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Arizona women’s basketball notebook: Adia Barnes on the WNIT Final Four, fan support and Aari McDonald’s season

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When you’re the most electric team on campus, power outages tend to happen. About three quarters of the Arizona campus was dark on Tuesday, and many rumors have come around that it’s because the Arizona Wildcats women’s basketball team had just made the WNIT Final Four, and will be hosting the semifinal.

Coach Adia Barnes spoke with the media on Tuesday, and here were the most interesting segments.

The atmosphere

Arizona’s 7,717 attendees at the Elite Eight matchup against Wyoming was an incredible display of local support, and if things continue, Barnes thinks that’s just the beginning.

“The ride has been incredible,” she said. “When I come in during the morning there’s a line to get tickets, and just the community support, and driving down Speedway and just seeing the signs and the support for women’s basketball. Words can’t describe.

“It’s been electric. its ignited us, it’s given us a huge home court advantage. It’s allowed us to stay at home in the WNIT which has helped us win. It’s just meant everything. We have a chance right now, where already at over 6,000 tickets sold. We have a chance to break our record all time. So that says a lot about where we are at, and the direction of the program. That number is 8,400 and you know, Aari McDonald, she was ambitious and she called out for 10,000 so now the pressure is one to get 10,000.”

On TCU

The Wildcats’ semifinal opponent, TCU, finished sixth in the tough Big 12 Conference. An incredibly tough team at home, going 17-3 in Fort Worth, the Horned Frogs are 7-5 on the road. Arizona looks to take advantage.

“They are going to be the best team we have played so far for sure,” Barensa said. “They’re athletic, they’re really dominant inside, and they play in a really good conference, so they’re experienced and their coach does a really good job. They’re hungry, we want to win it, and I’m sure TCU is kind of the same. So I think this is going to be like a championship game.”

On inspiring young women

With the extra exposure that comes with a long postseason run, a potential banner isn’t just the only thing at stake. The platform that Arizona’s women’s team currently holds has the ability to capture more attention than previously thought.

“You know, really, I’ve seen that a lot more lately,” said Barnes. “I’ve seen little girls talking about it, and I think that’s just huge. I think we are mentors and we do a lot of stuff in the community and we take value and we hold that to a really high standard. To see little girls excited, saying ‘this is like men’s basketball’ or ‘we’re just as important’, or see little boys in the stands I think that just speaks volumes to this community and what women’s basketball is doing to it.”

Bryce Nixon’s work ethic

The sharp-shooting freshman has made incredible strides in her first season at the collegiate level. And her hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“Bryce is a worker, and that’s why she’s going to be great,” said Barnes. “So it’s going to take time because she’s a freshman, and she’s playing behind some really good players. Unfortunately she’s playing behind some of the best in the entire country. But she works, she’s hungry to be good, so she’s going to be. It may not be now, it may not be in a month, or six months, but it will happen because of her mentality. She’s the first one in, and the last one to leave, she’s the one on off days going in and that’s on her own. So she just wants to be good and I love that about her and I love coaching her.

On Aari McDonald

Barnes was effusive in her praise for the sophomore dynamo. Who just hauled in Honorable Mention All-American honors. Asked if she expected this, she was quick to say otherwise.

“I think that her role is really different,” said Barnes. “She has never been in a role like this. At Washington she was probably the fourth option, she wasn’t a starter, she didn’t carry such a heavy load. Here at Arizona, we’re asking her ‘go guard a really good guard, play 40 minutes, score all the points, be the point guard,’ we are asking her to wear a lot of hats. And we are asking her to be more vocal. She’d done all of these things, but they aren’t necessarily things she loves doing. So she’s grown, and she’s gotten better, and she’s matured a lot. These things will pay off later, as we get better, she won’t have to take many hard shots. Her percentages from the ‘two’ and the ‘three’ will go up because she will have easier shots. She wont have the ball in her hands for all 40 minutes like a point guard, she’ll split it with Lucia and with other guards and I think the pressure will be off of her and she’ll play even better.

On McDonald being compared to Maya Moore

McDonald and Moore are the only two players in Division I history with 800 points, 200 rebounds and 150 assists in a season. Moore dominated the world of collegiate women’s basketball all four of her years at Connecticut, winning two national championships and finishing her career with a 150-4 record.

McDonald being in the same breath as one of the greatest players to play is nothing to scoff at.

“That’s just something that can never be taken away,” said Barnes about McDonald’s special season. “That’s how good she is. And the thing is she’s only a sophomore so she will be an All-American, she will have a lot more accolades and as we get better I think it will even grow more.”