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Arizona women’s basketball aims for WNIT semifinals against Wyoming

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Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Arizona head coach Adia Barnes is building her program by heavily recruiting overseas. Next season, Arizona will add five players from five different countries. That will bring the total to seven international players from six countries.

Wyoming, the Wildcats’ next opponent in the WNIT, knows what it’s like to blend so many different cultures into a successful program. The Cowgirls come to Tucson with a roster featuring 16 players, 10 of whom have come from a total of six different countries to make their basketball homes in Laramie.

The Cowgirls parlayed their diverse team into a successful Mountain West power, going 22-8 in the regular season including 13-5 in conference play. After dispatching their first three WNIT opponents, they come into the quarterfinals at 25-8.

In the last round, Arizona faced a team that liked to shoot the three. Wyoming isn’t quite as attached to the 3-ball, but they also have some prolific perimeter shooters.

The Cowgirls have four players who attempt at least three 3-point shots per game. Marta Gomez leads the quartet with 150 attempts on the year. She also leads in effectiveness, shooting 49 percent from outside the arc. Taylor Rusk has hit 33 percent of her 124 attempts for the season. Quinn Weidemann kicks in 43 percent on her 107 attempts, followed by Karla Erjavec hitting 33 percent of her 99 attempts on the season.

Fortunately for the Wildcats, they spent last week preparing for a team that relies even more heavily on the three. Arizona defeated Idaho on Thursday despite the Vandals making 33 percent of their 3-point shots, going 10 for 30. They did it by winning the battle in the paint 36-16 and the turnover battle.

The Cowgirls average 11.24 turnovers per game against teams far inferior to the one they will face on Sunday. According to Her Hoop Stats’ ratings, Wyoming faced only one team that was better than Arizona this season—South Dakota State—but they did beat that team.

When compared head-to-head, Wyoming is the slightly better offensive team. The game isn’t played on one half of the court, though, and the Wildcats make up for that by being the far superior defensive team. Her Hoops Stats rates Arizona as the No. 36 defensive team, while the service has Wyoming at No. 91.

Throughout the season, the Wildcats were typically able to use their superior defense to overcome whatever offensive shortcomings they had. They’ve only improved over the course of the year, so there’s little reason to believe they won’t be able to do it again as long as they limit the fouls they commit.

The team will try to do that Sunday at 2 p.m. MST. The game will be live streamed at Arizona Live Stream.