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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Finding themselves

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

Of all the questions surrounding Arizona women’s basketball at the beginning of the season, one of the biggest was about what kind of team the Wildcats (5-1) would become. Creating a team identity, a gaping hole for last year’s team, has become a focus for the Wildcats, especially with six new players thrown into the mix.

Now, with more than half of the nonconference season over, Arizona must find out what kind of team it will become before the start of Pacific 10 Conference play.

“”We’re still searching for it,”” said head coach Niya Butts. “”If we can string a couple games where we kind of look the same … then our identity will start to show itself.””

The Wildcats have shown flashes of greatness so far in this brief season, but nothing that solidifies the team as one with a consistent identity. After winning the Iona College Tip-Off Tournament in New Rochelle, N.Y. — including a 75-50 overtime win over the host Gaels — Arizona was embarrassed at San Diego State University, falling 57-38.

In some games, the Wildcats are spot-on with shooting, lighting up the scoreboard for most of the game. In others they can be seen struggling with ball security.

“”We still are a team that we don’t really (know). Like if you say Stanford, they’re a scoring team. UCLA, they’re an athletic team,”” said All-American forward Ify Ibekwe. “”You know, Arizona, we’re trying to find what we can do.””

Three times this season the Wildcats have held opponents under 60 points, while Arizona has only been held under that same mark once this season. The UA is averaging 8.8 more points per game than its challengers and is also out-blocking, out-stealing and out-rebounding its opponents.

For the coaching staff, it would seem as though Arizona is moving toward a defensive-minded team with particular emphasis on using that defense to create scoring opportunities.

“”I think we can be a defensive team that puts pressure,”” junior Ibekwe said. “”When teams scout us and when they’re about to play us, they’re going to say Arizona is a defensive team. They’re going to get in our face, they’re going to yell and scream. I think we could be that team.””

That being said, the Wildcats have escaped with some close wins this season, three of which by less than 10 points. Arizona needs to find a more consistent level of play if it hopes to be a surprise team in its conference this year.

The discovery of which team they will become is something the Wildcats will have to figure out during the winter break, when they take on eight teams, four of them in the Pac-10.

The rest of the pre-conference season will be a test for the Wildcats, who are currently riding a three-game win streak. Their opposition includes University of California – Riverside, Alabama A&M and former No. 22 Georgia Tech, who dropped out of the AP Top 25 poll this week.

Once the conference season tips off against UCLA on Jan. 1, 2010, Arizona must have found itself. By the time the spring semester begins, the Wildcats will already be four games deep into the Pac-10 schedule. Arizona can begin the search for itself tonight when it finishes a two-game home stand at 6 p.m. against New Mexico (5-3). 

“”I think we have to, as a staff, figure out how we’re going to do things night in and night out,”” Butts said. “”As a player, you have to have that motivation from within that says ‘I want to be the best player that I can possibly be and here are the things I’m going to have to do to make that happen.’ When those things mesh we’re going to be a solid team.””

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