Arizona women’s basketball opens up conference play against ASU
The University of Arizona women’s basketball team opens Pac-12 play against in-state rival and No.17 ranked Arizona State in the McKale Center on Dec. 30.
The opening conference matchup sees two programs that have only three combined losses between them meet for the first time this season.
For Arizona, it all starts and stops with Aari McDonald. The transfer from Washington followed UA head coach Adia Barnes to the Old Pueblo, but that’s the only following she has done during her time in Tucson.
McDonald has turned into the talismanic leader that the Wildcats have needed, averaging 24.2 points per contest.
Arizona hasn’t just been a one-woman show. Freshman Cate Reese has been the yin to McDonald’s yang, as the McDonalds All-American post-player is adjusting to college life just fine, nearly averaging a double-double with a 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game so far.
For the Sun Devil’s, the two-headed scoring monster of Courtney Ekmark and Kianna Ibis are going to be handful for Arizona. The Wildcat’s face their first ranked opponent in ASU, and will be looking to avenge the three losses that were suffered at the hands of the Sun Devil’s last season.
History has also been on ASU’s side, as they lead the overall series 63-33.
For Barnes, a win against a ranked rival would do wonders for a program that won only six games last year. With a highly touted recruiting class already on campus, a win of this caliber would help lay the foundation for another top notch recruiting haul.
If either Arizona school wants to make noise in the loaded Pac-12 (where there is currently five ranked teams), an opening win would be crucial in continuing the already special seasons they have going.
On the other hand, a loss could create doubt in a program right before a stretch of games against the nations best conference. For both programs, an early misstep could set the tone for the rest of the season.
The game tips-off at 5 p.m. MST, Sunday, and will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.
Follow David Skinner on Twitter