When she was asked about the difference between top five teams and lower-ranked teams, Arizona head coach Adia Barnes pointed at one area: perimeter shooting from multiple players. That was demonstrated by the Oregon State Beavers in their narrow victory on Friday. The No. 2 Oregon Ducks have a similar make-up.
“You look at Oregon, they have four or five players that can shoot like about 40 percent from the 3,” Barnes said. “So it’s really hard to guard teams like that because you can’t double inside, you can’t double off. Like on our team, you can’t double off Helena (Pueyo) because she shoots almost 50 percent from the 3. So when you have multiple players like that, then your posts get easier one-on-one looks and it’s just hard to guard, and they make you pay for every mistake.”
While Oregon doesn’t have quite as many sharpshooters among their starters as their rivals from Corvallis, they still have three key reserves who shoot at least 37.9 percent from beyond the arc. All of them attempt at least 2.1 3-pointers per game.
The Wildcats will also be dealing with another team with strong inside play, only this time it’s experienced players in the frontcourt. Instead of a freshman like Oregon State’s Taylor Jones, Arizona will be facing senior Ruthy Hebard, who was the winner of the Katrina McClain Award as the best power forward in the country her sophomore year. She was an All-American honorable mention the last two years, and was on both the Pac-12 All-Freshman team and the All-Pac-12 team her freshman season.
All that’s before you get to the elephant in the room: Sabrina Ionescu. The 5-foot-11 guard has collected more triple-doubles than anyone in college basketball history, man or woman. She shoots 48.6 percent from the field. She can pass. She can rebound. She averages nearly a double-double with 16.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. She’s the definition of “hard to guard.”
“She has a very high basketball IQ,” Arizona guard Aari McDonald said. “And it’s like, ‘What can’t she do?’ You sag off of her, she’s going to shoot it. If you play too close, she’ll go by you and dish to Ruthy or the other great shooters she has alongside of her. And it’s hard, but I think that with our pressure and our defense we can definitely create some havoc.”
That said, Oregon is not invulnerable. Both the Louisville Cardinals and the Arizona State Sun Devils have proven that, and they both did it in their home arenas. The question is whether the Wildcats can make it two losses in a row for the preseason No. 1 or will the Ducks be more determined to get redemption?
“We get to play Oregon after a loss. That’s awesome,” Barnes joked. “Welcome to the Pac-12.”
Oregon-Arizona game details:
Date: Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020
Time: 12 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 is ranked No. 2 in both polls.
Analytics site Her Hoop Stats rates the Ducks No. 2 and the Wildcats No. 21 overall. The Ducks are rated the No. 1 offense and the No. 9 defense. The Wildcats are the No. 43 offense and the No. 6 defense.
Which channel is Oregon-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-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-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-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.