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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Depth not a problem for ‘Cats

Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Everyone loves the run-and-gun style of basketball.

Its fast-paced rhythm and constant scoring curbs the lulls of a defensive battle and can keep an arena on the edge of its seat for 40 minutes.

The Arizona women’s basketball team takes ownership to this style of play, using it as an advantage over teams that are not equipped to run with the Wildcats’ offense.

“”We are a fast team, and sometimes we might play slower teams who try to play fast to match us, so we have an advantage over them,”” said junior forward Soana Lucet.

The run-and-gun Wildcats (11-10, 5-6 Pacific 10 conference) claim a winning record in the month of February for the first time since the 2004-2005 season.

Sure, the offensive style can take a lot of credit for Arizona’s success thus far this season. 

But with the smallest official roster in the Pac-10, the training staff has been behind the scenes making sure head coach Niya Butts has the personnel necessary to run that offense.

With a bench of only three players during games, the Wildcats face teams that have the luxury of shuffling players from a roster of 15 fresh bodies, meaning that staying healthy was the focal point before the first game was even played.

“”These girls are training year-round for the grueling season,”” said associate director of performance enhancement for the team, Brian Odom. “”I think all college sports are moving in that direction in which these girls are never out of shape.

“”Also, a lot of the patterns that we try to develop in the weight room makes them a more efficient athlete, thus limits injury,”” Odom added.

In last Saturday’s win over Washington, freshman Davellyn Whyte was banged up and left the game, leaving only two players on the bench for the rest of the game.

Strong conditioning during practice helped Arizona finish the game with a thin bench, something that Lucet says the Widcats are used to by now.

“”We’ve had a short roster all year, so we’re used to playing 30-plus minutes every game,”” Lucet said.

After winning two games in a row, Arizona repositioned itself back in the thick of the Pac-10 race, and cannot afford to lose players to injury.

Practicing almost every day can lead to minor injuries. To avoid aggravating the abuse her players take from practice, Butts has established a good relationship with the training staff that lets her know when to take the foot off the accelerator.

“”Brian Odom does a great job with them in maintenance and trying to take care of the eight that we have,”” Butts said. “”I think our coaching staff does a great job of keeping me balanced, in terms of not allowing me to go nuts with the practice plans and making sure we manage our kids pretty well.””

Odom added that good communication with Butts has been important in keeping the Wildcats healthy.

“”Coach Butts is also smart about the way she practices with the girls,”” Odom said. “”She is smart about when to put on the intensity and when to back off.””

A refreshed roster will be key in Arizona’s rematch with Oregon (14-8, 5-5) tonight in Eugene.

The Wildcats got the best of the Ducks in a shootout in McKale Center last month, winning the highest-scoring game in Pac-10 history 119-112. However, games in Oregon’s McArthur Court have been tough for Arizona in recent history, with its last win in Eugene coming in January 2004.

The Ducks boast the highest-scoring offense in the NCAA and will try to lure the Wildcats into making mistakes from their full court press to continue the UA’s drought at McArthur Court.

Knowing personnel on defense was the basis of practice this week for Butts, especially in containing Oregon’s Nicole Canepa, who netted 38 points against Arizona last month.

“”We definitely don’t want to get into that type of high-scoring game, but Oregon forces you to play that way,”” Butts said. “”They press, they face guard you and give you opportunities to get up and down the floor.

“”We just have to be patient and poised on offense and not get forced into making some bad decisions,”” she added.

Tip-off for tonight’s game is scheduled for 7.

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