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What we learned from Arizona’s win over Western New Mexico

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Lucia Alonso
Photo by Simon Asher

Monday night’s 78-41 win over Western New Mexico marked the end of the preseason for the Arizona Wildcats. Next up will be the 2018-19 opener against Idaho State on Friday.

Here’s what we learned about the women’s basketball squad in its final exhibition tune-up:

Frontcourt Depth

Last season’s biggest issue was the lack of depth in the paint. That issue has very clearly been fixed after looking at both the roster and the performances in two exhibition games. Freshman Cate Reese (11 points, 12 rebounds) has lived up to they hype so far, providing a dominating force down low while also being one of the most athletic on the court. Transfer Dominique McBryde led the team in points, while Destiny Graham made her presence known, and both looked like veteran leaders this young team will need.

What’s even more promising than having two talented starters down low is having more talent on the bench. Kiana Barkhoff, Shalyse Smith and Semaj Smith contributed some minutes, and while their stat lines weren’t nearly as full, it remained very hard for Western New Mexico to penetrate on offense and enforce things in the paint on defense.

We knew this team would be better in the frontcourt, but it’s looking like this unit could drive the team.

Alonso and Nixon from 3-point range

While Aari McDonald (17 points, four assists) and Dominique McBryde (17 points, 7 rebounds) may have led the team on offense, junior Lucia Alonso and freshman Bryce Nixon proved to be the hot hand for this team.

Alonso only attempted only four shots from the field, despite playing most of the first half, but made three, all of them from behind the arc. Nixon, who shared playing time with McDonald, looked just as capable as a floor general, also going 3-for-4 from three.

While the frontcourt has clearly improved greatly, the backcourt seems to have taken a step forward as well — and it was nice to see them shoot well, since that was an area they struggled in during the first exhibition.

Sam Thomas notably didn’t play (illness), but it’s clear there is real depth here as well, especially if the threes keep falling for Nixon and Alonso.

Looking good in exhibitions

Last season’s exhibition against WNMU ended with a very similar score to this year (80-36 last year), but overall, it’s hard not to be excited about this squad based on play in these exhibitions.

It’s clear that the newcomers are already panning out, and they’ll continue to develop as their careers stretch on. Reese and McBryde make one of the most undersized teams in the country a year ago suddenly imposing down low, and McDonald and Nixon add to the already solid duo of Thomas and Alonso. Nevertheless, coach Adia Barnes wasn’t all pleased with tonight performance, calling it “sloppy” and noting the 15 times Arizona turned the ball over.

Still, for the first time in a very long time, the Wildcats seriously appear to be on their way up, and this could be the first of many fun seasons in Tucson.