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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats aim for upset


Rebecca Noble / The Daily Wildcat

Head coach Niya Butts eggs on her team during Arizona’s 49-44 win against UAB on Dec. 14, 2014 in McKale Center.

Already off to a 0-4 start in conference play, Arizona women’s basketball faces another test this weekend as the team travels to the Bay Area to play Stanford and Cal.

The Wildcats are coming off back-to-back losses to ASU, including an 88-41 defeat in Tucson. While they put up a better fight in Tempe, the Sun Devils were still able to pull away for a convincing win. 

In all four conference losses, turnovers and a lack of defensive attention have plagued Arizona.

“I think it’s a mix of everything,” Arizona women’s basketball coach Niya Butts said. “From lack of intensity to lack of focus. Any time you’re missing close shots inside, you’re not focused and [any time you’re giving easy possessions and easy plays, I just think that’s a lack of intensity. Overall, we have to pick it up around the board.”

Tonight, there will be little room for those types of mistakes when the UA faces No. 13 Stanford in a 9 p.m. start. 

A young team, Stanford has not been as dominant as in years past but still poses a significant challenge with a high-powered offense. The Cardinal boast a number of guards who can shoot the ball well, including leading scorer Lili Thompson. 

“We know what they’re going to do, but we just have to be able to stop it,” Butts said. “They shoot a high percentage from behind the arc and they’re efficient around the basket, so we have to make sure we come ready to play and that we come focused.”

Stanford’s aggressiveness from outside could lend into Arizona’s favor, as the team ranks second in the Pac-12 Conference with a .259 3-point percentage defense. 

For the Wildcats to stay in the game, they will need to stay on the Cardinal’s shooters while preventing easy buckets down low. 

“We worked a lot on our defense and rebounding,” UA forward LaBrittney Jones said. “That’s what our main focus needs to be in the upcoming games. We’ve had some tough practices, and I think we’ve been real competitive trying to getting us better.”

Arizona will have to carry over the defensive intensity to Sunday when it faces Cal at 2 p.m.

The Golden Bears, coming off an overtime loss to Washington, can also put up points in a hurry. As a team, Cal averages nearly 77 points per game, second best in the conference.

In particular, the Wildcats may have a tough time slowing down senior Reshanda Gray. The 6-foot-3 forward is Cal’s leading scorer and has two inches on Alli Gloyd, the UA’s tallest player.

Facing two well-rounded offenses, it will be even more important for Arizona to not commit the types of careless mistakes as it has in games past. Otherwise, it will be another long weekend in what has already been a disappointing start to Pac-12 play. 

On the other hand, if the Wildcats can get everything to click this weekend, an upset or two would provide the type of confidence to boost them through conference play.

“We’ve only had a couple conference games so I think we can still accomplish our goals,” Jones said. “We just have to change our mindsets.”


Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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