Tuesday night was the season opener for the Arizona Wildcats’ women’s basketball team against North Dakota. The last time Arizona played North Dakota was back in 1987, where Arizona lost 61-59.
Times have certainly changed since then as Arizona dominated North Dakota 74-42 lead by a stifling defense that created 27 turnovers. Throughout the game Arizona was able to get their hands on passes to create turnovers and get out in transition. With Tee Tee Starks out with a shoulder injury, Amari Carter stepped in to fill the vowed. It wasn’t the best night offensively for the Penn State transfer, scoring 2-points and going 1-of-5 from the field. It was Carter’s defense that showed as she was able to able pressure on the North Dakota guards helping to create turnovers and rushed shots.
There was an obvious size advantage for Arizona, which would make you believe that rebounding would’ve been a wide margin. That was anything but the case as Arizona struggled to rebound the ball ending the game with a rebound advantage of 40 to 39. Coach Barnes talked about the struggles on the boards and emphasized the importance of rebounding.
Looking at the stats line, the thing that stands out is the free-throw disparity between the two teams. Arizona, who is the more physically dominate team just on size alone, was only able to get to the line three times, going 2-for-3. While North Dakota went to the line nineteen times going 11-for-19 shooting just around 57%. It didn’t hurt Arizona as they were still able to win by 32-points but, as the competition level increases, as you move towards PAC-12 play. However, this could become a glaring issue for Arizona if they are unable to find themselves at the line.
Arizona also had some struggles on the offensive end going 8-of-23 from the three-point line. One component to Arizona’s poor shooting was that Aari McDonald had an off night going 6-for-16 from the field. With McDonald having an off night, it was forward Cate Reese leading the way in scoring dropping 22-points and six rebounds on her birthday. Of the 22-points, 14 of those were in the second half as Arizona started to pull away and enforce their size in the paint. The paint was a massive advantage for them as they outscored North Dakota 44-16 wearing down the fighting hawks.
When you win a game 74-42, you usually have a difficult time finding flaws in such a lopsided win. However, there were three areas in which Arizona need to improve before their game against Santa Clara, rebounding, shot selection, and getting to the foul line. If they are unable to grow in these three areas, Arizona will struggle in its conference games against elite-level talent.