It’s not just winning streaks on the line Sunday afternoon; it’s historic winning streaks.
When the No. 18 Arizona Wildcats beat Tennessee State back on Dec. 12, they opened the season 10-0 for the first time in school history. The No. 10 UCLA Bruins extended their opening streak to a program-best 13-0 against Arizona State on Friday night.
Now, something’s got to give.
It will come down to two women trying to bring an end to the historic achievement of her friend’s team. Arizona coach Adia Barnes speaks often of how UCLA coach Cori Close has given her advice about the rebuild process that Barnes began four years ago. Close is quick to bring up Barnes when she talks about the coaching talent around the league.
The two will face off in the biggest game of the young Pac-12 season. Ranked against ranked. Unbeaten against unbeaten.
Both the Wildcats and the Bruins have talent that garners national recognition. Aari McDonald and Cate Reese provide the strong inside-outside duo for the Wildcats, Michaela Onyenwere and Japreece Dean are the dynamic duo for the Bruins.
They both have strong freshmen, as well. For UCLA, Charisma Osborne is third on the team with 9.3 points per game. The guard also contributes 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals per contest.
On the other bench, Helena Pueyo is Arizona’s sixth woman, but regularly plays starter-level minutes. She has played 32 and 29 minutes in her first two Pac-12 games. She is fourth on the Wildcats with 8.3 ppg and hits 46.7 percent of her 3-point shots.
It doesn’t stop there, though. The 6-foot guard has 3.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
It is likely that Arizona will still be without starting forward Dominique McBryde who was still in a boot on Friday. They are fortunate that sophomore center Semaj Smith has been effective since stepping into the starting role a month ago.
Whoever is on the floor, both teams will need to play stronger than they did on Friday. Arizona got off to another slow start against USC. UCLA barely pulled out the two-point victory over ASU on their home court.
They also both need to be wary of fouls. When Arizona faced ASU last Sunday, McDonald picked up two fouls within the first seven minutes of the game. She eventually fouled out for the first time in her college career.
UCLA had similar problems against ASU on Friday evening. In their case, both Onyenwere and Dean were saddled with two fouls in the first half. Onyenwere ended the game with four.
Analytics site Her Hoop Stats have the teams rated very closely. The Wildcats are No. 17 overall and the Bruins No. 22. The home team is the stronger offensive team at No. 28, while the visitors from Tucson are the No. 7 defense.
Whichever team comes out on top Sunday afternoon, fans can only hope to be treated to the kind of hard-fought contest that resulted in three overtimes when the two teams met last year in Tucson.
How to watch
Time: 1 p.m. MST
TV channel: Pac-12 Network Arizona, Los Angeles
Live stream: Pac-12.com
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network/KTUC AM 1400 (Derrick Palmer)
Live stats: ArizonaStats.com.