Historic defensive effort lifts Wildcats in win over Howard - Tucson News Now

Historic defensive effort lifts Wildcats in win over Howard

TUCSON, AZ -

The Arizona Wildcats improved to 2-0 Wednesday night with a 65-28 win over the Howard Bison and made some history in doing so. 

Howard was just 6 of 39 from the floor, marking the fewest field goals allowed in a game by Arizona in program history. The Bison’s shooting percentage of .154 was also the lowest ever allowed by Arizona and tied a Pac-12 mark that Stanford set against Pacific in 2003. 

“Our goal was to hold them to 46 points or less, and they scored 28 and that's pretty good,” Coach Niya Butts said. “That is certainly a highlight. We forced them into 30 turnovers and got 15 steals. Those are all good things defensively. We still have to get better rebounding, but it was good tonight." 

Howard scored more from the free throw line – 15 points—than they did from the field where they produced just 13 points against Arizona’s stingy defense. The Bison had three field goals in the first half and three more in the second. 

“It's not very often that a team does that,” sophomore guard JaLea Bennett said of limiting Howard to just six field goals. "But when you do, you have to take pride in that because it is hard to keep a team from scoring.”

The Wildcats didn’t have any trouble finding the bottom of the McKale Center nets on their end in the victory. 

The Wildcats shot 9 of 15 from 3-point distance and 23 of 52 overall. Bennett set a new career high with 18 points, knocking down both of her 3-pointers. Miller, in just her second collegiate game, connected on four of six from deep range. 

"I really like this group,” Butts said. “The issue with us is just figuring out who plays well together and knocking down those shots at the right time. We had a lot of young folks out there. I looked out there at one point and we had three freshman on the floor and that's both a good and bad thing. When you are turning the ball over sometimes or not knowing exactly what you should be in offensively, it’s bad, but I like the way we are shooting the ball from the outside." 

Miller finished with 16 points in the win and added two steals and two rebounds. Known as a dangerous outside shooter in high school, the freshman guard has already hit some big shots for the Wildcats through two games. 

“She can shoot the ball and really score the basketball,” Butts said. “With her, it is just getting a better feel for the game, knowing what we are in and as a freshman just getting used to different things. With Michal you won't find a more coachable kid. That is a really good kid, with amazing talent and is eager to get better. I look forward to her continuing to play well and stepping in when needed."

Bennett had two points at halftime, but got it going in the second to keep Arizona’s offense hot. The sophomore from Grand Prairie, Texas, had nine points in the third quarter and seven in the fourth. Bennett finished with 18 points, surpassing her career high of 14, which was set twice last season as a freshman. 

“I got my feet wet and got a little bit more comfortable and more relaxed,” Bennett said of her performance. “I got into a rhythm. It feels really good (to get a career high), but I am still not satisfied because I missed a lot of layups. But for the most part, I put the ball in the basket, so I feel pretty good. 

The Wildcats played 10 different people in the win with everyone playing at least 12 minutes. Freshman A’Shanti Coleman had eight points, five rebounds and three steals and Taryn Griffey had another strong all-around game with seven points, four assists and two rebounds. The point guard took just five shots and didn’t commit any turnovers. 

Arizona will now look to move to 3-0 for the first time since the 2012-2013 season when it travels to the University of San Diego for a Saturday game. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m., MST. 

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