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What we learned from Adia Barnes’ pre-Bay Area press conference

The Arizona coach shared about her upcoming road trip, Aari McDonald and how recruiting has or hasn’t changed.

arizona-womens-basketball-gets-commitment-junior-college-post-fanta-gassama Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

Arizona women’s basketball head coach Adia Barnes held her weekly press conference on Wednesday. She answered questions about Aari McDonald, the Bay Area road trip and the impact this season has had on recruiting.

Here are three takeaways:

Preparation for Bay Area road trip

Arizona’s final four regular-season games are a Murderer’s Row. The Wildcats have road games against No. 7 Stanford and Cal, before wrapping up the regular season at home against No. 2 Oregon and No. 12 Oregon State.

Barnes had the perfect response when asked how she was preparing her team for such an arduous stretch.

“Unfortunately ... thank you for reminding me,” Barnes said. “But really, if you’re looking from the outside in, really, we should lose all four games. That’s kinda realistic. But I think looking on the other side, Stanford just lost a couple weeks ago really badly at home and I don’t think they are playing at the level they were playing at a month ago, because of some of their injuries, unfortunately.”

Stanford (21-4, 11-3) came into McKale Center earlier this year and whooped the Wildcats 78-48 in a game that was as one-sided as could be.

“And if you look at Cal, and Cal’s also had some tough losses,” Barnes said. “So I think that it’s a good time to beat a team on the road.”

McDonald chasing Barnes’ scoring record

Sophomore point guard Aari McDonald is the nation’s third-leading scorer at 24.8 points per game. She only needs 33 more to break UA’s single-season scoring record held by none other than Barnes herself.

Nobody knows the dynamic guard quite like Barnes, who originally recruited McDonald to Washington, and even she wasn’t sure if McDonald could break the record.

“I wasn’t sure because Aari wasn’t a score-first guard,” Barnes said. “She’s kind of turned into that here. Her role was so different in Washington, but in high school she would score a lot, she would have 35-point games so I knew she could score.

“But did I know she could score a this level? No, I didn’t think 30, 25 points a game. I knew she would have points, and I knew she was capable of 18 or 20, but I didn’t think 24 a game, or top-three in the nation in scoring, I really didn’t.”

McDonald is going to need to have some big nights if the Wildcats want to leave California with a win or two.

Recruiting difference since before the season started?

Coming into this year the Wildcats were coming off a 6-24 season, Barnes’ second at the helm. And when you are in the bottom rung of the best conference in women’s basketball, your weaknesses get exposed at a higher rate than teams in lesser conferences.

Recruiting is the difference maker, like it is in all collegiate sports, so I asked Barnes if recruiting has changed or gotten a little easier now that the Wildcats have all but secured a postseason bid.

“It’s changed a lot,” she said. “But I think the relationships were so solid before, I think people knew that (this successful season) was coming. So I didn’t feel like because we won six games that it would ... now it did close a couple doors, but I think in other places the relationships were so solid that, they knew that it was a natural progression, so I don’t think it hurt that much.

“I think it hurt with new people we trying to get in, saying ‘oh no, they aren’t good enough’, and it did, but then, for me, I don’t want to coach those kind of kids anyways, so it didn’t hurt too much. But I think now people are seeing the potential and that we are missing pieces, and they also see that a great player is here, another great young player is here, and that they can play with them for the next couple of years, and I think that’s where it’s helped.”