victories and the lowly ten-spot in the conference standings.

Regardless of their conference standing, Arizona head coach Niya Butts said the number one priority in practice was respecting the Cougars.

“”We are not looking at their record, because they are more than capable of beating anyone in the conference,”” Butts said. “”They’re going to be coming in here and looking for the win, so we have to be hungry and ready to play.””

The 10-game Cougar losing streak, along with two consecutive Arizona victories against WSU, including a 67-60 victory in Pullman, Wash., on Jan. 7, will provide some momentum for Arizona in their quest to keep the Cougars winless.

“”We know that they’ve become a better team since we played them the first time, but so have we,”” said Arizona guard Ashley Frazier. “”I think it will be a fast-paced game. We need to keep our energy up.””

Despite the fact that the Cougars have yet to secure a conference victory, they have been able to hold second-half leads in seven conference games this season and are currently on a two-game winning streak at the McKale Center.

The Cougars are led by freshman guard KiKi Moore and sophomore guard April Cook, who come into Thursday’s contest with a combined 27 points per game average, including 17 double-digit scoring games each. Containing the leaders of the Washington State offense will need to be a top priority for the Wildcats in trying to secure the win.

For the Wildcats to snap their losing streak, they need to return to a more defensive style of play. Throughout the games at California and Stanford, the Wildcats lost by a combined 41 points to California and No. 2 Stanford and were out-rebounded 55-22 in the Stanford game alone.

In practice this week, Butts said the focus on rebounds would be an eternal one and coming into this weekend’s games the emphasis was on offensive boards. 

“”We always work on rebounding, it’s a running theme. But the key is that at some point we have got to turn the corner and get a little bit better,”” she said.

The Cougar defense is coming into the game ranked first in the Pac-10 and 22nd nationally in turnover margin. This could be the Achilles heel for Arizona, a team that gave up a combined 23 turnovers against California and Stanford over the weekend.

The Wildcats’ season is halfway over and Butts wants to prove that her team is not going to give up easily. With a close Pac-10 table, it is not out of reach to say that Arizona could make a run and finish at the top of the conference.

“”At this point in the season,”” Butts said, “”we can all go in on any given night and compete and come out with a win.””

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