Two more games, two more close losses.
So far this season, it seems, Arizona either wins — or more often — loses in heartbreaking fashion.
The Wildcats went to Washington last week, and came back with two losses by a combined five points.
“Well for one thing,” coach Niya Butts said, “we’re awfully close.”
The Wildcats trailed Washington by 15 points in the first half Friday, fought back, and even took its first lead with 2:18 to go.
They held UW’s “big three” — Jazmine Davis, Talia Walton and Kelsey Plum — to 8 of 37 shooting. The Huskies average 73.4 points per game, but scored just 55.
Still, Arizona lost by three.
The Wildcats trailed Washington State by 12 at halftime Sunday, but shut the Cougars down in the second half — holding WSU to 28.6 percent. They average 73.9 points per game, but scored just 61.
The Cougars took a two-point lead with 43 seconds left, but the Wildcats couldn’t get a shot off in the final seconds.
The road losses dropped Arizona to 4-9 heading into tonight against UCLA at McKale Center.
Said Butts: “I think we have way too many unforced errors, and if we could just cut those in half, you’re talking about we’re one possession away from winning both of those games.”
Defensively, Arizona has been top-notch. In 13 games, they’ve held all but three teams below their season scoring average, and are fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring defense.
A little bit of offense would help the Wildcats — they’re last in the conference with just 61.8 points per game.
“I mean, it (stinks),” forward Erica Barnes said. “But it’s kind of a win-win because if we’re doing good defensively, we should be scoring offensively. So, I mean, we just gotta keep pushing and executing the plays.”
The Wildcats’ opponents this weekend — UCLA tonight, USC on Sunday — similarly struggle to score. USC is ninth in scoring offense, UCLA 11th.
But, the Bruins (7-8, 1-2 Pac-12) get the bulk of their scoring from what has proven to be a three-headed monster.
Nirra Fields (17.8), Atonye Nyingifa (17.1) and Thea Lemberger (15.5) score all but 12.6 points per game of UCLA’s 63. So, the Wildcats have their work cut out for them.
“We have to be able to disrupt those three,” Butts said. “We have to be able to contain them. They’re not gonna be scoreless, but we have to do a good job of disrupting them and containing them.”
Added Barnes: “If we shut them down, we’ll win.”
Sunday, first-year USC head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke will make her McKale Center debut.
That is, coaching debut. Cooper-Dyke (then Cynthia Cooper) starred at USC as a player in the 1980s before becoming a Hall of Fame WNBA player for the Houston Comets.
Now, she’s guiding the 10-5 Trojans, and there’s a familiar face alongside her.
Brandy Manning is her lead assistant after spending five years as an assistant coach for Butts at the UA.
“Nothing changes, we’re great friends,” Butts said. “His kids have been here all week with us. Those are my guys. But on Sunday the goal is to defeat the opponent. He is now the opponent, so we’re hoping to send them away not as happy as when he entered into the state of Arizona.”
Whyte to be honored
The Wildcats will add the fourth name to their Ring of Honor on Sunday.
Davellyn Whyte, who graduated in May, will join Adia Barnes, Shawntinice Polk and Dee Dee Wheeler in the rafters.
“Being inducted into the Ring of Honor is a real honor, it means so much,” Whyte said in a news release. “There are only three other women’s basketball players and just to be able to be added into Arizona history and make my mark on Arizona Athletics is a significant achievement for me.”
It’s a quick turnaround for her induction, but it’s certainly worthy. Whyte was a four-year starter and four-time all-Pac-12 selection. She’s second all-time in scoring and steals, fourth in free throws, eighth in assists, ninth in rebounding and started and played in more games than any player in UA history.
She was drafted into the WNBA by the San Antonio Silver Stars in April.
“You know Davellyn had such a great run here,” Butts said, “I can speak for everyone and say we’re extremely proud of what she’s been able to accomplish.”