Adia Barnes began her weekly press conference with a wide smile.
“Undefeated in the Pac-12, that’s great,” she said Tuesday. “I don’t know how long I’ll be able to say that.”
No. 18 Arizona is riding high with confidence, and caution, after capturing its first win at ASU in 19 years. After all, this is the Pac-12 and a new week means another set of formidable foes. The Wildcats (12-0, 1-0 Pac-12) will head to Los Angeles this weekend to face USC (8-4, 0-1) and No. 10 UCLA (12-0, 1-0) on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
Arizona only played the L.A. schools once in the regular season last year, coming away with a home split. UA beat the Trojans 71-68 and lost to the Bruins 98-93 in triple overtime. The Wildcats then thumped USC in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, 76-48.
Here’s what Barnes had to say leading up to the rematches. The transcript is below.
Adia Barnes previews Arizona Women's Basketball’s upcoming road trip to USC and No. 10 UCLA, gives an update on Dominique McBryde’s ankle, and morePosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Tuesday, December 31, 2019
On what she wants to see at USC and UCLA: “I want to see the same intensity, but I want to see a better start. The last two games, against ASU and Santa Barbara, we haven’t started out as strong as we were for the whole season before that. So I want to see us come out with a little bit of fire the first couple of minutes, not get down and dig ourselves a hole and come back. And there’s just little things we’re working on. Some of our offensive spacing, some of our positioning on defense can get better, so we worked on that today. I’m hoping that we can translate that into games.”
On the challenges USC presents: “They’re really athletic. I think the one of the biggest challenges is playing on the road in the Pac-12. That’s a challenge in itself regardless of who you’re playing. But we know USC’s a really good team. (First-year coach) Mark Trakh does a really good job with his team. They’re very organized, they’re going to be aggressive, they’re gonna be versatile. We know that we have to play well. And then we go into UCLA. It’s a tough weekend. I feel like in the Pac-12 there isn’t one easy weekend. We know we’re playing two really athletic teams that play really well at home. So we just have to go and be able to take care of business on the road.”
On the importance of playing well away from McKale Center: “If you can get a sweep in this conference at home, it’s great. If you can get a sweep on the road, it is phenomenal, which it won’t happen for a lot of teams that often. And if you can go and if you could split on the road (that’s fine). You just don’t want to go on the road and not win games.”
On the difference between Arizona now and last year: “We’re a better team. We don’t rely so much on Aari (McDonald) having to do everything. I think we’re better defensively. We have more depth. We have more length on the perimeter. I think we’re just more of a team this year, which I think makes us tougher. We still need to get one or two more people in double digits. We have to, but I think that’ll come. I think Helena, Tara (Manumaleuga), Mara (Mote), they’re freshmen that are coming into their own, and Sevval (Gul). I think Sevval is going to be huge, but it takes time. So I thought we played really, really well against USC in the Pac-12 Tournament but they’re so different. So are we. They rely a lot on underclassmen. I think we have confidence right now, so we just have to kind of continue to do what we’re doing. But I think we’re a better defensive team this year than we were last year.”
On freshman Helena Pueyo stepping up when McDonald sat vs. ASU with foul trouble, and if she thinks about how that’s what the future of the program will look like when McDonald is gone: “I think about that a lot. Helena is going to get better and better. She’s already improved so much from the beginning of the year. I think she’s just kind of showing a little bit of what she can do. She’s gonna be better. When I look back and I think about it, last year if Aari had two fouls or played 28 minutes, we wouldn’t have won. And we’ve done that multiple times this year. She was only averaging like 27 minutes the whole non-conference. So if we can win games when Aari’s in foul trouble, it’s really good. So I think that that’s what a team can do. And think about it. We’ve been without Dominique (McBryde) for a month. She’s just starting to come back. So we’ve been able to win on the road against good teams without a starter, a starter who plays 35 minutes a game. So I think different people are stepping up and we have to continue to do that”
On McBryde’s ankle injury: “She’s just jogging now, so we’re expecting her back within the week. So we’ll see, but we’re not rushing it until she’s 100 percent. I don’t want her to play at 75 percent. For me, it’s not worth it, so we’re just kind of taking it day by day.”
On if McBryde will immediately return to the starting lineup or get eased back in: “I don’t know yet. I think it would depend on how ready she was. But I’m gonna put her in a situation where she can be successful. I’m not gonna go and bring her back and play her 35 minutes. So I’m just going to ease her back in because the main thing is having her for the entire rest of the season. That’s the goal.”
On if she is concerned about having to change the rotation once McBryde returns: “No, because I think that it makes us better later. Because if I can get our starters to play less minutes, I think the longevity of them being fresh in the year is good. So I don’t really think about that. I think that just different people gonna step up in different nights and we just kind of go in and see who’s playing best at that time.”
On the UCLA game possibly being a matchup of undefeated teams: “I haven’t looked that far ahead. Yeah, that looks scary (laughs). No, I think that’s fun. I think if we can go and handle business at USC, I think we’ve done a really good job because I think at this point, the rankings really mean nothing because of the way our conference is. And I think it’s also harder because you’re the hunted instead of the one that’s hunting. So I think that could be a great matchup. But I think that the first thing is we’ve got to be able to play against USC, play well, and feel good going into UCLA. And then it’s going to be a battle.
“But the other great thing is UCLA also has play ASU. So that’s going to be a very physical game. That’s going to be a tough game. So I think it’s gonna be interesting to see what happens. I really don’t look ahead. But yeah, I never even thought about that. It would be a battle. I think our players remember what it felt like to lose in three overtimes, and to play 48 minutes. So I think those are going to be great games. I think they’re all pumped for it.”
On the 3-point shooting struggles vs. ASU: “I think they’re just a great defensive team that puts a lot of pressure on you. I think that our shooters got a little bit tight and Helena and Sam (Thomas) stopped taking shots. And I think that’s just what it was. It’s kind of been like that last couple games, but we’re working on shooting now. I told them I don’t care if you’re 0 for 5, keep on shooting. So hopefully you’ll see that turn around because we have to shoot the 3 better.”