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Arizona women’s basketball looks to get back on track against USC, UCLA

The Wildcats return home after a difficult road trip

Aari McDonald greets fans after a game at McKale Center
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

The LA schools and the Arizona schools will have one thing in common when they meet up this weekend. Both are coming off recent stretches of having to face Stanford, California, Oregon and Oregon State all in row. Before Cal dropped out of the rankings, that meant going up against four straight ranked teams—three in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll.

UCLA (9-9, 2-4 Pac-12), Arizona (13-5, 3-4 Pac-12) and Arizona State (13-5, 4-3 Pac-12) were all able to salvage at least one win over those two weeks. USC (11-6, 1-5 Pac-12) was swept.

In fact, this season has not been kind to the Women of Troy. They were picked to finish seventh in the preseason poll and were ranked No. 25 in the national polls earlier this season.

The wheels came off a bit once conference play started, though. USC was winless in the Pac-12 until they beat their crosstown rival last week. They currently sit one ahead of Washington in the loss column for tenth in the conference.

Arizona is slightly outperforming USC in almost every statistical category on offense and most categories on defense. The strength of schedule figures into this somewhat, with USC sitting at No. 23 in the nation according to Bennett Rank compared to No. 79 for Arizona.

Arizona coach Adia Barnes believes that USC has some important advantages, though.

“They’re probably a little bit better off the dribble than we are,” she said. “They have a little bit more depth.”

She also believes that both USC and UCLA have better athleticism.

As for the difference in schedule strength, most of that difference was established in the non-conference portion of the schedule. Since conference play, USC has continued to struggle to a one-win record, while Arizona is sitting just below .500 while facing a more difficult slate of opponents.

USC has three players averaging double-digit points led by junior guard Minyon Moore with 14.6 ppg. Moore is extremely efficient, shooting almost 46 percent from the floor. She is supported by senior Aliyah Mazyck (13.5 ppg) and Moore’s older sister, Louisville transfer Mariya Moore (12.7 ppg).

The Women of Troy will be hoping that their win at Pauley Pavilion last week was a step in the right direction. The Wildcats will hope that returning home after their road trip to Oregon is just what they need.

As for the Bruins, they will be headed to Tempe before they face the Wildcats. After their home loss to USC, they have to hope to pull out some magic on the road or they will arrive in Tucson on a five-game losing streak.

UCLA was picked to finish sixth in the conference. They had an up-and-down non-conference season, although they played a difficult schedule. At this point, they have the third-best schedule in the country.

Like the Wildcats, the Bruins lost to Loyola Marymount. On the flip side, they beat then-No. 14 Georgia. Their non-conference schedule included five major conference teams.

When the conference season started, it looked like things were headed in the right direction. UCLA opened 2-0 with wins over USC and then-No. 18 Cal.

Then, they ran into the buzzsaw of Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon. The Bruins competed well against the Cardinal and the Beavers, but were overrun by the Ducks. They weren’t able to return to form in time to defeat USC at home.

The Bruins and the Wildcats compare fairly evenly on both offense and defense. Both Her Hoops Stats’ ratings and RPI place them in the same neighborhood, although the Arizona defense is rated far higher by HHS. The Bruins are more battle-tested, considering their non-conference schedule, but that hasn’t proven to be a hindrance for Arizona since conference play started.

Like the Women of Troy, the Bruins have three players averaging double-digit scoring. They are led by Michaela Onyenwere with 16.9 ppg on 47 percent shooting. She’s supported by Kennedy Burke’s 14.2 ppg and Japreece Dean’s 11.8 ppg.

The Wildcats have a good chance of climbing back over .500 this weekend, but both of the LA schools will be fighting to prove that their early conference records were simply the result of an unfavorable schedule.

How to watch

Arizona will face USC at 7 p.m. MST on Friday. That game will be aired on the Pac-12 Networks.

On Sunday, the Wildcats and the Bruins tip off at 2 p.m. MST. That game can be streamed on Arizona Live Stream.

Hear it from Adia

Adia Barnes met with the media Thursday to talk about Arizona Women's Basketball’s upcoming homestand vs. the LA schools and lots, lots more

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Thursday, January 24, 2019