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Arizona looks to stay unbeaten at USC and No. 10 UCLA

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 27 Women’s UCLA at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats’ 12-0 start to the season is historic, but that may not be the most impressive part of their nation-leading 18-game winning streak that stretches back to last season. The toughest dates on the team’s calendar have come on the road, and the ‘Cats have been more than up for them. They will need to be once again as they head to Los Angeles to face USC and No. 10 UCLA.

Arizona coach Adia Barnes believes her team needs to get off to a quick start in both games. That has recently become an issue.

“I want to see the same intensity (as against Arizona State), but I want to see a better start,” she said. “So in the last two games—ASU and Santa Barbara—we haven’t started out as strong as we were for the whole season before that. So I want to see us come out with a little bit more fire in the first couple minutes, not kind of get down and dig ourselves a hole and come back.”

While a sweep would be great, Barnes just doesn’t want to go winless on too many road trips.

“I feel like in the Pac-12, there isn’t one easy weekend,” Barnes said. “We know we’re playing two really athletic teams that play really well at home. So we just have to go and be able to take care of business on the road any time you can.”

They will get their first chance to do that when they face USC on Friday. Then comes the big test against UCLA on Sunday. What do the numbers tell us about both match-ups?

No. 18 Arizona (12-0, 1-0) at USC (8-4, 0-1)

When: Friday, Jan. 3 at 8 p.m. MST

Where: Galen Center

TV: Pac-12 Arizona, Pac-12 Los Angeles

Radio: KTUC 1400 AM (also available on Tunein.com)

The Women of Troy have been inconsistent this season, but that’s to be expected from a team as young as they are. They have played a solid schedule that includes five teams in the top 100 of the RPI. USC went 2-3 in those games, including going 1-2 against teams in the top 25.

Two freshmen lead the way for the Women of Troy with Alissa Pili on top of a talented group of newcomers. The forward from Anchorage, Alaska averages 12.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. That leads USC in both categories.

Not too far behind is Endyia Rogers who averages 10.9 ppg and 5.9 rpg. The freshman guard is also second on the team with 22 total assists, good for 1.8 per game.

The Wildcats lead in just about every statistical category you can think of, from straight-forward points per game to metrics like rebound rate. In most games against high major competition, the Wildcats come up short in the battle of the boards. Against USC, they may break that trend.

The Wildcats trail in total rebounds and total offensive rebounds, but they lead the Women of Troy in every other rebounding statistic: total defensive rebounds, defensive rebounding rate, offensive rebounding rate and total rebounding rate.

The game on Friday is important in its own right, but the outcome will also influence the hype for the Wildcats’ second game of the weekend.

No. 18 Arizona (12-0, 1-0) at No. 10 UCLA (12-0, 1-0)

When: Sunday, Jan. 5 at 1 p.m. MST

Where: Pauley Pavilion

TV: Pac-12 Arizona, Pac-12 Los Angeles

Radio: KTUC 1400 AM (also available on Tunein.com)

Sunday brings the first match-up between ranked teams in the young Pac-12 season. The events of Friday night could make it a match-up between two 13-0 teams, as well. Add in the presence of Aari McDonald and Michaela Onyenwere and you have a must-watch game.

Arizona needs to take care of the young USC team on Friday evening. UCLA needs to battle Arizona State and come away with the victory. Then, it becomes a matter of something’s got to give.

Last year, the two teams played to three overtimes in Tucson. The Wildcats came up short in a 93-98 defeat.

Arizona has the better defense according to analytics site Her Hoop Stats. However, this will be the first time this season that they will face a team with a better offense. The Bruins’ No. 26 offensive rating is significantly better than the Wildcats’ No. 45 offense. Their 75.6 points per game also outpaces Arizona’s 72.5.

The Wildcats still end up being HHS’s higher-rated team, though. The No. 6 defensive rating makes all the difference.

Will it make the difference on the court Sunday afternoon?