A top-25 instate showdown comes to McKale Center this Friday night
University of Arizona Women’s basketball player Aari McDonald about to shoot the ball during the game against Eastern New Mexico on October 27. UA won the game 85-38.
One of the biggest home games of the year happens Friday night as No. 18 Arizona women's basketball hosts No. 16 Arizona State in the McKale Center at 6:00 pm.
Arizona women’s basketball has usually been the secondary college basketball team in Arizona. Both the men’s team and women’s team have an opportunity to sweep the Sun Devils this weekend. The women’s team is changing the narrative for teams in the Pac-12. They have played very tough teams to open up conference play, losing to three top 10 teams thus far. The Wildcats have a chance to defeat a ranked team at home for the first time this season when they face their archrival Arizona State. After defeating the Sun Devils in a tight game earlier this season, Adia Barnes emphasized how important it was to get off to a hot start.
“Starting the game strong, I think that’s key for us because we are at home,” Barnes said.
Arizona started slow this past weekend against Washington, coming back from a 27-8 deficit after the first quarter, to win 66-58 to avoid the upset. A big part of that comeback was Aari McDonald, who had 25 points on 8/20 FG’s.
“I knew that her [McDonald] scoring would go down because I don’t think that a team has one person that scores 25 points," Barnes said. "I think a great team has someone at 20, someone at 15, 13, two players at eight or nine.”
Another key piece getting healthy is forward Dominique McBryde is still working herself back into the lineup. After missing over a month with a right ankle injury, she is four games back and still getting used to the workload she had before the injury.
“She’s working herself back into shape, she’s feeling great, but it’s like the conditioning, when you’ve missed six weeks, you’re off rhythm a little bit because you haven’t played,” Barnes said.
McBryde had 5 points against Washington State in 30 minutes, followed by a scoreless 21 minutes against Washington. Despite the two wins this past weekend, Barnes says the team has more to prove and still has not played their best basketball yet.
“We have a great opportunity these next two weeks,” said Barnes. “We have not peaked yet; we have not played our best basketball. I don’t want to peak in January, I want to peak in March.”
The Wildcats have a tall task going up against Arizona State’s depth. In their previous matchup with Arizona State, the Sun Devils had 10 players with at least a point, while the Wildcats just had six. Barnes referenced the style of play as something that’s very unfamiliar with what she coaches.
“It’s hard [to coach] because no one is at 15 points," Barnes said. "So that’s why they’re unpredictable and that’s what makes them special. You just have to play everyone the same because they really do have 10 people that could start.”
Barnes has also made it clear on social media that she wants to break attendance records. As of Thursday night there have already been over 7,000 tickets sold. The Pac-12 record is 12,364 set by Oregon and then national record is 13,100. That might seem like a lofty goal but Tucson has the fan support and Barnes wants to see them come out.
After getting their first weekend sweep of the season, Arizona looks to get another sweep, this time against No. 16 Arizona State for the regular season series. They look for their first home conference win of the season while also going for their first sweep against Arizona State since 2000.
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