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One thing Cate Reese can improve in junior season with Arizona women’s basketball

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 13 Women’s - Loyola Marymount at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We recently looked at one thing each Arizona men’s basketball returner needed to improve. Jumping off that, we will explore what each of the returning players on the women’s team needs to improve.

Up first is Cate Reese.

Standing strong

On both offense and defense, Reese is not always able to fend off her stronger opponents. This may mean that she isn’t able to box out when faced with a bigger offensive player or it may mean losing balance and falling when going against a strong defense. Neither works in her favor.

When Arizona faced Texas early in the 2019-20 season, one thing they weren’t able to do was box out against the strong interior of the Longhorns.

Barnes recalled that Reese told her, “I’m trying! I’m trying!”

The coach knew that her slender power forward was trying, but the Longhorns’ Joyner Holmes and Charli Collier were just stronger.

Reese came back from her freshman year stronger. It paid off in many areas during her sophomore year. Rebounding might have been the biggest, but there is still room for improvement.

Her freshman season, Reese led the team in rebounding, but it wasn’t by much. At 6.8 RPG, she nudged past Aari McDonald’s 6.5 RPG. On the offensive end of the court, she had a bigger edge with 1.8 O-RPG compared to 1.3 for the team’s second-best offensive rebounder, Tee Tee Starks.

This season, Reese was comfortably on top with 7.5 RPG compared to 5.6 grabbed by McDonald. Her 2.0 ORPG were comfortably ahead of McDonald’s 1.4 ORPG.

When playing offense, Reese has a tendency to fall when going to the basket. In her freshman year, Barnes said that it was a matter of balance and that they would work on it. It seemed like it was becoming less of an issue, but Reese did fall back into the tendency a bit later in her sophomore season.

One problem with her tendency to fall is that she has difficulty drawing shooting fouls when going to the basket. Reese had a 14.1 percent free throw rate, ranking her in the 38.9 percentile of Division I women’s basketball.

Data from the WNBA indicates that inside players have a lower free throw rate than guards, but the best forwards and centers in the world have an average free throw rate hovering around 35 percent. Reese isn’t going to reach that high in college simply because those numbers are rare in the major conferences. There is evidence that she can improve on her own rate, though.

During her freshman season, when Reese had even more difficulty staying on her feet, she had a free throw rate of just 10.7 percent. One suggestion has been that a few members of the team don’t always get the calls because officials believe they’re trying to sell contact by leaving their feet.

Whether that’s true is certainly up for debate. What isn’t up for debate is that it’s difficult to rebound if you’re lying on the floor.

Were Reese’s improvements in rebounding and free throw rate due to her increased strength and ability to stay on her feet compared to her freshman season? If so, the way to future improvement is down a path she’s already on.