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Adia Barnes hoping for 10,000 fans as Arizona seeks ‘the biggest upset in college basketball’ vs. Oregon schools

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 21 Women’s UC Santa Barbara at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, Arizona coach Adia Barnes is inviting you to join her and her team in McKale Center, which will be the mecca of women’s college basketball for a few days.

Arizona is hosting No. 3 Oregon State on Friday at 8 p.m. MST and No. 2 Oregon on Sunday at noon. Those teams boast a combined 26-1 record, and will bring five of the nation’s top 25 players to Tucson including Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, the NCAA’s all-time triple-double leader, two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year, and projected No. 1 WNBA Draft pick.

Tickets range from $5 to $8. Barnes said Wednesday that over 5,000 have been sold for Friday’s game, and that she expects at least 8,000 fans in attendance, though she is striving for 10,000.

Arizona has done it before. It lured 10,135 fans to last year’s WNIT semifinals before selling out the championship game by drawing 14,644, breaking a Pac-12 attendance record.

What’s at stake this time? The opportunity to pull off what Barnes calls “the biggest upset in college basketball.”

The Wildcats have not toppled a top-five team since 2004, but now’s as good a time as any to end the drought. Arizona (13-1, 2-1 Pac-12) is the No. 18 team in the country, equipped with the No. 1 scoring defense and its most talented roster in years, spearheaded by redshirt junior point guard Aari McDonald, who was recently named one of the top 25 players in the country.

“I think that we have a tremendous opportunity,” Barnes said. “I believe that everybody’s beatable. ... We’ve seen all the upsets. I think there’s been more upsets in this last month than have happened in years. So we have a great opportunity, we have nothing to lose. If we don’t win this game at home, it doesn’t matter. We’re not supposed to beat No. 2 or No. 3. But if we do win, it’s the biggest upset in college basketball, and I think we’re capable.”

The Wildcats saw their 19-game winning streak end at UCLA last Sunday, but their 13-game home winning streak is still alive. They averaged 4,650 fans during the non-conference season, almost three times as many as the year before.

“I’m hoping we’re sold out for both games, I’m hoping,” McDonald said. “These are two really important games, and I just hope our fans come through like I know they will. They’ve been great thus far and just the continued support, the packed house, we really love that and we will need that this weekend.”

Only 2,119 were in attendance last year when Arizona lost at home to Oregon State in double overtime.

“We’re going to be able to play more physical at home,” Barnes said. “It’s not an intentional thing, I think it’s just the flow the game. That’s just how it is. That’s why you want homecourt advantage. That’s why I want fans, because we’re going to play more physical at home. And you’re more confident, you take more chances.”