JaLea Bennett is excited about Pac-12 play.
The UA’s senior guard likes the consistency of the schedule, knowing she plays every Friday and Sunday. Mondays are her days off. She practices Tuesdays and Wednesdays — and Thursdays, too, if the Wildcats are at home.
And Bennett says she’s excited to play some of the best players and teams in the country, even if it sometimes leads to ugly results — like Arizona’s 89-55 loss to Utah in Friday night’s league opener.
“I enjoy the competition of the Pac-12,” said Bennett. “At any point, anyone can beat anyone.”
The Wildcats (4-8, 0-1 Pac-12) will have a chance to show what they’ve got Sunday, when they face Colorado at 1 p.m. The Buffaloes have a 9-3 overall mark thanks in part to freshman forward Annika Jank, who is averaging 13.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. She has won the conference freshman of the week award three times already this season.
Arizona must stop Jank to avoid a repeat of Friday night.
“One thing coach always says is not to dwell on a loss and bounce back quickly,” Bennett said. “We have that next-game mentality. We all have that in our heads.
“I tell my teammates we don’t have to think about the losses. Some games we will steal. We are a really good basketball team.”
The Wildcats spent Saturday traveling to Boulder from Salt Lake City, watching lots of film, and shooting.
In Friday night’s game, Arizona’s shots weren’t falling from the start. The Wildcats trailed Utah 11-2 midway through the first quarter, and were down by 13 at the end of the period. Things only got worse after that.
Utah outrebounded the UA 54-27. The Wildcats gave up 50 points in the paint and 24 second-chance points. They shot just 32.1 percent from the field.
“The biggest thing with Utah was that we missed 16 layups,” said Bennett, who finished with 18 points. “That made a huge difference. We have to work on finishing. Missing those layups was the difference in the ballgame.
“Especially when it comes to finishing, I have to do a better job. What really motivates me is when I hear my teammates in the interview room saying that they rely on me … that they trust me. This is the role I’ve been waiting for and I choose to step up to get the job done.”
Bennett’s teammates aren’t the only ones noticing her performance. Former Arizona standout LaBrittney Jones recently said that Bennett is a player to watch this season.
“It feels really good to hear that,” Bennett said.
“I’ve known (Jones) since I was in fifth grade. It means a lot to me. She did text me after one of our games and told me to keep it up. It’s motivating. But I’ve got to continue to talk to my teammates, and remind them that (Colorado) is a win we can get. Let’s outwork them.”