UA women's basketball: Little went for right for Cats in 25-loss season

2014-03-09T00:00:00Z UA women's basketball: Little went for right for Cats in 25-loss seasonBy Zack Rosenblatt Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A Carissa Crutchfield runner circled around the rim, bounced out and deflected out of bounds.

With it, Arizona’s season — and 30 seconds later, it ended.

Quickly, but not quite abruptly.

The Wildcats finished 5-25 — tying a UA record for losses — and 1-17 in conference. To end the year they had only seven healthy players and lost seven straight games and had the worst offense in the Pac-12.

In a season where little went right for the Wildcats, it stayed that way in the final seconds of Arizona’s season-ending, first-round Pac-12 tournament loss to USC on Thursday.

Sure UA coach Niya Butts was upset.

But, she didn’t care to think about what could have been without the injuries, or the frequency of losing in close games.

She didn’t weep for the Wildcats’ season of doom and gloom.

No, she hopped on the first red-eye flight to Texas to watch a basketball tournament — and to recruit.

That’s not to say she isn’t disappointed, though.

“It certainly was not all smiles,” Butts said in a phone interview Saturday. “I try to take it one day at a time, put one foot in front of the other and, you know, try to find the positives in everything. But it certainly was difficult. I’m a competitor, so I want to win, and when things don’t go as you like them to it can be difficult.

“Certainly I can’t deny it was a hard season,” she added. “It was a difficult time.”

Here’s a look back at Arizona’s season, and what’s ahead.

Seven’s not heaven

On Jan. 29, Butts announced that Ashley Merrill, a freshman forward, had left the team.

Three months earlier, senior forward Alli Gloyd — expected to be a starter at forward — was lost for the season with an ACL injury. She wound up a medical redshirt and will return for the 2014-15 season.

In between, guard Nyre Harris left the team, and freshman forward Dezja James also was lost for the year with an ACL tear.

So, then there were seven: seniors Kama Griffitts, Erica Barnes and Crutchfield; junior Candice Warthen; sophomore Keyahndra Cannon; freshmen LaBrittney Jones and Breanna Workman.

Everyone played, and practices were hamstrung. Every so often, former Wildcat star Davellyn Whyte would help out.

“That’s something I think we got used to,” said Griffitts after Thursday’s loss. “We didn’t let that bother us, yeah, we had seven, but we still played hard.”

Warthen returns

Warthen missed last season with a knee injury, and was expected to take on the No. 1 scoring role vacated by Whyte’s graduation.

Which she did, sort of.

Warthen led the team with 11.1 points a game, which is the lowest average for Arizona’s leading scorer since 1981, when Pam Roberts and Char Smith co-led the way with 9.6 points per game.

Warthen also shot just 32.8 percent from the field, and 30.5 from three.

Freshmen, by fire

Jones and Workman, out of necessity more than anything, experienced “trial by fire.”

Jones started all 30 games, Workman 28 and combined averaged 48.2 minutes per game.

They had their moments — Jones led the team in rebounding and field goal percentage while Workman was one of the team’s more consistent defenders.

In all, the experience should help for next season.

“Both of those young ladies toward the end of the season were making big leaps,” Butts said. “I was proud of their effort. They fought, they were in pain all year long and gave us what they had. Next year, they’ll be more like juniors than sophomores.”

Farrin and freshmen

You saw how it worked with T.J. McConnell on the men’s side. He sat out a year after transferring, learned the team’s system, and now is thriving.

Butts is hoping for the same from Farrin Bell, a 6-foot transfer from SMU.

“I think she’ll add a little bit to our team,” Butts said. “We’ll get taller on the perimeter. Defensively is where she’s really going to help immediately and make a difference.”

Then there’s Arizona’s incoming four-member recruiting class, highlighted by point guard Taryn Griffey, daughter of MLB legend Ken Griffey Jr., and sister of UA wide receiver Trey Griffey.

She’s the 21st-best point guard in the 2014 class, according to ESPN, and will likely fill the void left by Crutchfield.

The Wildcats also lose Griffitts and Barnes to graduation.

“They’ve been hungry to be here all year long,” Butts said of the freshmen. “They’ve been great, very supportive, sending me messages and phone calls from their parents. They never wavered.”

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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