A 10-1 start is best in a decade for UA women’s basketball

The University of Arizona women’s basketball team is looking more like the Jackrabbits than the Wildcats.  They’re off to another fast start.

A win last night against New Mexico boosted their record to 10-1, the best open to a season since 1999 when they shot out to a 12-1 start.  Last year they started 11-2.

For fourth-year head coach, Niya Butts, it’s an early Christmas present.  “I feel good going into the break 10-1,” she admits.  The Cats don’t play again until Dec. 28 when they host UNLV.

She’s got to feel good about the results of her recruiting effort in the local talent pool.  The only two Arizona recruits on the Sun Devil roster stepped up to help seal the 59-50 win over the Lobos.

Davellyn Whyte, a junior guard from St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix, drained 27 points to give her 18 points-per-game average a little nudge upward.  She ranks fifth in scoring in the Pac-12.

And freshman Aley Rohde stood tall under the net.  The 6’5″ center from Pinnacle High School in north Phoenix had a career-high eight blocks and pulled down 10 boards to help the Cats to a 49-33 rebounding advantage.

This is a young team that is loaded with talent and under the floor direction of a 5’5″ senior guard from Arkansas named Shanita Arnold.  She contributed 10 points, five assists, and a couple of steals against the Lobos.

Butts is beginning to show progress in her rebuilding efforts.  The first couple of years were shaky as the Cats went 12-19 and 14-17.  But last year they appeared to be turning the corner as they compiled a 20-12 mark, finished in fourth place in the conference, and made it into the post-season for the first time in a decade

An invitation to the women’s NIT tournament ended in frustration, however, when they were bumped out by Utah State in the first round.

So they’re starting over again this year.  Their only misstep so far was a 82-73 loss to BYU in the Hukilau Invitational in Hawaii on the first day of December.

And they’re winning away from home, which is a key to succeeding again this year.  The Cats have won seven games on the road.

But the win over New Mexico was not impressive.  And the Lobos (4-8) are not a particularly good team, averaging just 54 points a game.

Arizona is a team that has a +3 turnover margin, yet committed 19 turnovers against the Lobos.  They shot just 38.2 percent from the field and would have had trouble pulling out a close game since they were a dismal 58.8 percent at the free throw line.

So a week-long break is probably coming at a good time.  They can take a little time to bask in their success so far, and plot out a course that will take them back to the post season in the new year.

But first, there is a Christmas to celebrate.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)