It was as if Arizona’s Pac-12 women’s basketball teams were linked by some sort of magnetic pull this season – a force that pulled them both to the bottom.
Going into the final full month of the season, both teams were struggling to stay above the .500 mark. Arizona State was 11-9 overall and University of Arizona was 11-8. Both were 3-5 in the conference.
And it didn’t get any better from there. Arizona lost 13 of its last 14 games; ASU lost 11 of the final 14. ASU finished in ninth place in the Pac-12, Arizona tied Oregon State for 10th.
Two of the Sun Devils’ three wins during that 14-game stretch were against Arizona – and those games were about as close as they could get. ASU won the first game in double overtime and didn’t wrap up the second win until Haley Videckis hit a three-point shot with 22 seconds left in the game.
Unfortunately, they have also ended their seasons in similar fashion. Both teams were knocked out of this week’s Pac-12 Tournament in Thursady’s first round. Neither will see the post-season.
Arizona State fell to Washington State, 48-41, in a game in which the first half ended with an anemic 18-13 score, advantage ASU. A lock-down Sun Devil defense held the Cougars to just 22 percent shooting in the first half, but WSU went on a 20-6 run in the second half to mound a lead that would hold until the final buzzer.
Janae Fulcher, the 6-3 forward from La Jolla, Calif., closed out her career by leading all scorers with 20 points, while the sophomore guard from Glendale’s Apollo High School, Promise Amukamara, cleaned the glass with a career-high 14 rebounds. But it wasn’t enough to hold off a team that had already beat them twice in the regular season and were determined to make it three straight.
And that was one of the few differences in how the season ended for the rival teams. Arizona actually beat Utah twice during the regular season – but couldn’t contain them for the most important meeting, in the opening game of the conference tournament. The Utes led at halftime, 43-29, and went on to post a 66-48 beat-down.
The Cats beat Utah on the boards, 36-28, but couldn’t find the hoop on a consistent basis – even though every player that got into the game scored. Utah shot 44.8 percent from the field, while Arizona struggled at 34 percent.
But Arizona’s outstanding senior, Davellyn Whyte, made her usual contributions. The 5’11 guard from St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix scored 23 points and then chipped in eight rebounds, six assists, a couple of steals, and even added a block. She finishes her college career with 2,059 points to put her in second place on the school’s all-time list.
“Obviously, this is a tough loss… we just didn’t have enough punch to get it done,” offered Arizona’s fifth-year head coach, Niya Butts.
For Whyte, it’s the end of a career at Arizona. For Butts, it may also be the end of the road in Tucson. This is the fourth losing season in five years at the helm after arriving from Kentucky in 2008. She had a 20-win season in 2010-11 and the Cats finished in fifth place in the conference that year. But the rest of the time, they’ve ended up either at the bottom of the final standings or a couple of notches above.
And, to top it off, their hated rival over in Tempe has beaten them each of the last five times they’ve met.
That definitely won’t lead to job security.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)