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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Wildcats come up big

The Arizona women’s basketball team was coming off of three straight blowout losses against the Pacific 10 Conference’s best teams — Stanford, Cal and ASU.

Star forward Ify Ibekwe was sick, the offense was out of sync and the defense had been porous.

So what did the Wildcats do?

They swept both Washington and Washington State at home, saving the season — at least for now — from a downward spiral after starting 11-2.

Freshman guard Candice Warthen said it best after the win against Washington last Thursday.

“”We couldn’t lose,”” Warthen said. “”We had to (win).””

Wins aren’t the only thing that the weekend gave Arizona.

It also provided a few answers to a Wildcat team looking for its first NCAA Tournament berth since the 2004-2005 season.

First, Arizona (13-5, 4-3 Pac-10) showed that it isn’t a two-woman team. With Ibekwe — who was clearly well below 100 percent — playing only 22 minutes against Washington, someone other than sophomore Davellyn Whyte had to step up.

One person stepped up, then a second and then a third.

Warthen scored 10 points off the bench, and fellow freshman Erica Barnes added seven of her own while shooting 3-of-3 from the field. Brooke Jackson shot 50 percent from 3-point range on her way to eight points.

And then there was Soana Lucet.

Take a look at the senior forward’s box score, and it looks like Lucet didn’t have an impact on the game. Six points on 3-of-11 shooting and five rebounds aren’t numbers that jump off of the stat sheet.

Yet, not only did she have an impact, she might have had the biggest one by taking a charge in the final 30 seconds, when the Huskies were trailing by only a single basket.

Making hustle plays when things aren’t clicking on offense is something that good teams do.

It’s something that tournament teams do.

Everything that coach Niya Butts has been preaching all season — competitiveness, effort and defense — came together and won Arizona a game when its offense wasn’t getting the job done.

Another lesson learned is that Arizona is good enough to get the job done on its own.

After a barrage of questionable — to say the least — calls not going their way, the Wildcats still found a way to come back and get a win.

The weekend wasn’t without flaws. Arizona struggled getting into a consistent rhythm on offense — even more than usual.

Both wins, no matter how important, were still against two teams in the bottom half of the Pac-10.

But who cares?

For the first time in six years, Arizona women’s basketball is showing signs of significant progress, and it’s showing up in the wins column.

That’s all that matters.

— Alex Williams is a journalism sophomore. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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