Beat the teams you’re supposed to beat and pull off an upset or two along the way. That’s the recipe for success in the Pac-12, according to Arizona Wildcats head coach Adia Barnes.
According to both the polls and the stats, both Washington (10-6, 2-3) and Washington State (9-8, 2-3) are teams that Arizona is supposed to beat. The No. 21 Wildcats (14-3, 2-3) ended a three-game losing streak by defeating the Cougars on Friday. On Sunday, they have the opportunity to start building another winning streak when they travel to Seattle to face the Huskies.
While Arizona is the better team on paper, Washington is certainly capable of pulling off an upset. The Huskies defeated Iowa, which has since climbed to No. 22 in the AP poll, on a neutral floor at the end of November.
Then, there is the added emotion. The game in Seattle is a little different because of one player.
The fortunes of both programs were drastically changed when Aari McDonald made the decision to leave the Huskies after the 2016-17 season. Former Washington head coach Mike Neighbors left to take over the program at his alma mater, Arkansas. McDonald decided to leave, as well.
Barnes had departed from her assistant coaching position with the Huskies the year before to take over at her alma mater. McDonald opted to reconnect with Barnes in Tucson.
Washington’s loss was more than Arizona’s gain. It was the single most important event in Barnes’ rebuild process.
“Her impact is huge,” Barnes said. “She would have impacted Washington the same way. But you know, she still has friends that she was playing with at the time (at Washington), so it’s always more of an emotional place. She’s helped us change this program. She’s been the catalyst for it all. She’s been kind of an avalanche that started all of our other recruiting. She’s such a gifted player and I don’t think players like her come around that often. So, I mean, I told her during that process when...she was transferring. It was like, ‘Come here and build something special with me.’ And she’s done that, and she’s done a tremendous job.”
The Huskies are led by a player that would have been McDonald’s mate in the backcourt. Amber Melgoza scores 14.8 points per game, making her the only player on Washington’s roster who averages double figures.
At 5-foot-10, Melgoza is a big guard who rebounds well. Her 5.1 rebounds per game places her second on the team. Her 2.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game are also second on the team.
Washington’s top rebounder, sophomore Haley Van Dyke, averages an even six rebounds per game. She’s second on the team with 9.1 ppg.
Rebounding has been an issue for the Wildcats, and it’s only gotten worse since Pac-12 play started. Fortunately for them, the Huskies aren’t any better at it.
Arizona has a slightly higher rebound rate than Washington. While the Huskies average 39.8 rpg compared to 36 rpg for the Wildcats, Arizona has a rebounding rate of 51.6 percent compared to Washington’s 51.2 percent.
With an even rebounding game, the Wildcats’ superiority on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor should lead them to a win.
Here’s how to see if the game plays out as the stats say it should.
Arizona-Washington game details:
Date: Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020
Time: 1 p.m. MST
Location: Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion Seattle, Wash.
Rankings and ratings: Arizona is ranked No. 21 by the AP and No. 22 in the USA Today/WBCA poll.
Analytics site Her Hoop Stats rates the Huskies No. 71 and the Wildcats No. 17 overall. The Huskies are rated the No. 126 offense and the No. 29 defense. The Wildcats are the No. 38 offense and the No. 7 defense.
Which channel is Arizona-Washington on?
The game will only be aired on Pac-12 Washington.
How can I stream Arizona-Washington?
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 Arizona-Washington?
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 Arizona-Washington?
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.