When Niya Butts walked onto Lute and Bobbi Olson Court at halftime of Sunday's game against Utah, she smiled, pretended to play defense on a ballgirl getting some shots up and waved to a few fans in the crowd.
What a difference two days and a win can make.
Thanks to a quick start, Butts' squad broke an eight-game losing streak Sunday afternoon with a 61-52 win over Utah at McKale Center.
It was a much-needed win for Butts and the Wildcats.
The fifth-year coach was disappointed with her team and its star, Davellyn Whyte, following Friday's 13-point loss to Colorado. She challenged the entire team to come out and play sharper and with more energy on Sunday - something she felt she got.
"We haven't been playing well at all, but to get one today and in the fashion we did, feels very good," Butts said. "Our last three we've gradually gotten better, but this game was more complete offensively and defensively than any we've had in a while."
After Utah scored the first two baskets of the game, Arizona (12-13, 4-10) went on an 18-0 run over the next 4 minutes 7 seconds. The Wildcats' 18-4 lead at the 14:52 mark of the first half was their largest lead of the game.
"We were pushing the ball in transition and being aggressive early and I think that was the key to us getting our lead," said point guard Carissa Crutchfield, who finished with nine points, six assists, five rebounds and just one turnover. "We were ready to play."
The Wildcats maintained their lead from that point, never letting it get to less than six.
The UA forced 19 Utah miscues and outscored the Utes 28-12 on points off turnovers.
"I think it was a combination of us just executing better and coming out with a little more pep in our step," Whyte said. "You put those two things together and you get a good start."
Whyte responded well to Butts' criticism following Friday's loss. The coach thought Whyte showed too much frustration on the court and sat her on the bench for the final 9:20 of the Colorado loss.
The senior from Phoenix answered the bell Sunday, scoring a team-high 21 points and grabbing nine rebounds. She also added five steals and played 39 minutes.
"She was much, much better," Butts said. "Especially on the offensive end. She did a lot of good things today and led the team a lot more."
The win is the Wildcats' first since beating the same Utah team 62-58 on Jan. 18 in Salt Lake City. A nine-game conference skid would have been the program's longest since the 2005-06 season.
"It's been a very frustrating time, but I think sometimes you have to get knocked down to the bottom to get back up," Whyte said. "I think we've been at the bottom a little too long and we're tired of it. So, now, it showed us tonight what can happen when we sustain effort through the whole game and get some momentum."
Kama Griffitts added eight points and three assists in the win.
Utah (14-11, 5-9) was led by Michelle Plouffe, who had 21 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.
Arizona returns to action Tuesday with a 7 p.m., home game against Arizona State - the first of two games against the Sun Devils in a six-day span.