When the Arizona Wildcats (15-3, 4-3) and Arizona State Sun Devils (15-4, 5-2) met in late December to open Pac-12 play, it was an unfamiliar situation. For the first time in nearly two decades, Arizona was the ranked team in the match-up. On Friday, both teams will be ranked. It won’t just be unfamiliar. It will be unprecedented in the history of the rivalry.
The Wildcats won that game in Desert Financial Arena four days after Christmas. It was their first win there since February 2000. If they can hold home court at McKale Center, it will be their first sweep of the Sun Devils since the same year.
“It means a lot,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said when asked about those marks.
“No pressure,” she joked. “Thanks for a little bit more pressure.”
ASU’s huge wins over Oregon and Oregon State have vaulted them back into the rankings and back into the national conversation. No unranked team had ever beaten two top-five teams back-to-back in the history of the sport. To say it was a big deal would be an understatement.
Perhaps more importantly, the victory over the Ducks showed that the Sun Devils were perfectly capable of being an offensive threat. Despite their reputation as a defensive-oriented program, ASU threw 30 points on the board in the final quarter to come back and defeat Oregon.
In the first game between the Wildcats and Sun Devils, ASU put together a smaller comeback attempt before losing by five. It was an extremely physical game filled with foul calls. Aari McDonald sat on the bench for extended periods in the first half then fouled out of a college game for the first (and still the only) time. She also emerged from the game with bandages covering the scratches on her neck, backing up her statement that the game was “brutal.”
Arizona will need to be able to withstand the waves of players that ASU sends into the game. Sun Devil coach Charli Turner Thorne substitutes almost like a hockey coach, sending in several fresh legs at a time. This also makes it more difficult to scout, since opponents don’t have to account for just seven or eight players.
“That’s what makes them so dangerous,” Barnes said. “That’s why I talked about balance on our team. That’s why you want balance. It’s a different style. That’s not a style I would coach. That would be hard for me, but she does a really good job and that’s the system. And I think it’s also hard because...no one’s at like 15 points. So that’s why they’re unpredictable. I think that’s what makes them special. And so you just gotta play everybody the same because they really have 10 people that could start, and they just rotate them in.”
Barnes is trying to get over 13,000 out to the game to set the NCAA regular season record.
“First, we were going for 10,000,” she said. “But then I was like, ‘Well, why don’t we just go for the record in the Pac-12, which is like 12,364,’ which is the Oregon game. But then the national record was (13,100), so I was like, ‘We should go for that and get greedy.’”
Complimentary parking on the mall and in two parking garages is being offered after 4 p.m. With tickets on sale for $5-8, it’s the best way to enjoy the experience.
If you can’t get to McKale, though, here’s how to follow along.
Arizona-Arizona State game details:
Date: Friday, Jan. 24, 2020
Time: 6 p.m. MST
Location: McKale Center Tucson, Ariz.
Rankings and ratings: Arizona State is ranked No. .16 in the AP and USA Today/WBCA polls. Arizona is ranked No. 18 by the media and No. 19 by the coaches.
Analytics site Her Hoop Stats rates the Sun Devils No. 24 and the Wildcats No. 19 overall. ASU is rated the No. 41 offense and the No. 18 defense. The Wildcats are the No. 39 offense and the No. 7 defense.
The official RPI has ASU at 25 and Arizona at 41.
Which channel is Arizona-Arizona State on?
The game will be aired on Pac-12 Arizona and the Pac-12 Network national feed. Cindy Brunson and Joan Bonvicini will be on the call.
How can I stream Arizona-Arizona State?
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-Arizona State?
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-Arizona State?
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.