Ever since Dominique McBryde sprained her right ankle on Dec. 2, Arizona coach Adia Barnes has held out hope that she would return in time for Sunday’s Pac-12 opener at Arizona State.
That’s still the case as of Friday, even though the senior forward was wearing a walking boot at the team’s afternoon practice.
“She’s still day by day, we’re not sure of her status for Sunday,” Barnes said. “I’m hoping, I’m optimistic, but we’ll see. If not, she’ll be back soon. We just don’t want to rush because it’s counter productive.”
Here’s Arizona coach Adia Barnes on Sunday’s game at ASU, Dominique McBryde’s ankle injury, and entering Pac-12 play as a ranked team pic.twitter.com/g1lho8rRjn— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) December 27, 2019
Semaj Smith has been starting in McBryde’s place. The 6-foot-6 sophomore gives the Wildcats more size alongside 6-foot-2 forward Cate Reese. She has averaged 6.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game in McBryde’s absence.
McBryde’s numbers don’t jump off the page—she is averaging 5.1 points, 3.4 assists, and 1.6 steals per game—but the Wildcats miss her versatility and veteran presence, particularly on the defensive end of the floor where they rank No. 2 in the nation in efficiency.
“Dominique is really fast. Dominique can match up with the 2, 3, 4, 5. She’s one of our strongest post defenders because of her experience,” Barnes said. “Cate (Reese), Semaj have played three less years. (McBryde)’s very smart, she plays angles, she guards perimeter players really well, so we can switch more. Just a lot of different things. But I think Cate and Semaj have done a really good job. It just changes our presses, it changes some of our rotations and some of the things we can do.”
Arizona’s schedule has been spaced out to the point that McBryde has only missed three games despite being out for nearly a month. The Wildcats won all three comfortably, but all were against mid-major opponents.
Aside from maybe Texas, ASU will be the toughest team Arizona has faced so far. The Sun Devils (10-2) received a pair of votes in the latest AP Poll. They have won six straight and have the No. 28 defensive rating in the nation.
The teams split the season series last season, with the home team winning both times. The Sun Devils had a lot of roster turnover since then, especially in the frontcourt.
“It’s going to be really exciting,” Barnes said. “We know it’s going to be physical. They’re so good defensively, so it could be potentially very low scoring but I think it’s going to be a good test for us on the road in the Pac-12.”
The Wildcats (11-0) usually enter the conference season without many expectations but this year they are the No. 18 team in the country, one of five ranked teams in the Pac-12, and riding a 17-game winning streak dating back to last season, the longest in the nation.
“For me it’s fun,” Barnes said. “I’d feel better if we were fully healthy, but every team is going through that right now. The climb is fun. It’s not fun being chosen last but then there is no pressure. I think there is a different pressure now but I only think about what I can control. We’re going to go out and do our best and still get better.”
How to watch Sunday’s game
Sunday’s game will tip off in Desert Financial Arena at 12 p.m. MST on the Pac-12 Networks. The radio call will be on KTUC 1400 AM. KTUC is available on Tunein.com or via the Tunein app.
Game stats will be available at Arizona Live Stats.