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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Butts debuts in Red/Blue scrimmage

    UA forward Amina Njonkou, left, looks for an open player in Wednesday nights Red/Blue scrimmage against the womens basketball teams practice players.
    UA forward Amina Njonkou, left, looks for an open player in Wednesday night’s Red/Blue scrimmage against the women’s basketball team’s practice players.

    As the Arizona women’s basketball team took the court for Wednesday night’s Red/Blue scrimmage, head coach Niya Butts took her seat on the Wildcats’ bench, signifying the beginning of a new era for the program.

    Just minutes in, the fiery Georgia native, dressed in a casual Arizona warm-ups, was out of her seat and crouched in front of the press table to the right of Arizona’s bench barking orders to her youthful squad.

    Butts already appeared at home, as she interrupted her players on the way to the bench for a pick-me-up or some instruction.

    After the game, despite her team falling to the Blue team, comprised of practice players,ÿ66-57, the cool-headed Butts joked with reporters, saying her outfit was one of the reasons she felt so comfortable in her debut.

    “”It felt pretty good I must admit,”” Butts said of taking her seat on Arizona’s sideline. “”It felt a lot more comfortable than it probably would normally because I had my tennis shoes on tonight instead of my normal game attire.

    “”But for me, I was mostly excited for (the team),”” she added. “”They’ve had some tough days of practice, and for this being their first time to go out and be able to show what they can do, I thought we saw some really good things despite not picking up the win.””

    Unlike their coach, the Wildcats appeared to be victims of nerves in the game’s opening minutes. The players found themselves down 15-4 just 8:30 into the game with the Red team’s only points coming from the hand of forward Tasha Dickey.

    At the time, the Red team was shooting a dismal 13.3 percent from the field with five turnovers.

    “”I think because it was our first game and our first big scrimmage with fans there, we just kind of had to get our jitters out,”” Dickey said. “”But we definitely need to clean up the turnovers and from a shooting perspective; we know we have to get better.””

    Despite the early hole, the Red team got a boost from guard Reiko Thomas. The freshman came off the bench and exploded for 14 points in the first half to lead the Red team’s resurgence to go ahead 32-31 at the break.

    In her first 16 minutes, Thomas converted on five of her seven field goal attempts in addition to going 3-for-3 from the line.

    And according to Thomas, she did it all with her stomach churning.

    “”I was so nervous, I couldn’t eat all day,”” Thomas said. “”I just kind of got in a zone, and I had my teammates there saying, ‘Keep it up,’ and my coach telling me what to do. The support was really nice.””

    Thomas wasn’t the only Arizona newcomer to contribute on the night, as guards Jhakia McDonald and Ashley Frazier both played the majority of the game and added six and five points, respectively.

    While the team’s youth made a significant contribution in the Red team’s first-half comeback, the team struggled to keep up in the second half, as the Blue team slowly inched away.

    The Red team’s feet slowed as the Blue team took advantage and use a 50 percent shooting mark to put away the game.

    The Red team finished the game shooting just under 33 percent while also losing the rebounding battle by a 16-board margin.

    “”You need to learn how to play for 40 minutes,”” Butts said. “”That’s what we’re still trying to do. We were limited a little bit with some players not playing, but we need to be able to step up in those situations.””

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