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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Steps in the wrong direction for Arizona women’s basketball

Arizona+womens+basketball+guard+Candice+Warthen+%281%29+dribbles+around++Oregon+center+Megan+Carpenter+%2840%29+during+Arizonas+81-78+victory+in++McKale+Center+on+Jan.+25.+Warthen+and+the+Wildcats+lost+two+more+games++over+the+weekend.
Jordan Glenn

Arizona women’s basketball guard Candice Warthen (1) dribbles around Oregon center Megan Carpenter (40) during Arizona’s 81-78 victory in McKale Center on Jan. 25. Warthen and the Wildcats lost two more games over the weekend.

By losing both of its road games to Utah and Colorado over the weekend, Arizona women’s basketball took another step back in what has already been a disappointing season.

The Wildcats now sit at 1-9 in Pac-12 Conference play, tied with the Utes for dead-last. Just as concerning, all nine conference losses have come by double-digits.

In most games, Arizona hasn’t even been competitive.

Unless the UA turns things around immediately, the program could be on pace for another finish similar to last season, when the team won just a single Pac-12 game.

This year, the Wildcats have greater depth and more all-around talent but lack the attention and execution needed to pull out wins. As has been the case all season, head coach Niya Butts’ team goes into stretches where it looks lost or unenthusiastic on the court.

Over the weekend, the recurring theme was getting beat on the glass.

In a 14-point defeat to Utah, Arizona was out-rebounded 40-27. It was the same story on Sunday as Colorado won the battle of the boards 45-31.

What makes the performances more surprising is that the Wildcats were just coming off their best rebounding effort of the season in their win against Oregon. Clearly, that effort didn’t carry over on the road.

Being a small team with no players taller than 6-foot-1, Arizona is at an innate height disadvantage against taller opponents. However, that’s not an excuse for getting beat on loose balls.

No statistic is more telling than point guard Candice Warthen ranking second on the team in rebounds despite being the UA’s shortest player at 5-foot-5.

It’s not all about size. Warthen just wants it more. After all, she’s a senior who has suffered through losing season after losing season.

Yet more troubling than the lack of intensity is the all-around lack of offensive prowess.

Collectively, Arizona holds a .365 field goal shooting percentage and makes just 26 percent of its attempts from outside. It sounds cliché, but a team isn’t going to win if it can’t make its shots.

Unlike effort or focus, shooting isn’t something that can be fixed with a tough week of practice. The Wildcats simply don’t boast an arsenal of players who can shoot the ball with enough consistency.

To make up for the lack of jumpers, the UA has done a better job of being aggressive and getting to the charity stripe. That, however, isn’t enough against conference opponents who can light it up from around the court.

It also doesn’t help any that Arizona is allowing its opponents to shoot a modest 41 percent. Many of those buckets come off easy layups or put-backs in the paint — another consequence of not rebounding well.

With the Wildcats’ postseason hopes all but vanquished, the question now is whether Butts can get her team to play with more poise through the final eight games of the regular season.

Ideally, the UA will return home and work out its kinks this week before playing California and Stanford in McKale Center this weekend.

However, from what Arizona has shown on the court, that looks unlikely.

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Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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