Every week in the Pac-12, it seems like the Arizona Wildcats are gearing up for the biggest game of the season. That’s because they are. On Friday, it comes in the form of the No. 3 Oregon State Beavers, the first top-five opponent and third ranked opponent the Wildcats have faced this season.
The Wildcats have gone 1-1 against ranked foes this year, with both games being played on the road. Arizona coach Adia Barnes and her team hope that the home court advantage can help them become 2-1.
“I think that we have a tremendous opportunity,” Barnes said. “I believe that everybody’s beatable. ... We’ve seen all the upsets. I think there’s been more upsets in this last month than have happened in years. So we have a great opportunity, we have nothing to lose. If we don’t win this game at home, it doesn’t matter. We’re not supposed to beat No. 2 or No. 3. But if we do win, it’s the biggest upset in college basketball, and I think we’re capable.”
Her point was driven home once again on Thursday night when No. 6 Baylor went into Storrs and knocked off No. 1 Connecticut. It brought Connecticut’s 98-game home winning streak to an end.
Guard Aari McDonald echoed her coach’s words, imploring fans to come out and give the Wildcats the kind of home court advantage they’re becoming accustomed to.
“I’m hoping we’re sold out for both games,” McDonald said. “I’m hoping. These are two really important games, and I just hope our fans come through like I know they will. They’ve been great thus far and just the continued support, the packed house, we really love that and we will need that this weekend.”
That support could be what helps the Wildcats get over the hump against the Beavers. In Corvallis last year, Oregon State dominated Arizona. In Tucson, it was a different story.
In the second multiple-overtime game that the Wildcats lost last season, it took the Beavers two extra periods to pull out the 65-60 victory. It was the last game of the regular season and Arizona’s penultimate loss of the year.
Arizona has only lost twice since that day in McKale Center. Both losses have come to top-10 teams. Can they put a stop to such losses for the first time since 2004?
Most important will be putting into action the lessons learned last week against UCLA.
“That was a learning lesson for us because in the fourth quarter we were pretty even,” Barnes said. “So three quarters of the game we were even but you don’t win against a top-10 team unless you put together 40 minutes of good basketball.”
Arizona had similar issues against the top Pac-12 teams last season. To take the next step, they need to put an end to that.
The status of starting forward Dominique McBryde could also have a lot of influence on their success. Last season, McBryde went off for 20 points, eight rebounds and a block against the Beavers. It was her highest-scoring game of the season. She connected on four of seven attempts from the 3-point line, both of which were also season highs.
At this point, McBryde is day-to-day. Even if she is available on Friday, it would be a big ask to expect her to come in and produce like that after sitting out for over a month.
Arizona also has to hope to stay out of foul trouble. At both Arizona State and UCLA, they had players in early foul trouble. They had a total of three players foul out of those two games, including McDonald fouling out for the first time in her college career. They are hoping that the home court advantage plays into that, as well.
Regardless of what the referees do, the Wildcats will have their hands full with a Beavers team that many people think should be ranked No. 1. As one of only two undefeated teams left in women’s college basketball, they certainly have an argument.
“When you look at Oregon State, Mikayla Pivec is very good a complete player, and she changes a lot of the game,” Barnes said. “Destiny (Slocum) is a very good point guard, who is a good outside shooter, good facilitator. And then you have Aleah Goodman’s a really good shooter. Then you have some really good young post players, but you have a ton of shooting on the outside. And you have a really smart team that takes care of the basketball and really plays well in their system...when you look at those top five teams, they have really good shooters on the perimeter.”
Oregon State is still a guard-oriented team, as Barnes says. Who wouldn’t be with a trio like Pivec, Slocum and Goodman? Pivec leads the team with 15.4 points per game. She’s closely followed by Slocum with 14.6 ppg. Goodman throws in another 8.3 ppg.
Pivec isn’t just a scorer, though. At 5-foot-10, she also leads the Beavers in rebounds with 10.1 per game. When it comes to making her teammates better, she’s the best at that, too. Pivec leads the team with 5.5 assists per game.
The ability to find the open shooters is key to OSU’s success. They have three players averaging at least 4.7 assists per game. In addition to Pivec, Goodman averages 5.0 and Slocum dishes out 4.7.
It helps to have shooters who can knock down those shots, as well. Of the five players who have shot at least 29 3-pointers this season, only one has success less than 37 percent of the time. Goodman, who has taken 73 shots from outside this year, has hit 41.1 percent of them. Slocum has taken 83 with a 37 percent success rate.
And defense? You’ll find Pivec being active on that end, too. Once again, she leads the Beavers in steals with 1.4 per game.
In addition to their strong guards, Oregon State is getting considerable contributions from freshman forward Taylor Jones. The three-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week is averaging 14.3 ppg and 7.7 rpg while shooting 61.5 percent from the floor, the third best mark in the Pac-12.
On the defensive side, the 6-foot-4 Jones gives the Beavers an impressive inside presence. Her 2.1 blocks per game lead the Pac-12. Number two in the conference? Well, that’s her teammate Kennedy Brown with 1.8 blocks per game.
The Wildcats showed that they could hang with the Beavers last season. Both teams are similar to what they were last season with a few key additions. Will Arizona be healthy? Will their newcomers be able to keep pace with or outshine those of their talented opponents? It’s worth tuning in to find out.
Here’s how to do that.
Oregon State-Arizona game details:
Date: Friday, Jan. 10, 2020
Time: 8 p.m. MST
Location: McKale Center Tucson, Ariz.
Rankings and ratings: Arizona is ranked No. 18 by the AP and No. 19 in the USA Today/WBCA poll. Oregon State is ranked No. 3 in both polls.
Analytics site Her Hoop Stats rates the Beavers No. 8 and the Wildcats No. 20 overall. The Beavers are rated the No. 9 offense and the No. 11 defense. The Wildcats are the No. 47 offense and the No. 7 defense.
Which channel is Oregon State-Arizona on?
The game will be aired on Pac-12 Arizona, Pac-12 Oregon and the national Pac-12 Network.
How can I stream Oregon State-Arizona?
The stream will be available on Pac-12.com, but only if you already subscribe to the Pac-12 Network.
How can I listen to the radio call of Oregon State-Arizona?
The call by Derrick Palmer is available on the Arizona IMG Sports Network. On the radio, you can tune into KTUC 1400 AM. You can also listen via Tunein.com or the Tunein app on your mobile device.
How can I follow Oregon State-Arizona?
You can follow us on Twitter @AZDesertSwarm. You can also follow our editor @RKelapire and our reporter @KimDoss71 for coverage of Arizona women’s basketball on game day and every other day of the week.