Lauren Fields doesn’t feel the same pressure this season.
She isn’t expected to be the one — the one her teammates look to to score the bulk of the points.
That doesn’t mean that it’s easier being a Wildcat than a Cowgirl.
It’s definitely not, especially when she’s a veteran on a top-20 team that has high expectations.
After transferring from Oklahoma State, Fields has had to adjust to that, a completely different system than she played in before, as well as new teammates with different abilities.
“I'm used to playing with the ball in my hands,” Fields said. “I'm not playing as much with the ball in my hands. It’s just adjusting to that, and then adjusting to, of course, playing with players who are capable of getting their own basket as well.
“It’s been different. There’s a good side to that. I'm not the only scorer on the team. But now I need to step up and be that option when certain people are off in certain games. It will make it harder to scout us if I'm able to contribute offensively.”
Fields and her UA teammates hope that's true when they face rival ASU for the second time this season at 3 p.m. Sunday in Tempe. No. 19 Arizona is looking to get back to winning after dropping two to Colorado and Utah last weekend.
While the 5-9 junior guard's shooting hasn’t been as sharp as she’d like it to be — she's averaging only 5.6 points per game, down from 15.4 at OSU last season — her defense has been on point. She generally contains her opponent and is consistently in the right position. She's averaging 1.8 steals per game and sits in eighth place in the Pac-12. She has won multiple "Go Beyond" awards after Wildcats win for being the team's lockdown defender.
After a little recovery from a tough defensive practice session on Wednesday, Fields spoke to the Star about her shooting, her thumb injury, her defense and what she loves about being a Wildcat. The conversation has been lightly edited.
Let’s go back to a few weeks ago and your explosion of points — eight in 40 seconds — to lead your team to a come-from-behind victory over Oregon State. What was that like for you?
A: “It was definitely a confidence booster for me. I have been kind of struggling offensively. I still am, but I think that is a game that I can use to build my confidence – (to) know that I'm capable of hitting big shots, which is what I did. Just knowing that if I can hit a big shot, I can hit other shots as well. It was good to have those shots go in and be the difference-maker of the game.”
When you get in a shooting slump, is it just about getting more reps? What are you focused on to get through this?
A: “I would say positive self-talk. I can't be negative right now because then it's only going to get worse. I think just staying positive. (UA) Coach Adia (Barnes) talks to me about staying positive and focusing on the things that I am capable of focusing on. Because there are other ways I can contribute to the game. It's not always going to be offensively and just focusing on those things and letting them build my confidence towards the offensive end.”
Before the start of the season, you injured your thumb and it required surgery. What thumb was it, right or left? How did it affect your shooting?
A: “It was my left. I’m right-handed. When I first came back it was hard for me because, well, I still don’t have feeling in my thumb a little bit. It was hard to dribble with my left hand. Of course, shooting the ball, you have to pick up the ball sometimes with your left hand. I’ve gotten used to it now, and it’s not a factor.”
Can you walk us through what happened?
A: “I had just gotten home from class, and I was hungry. I had some frozen burger patties, and I don't know why, (but) I took the biggest knife possible. I stuck it into the paddies and then I slit my thumb. I guess I slit like the nerves of my thumb. That's why I had to have this surgery. I didn't even notice it happened to because I slit the nerves. I didn't feel it until I looked down, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!' "
What was the first thing you did after you said, ‘Oh, my gosh!’?
A: “I was on the phone with my mom, and was she was mad. She was like, ‘Are you serious Lauren?’ I just came (to McKale), and they stitched it up for me. That was it. But the next day, the doctor wanted to see me again, and I couldn't bend my thumb. He wanted me to see a (hand specialist). That's when I was told I cut my nerves in my thumb and I had to have surgery.”
You play sneaky defense. Sometimes we don’t realize until we look at the stats that you’ve gotten three or four steals in a game. Do people ever say that they didn’t realize all that you are doing on defense?
A: “It’s always been talked about that there is stuff I do on the defensive end — even if it’s not me getting the steal, (I) put somebody else in the position that could get the steal. I guess people consider me sneaky on defense. You don't even realize I'll come up with a steal or something like that.”
What do you like about defense, and what is your biggest strength on that end of the court?
A: “I would say applying pressure to the basketball. I don’t like my opponent scoring on me, because I am so competitive. ”
What is the biggest thing you’ve learned in the Arizona system from Coach Adia and assistant coach Salvo Coppa?
A: “Just applying the fundamental aspect of it. I think Coach Salvo has done a great job of teaching us the simple things, like not letting your feet cross on defense or stuff like that. (Things) that can help you be faster on defense.”
What’s the best thing about being a Wildcat?
A: “I would say coming in every day and knowing that practice is going to be intense. You're going to get better. And that we are going to be successful this year and win games.”