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UNLV is next in Arizona’s ‘frustrating’ quest to find regional non-conference games

Playing the Rebels would pit Sam Thomas against her two younger sisters

Arizona v Oregon Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

GCU, New Mexico and New Mexico State all turned down a chance to face the Arizona Wildcats, so Adia Barnes is planning to gauge the interest of another regional opponent on Wednesday—the UNLV Lady Rebels.

A game makes sense for a lot of reasons. Las Vegas is only a seven-hour bus ride from Tucson, meaning travel costs are small and the risks of catching the coronavirus are reduced. Always important during this pandemic.

There’s also a major family connection. The Rebels have Bailey and Jade Thomas, the younger sisters of UA forward Sam Thomas, and a reunion would mean the world to them.

“It’d be fun to play against them,” Sam said. “They always mess with me for not going to UNLV with them, not being the third sister to complete it. But it would be fun to play them. Obviously it kind of stinks that there’s no fans—that would mean my parents couldn’t go— but just playing against them, it would be fun, it’d be competitive and I’m sure the fans would love to see it as well.”

UNLV had a game get cancelled last Saturday, and Sam saw it as a chance to try to take matters into her own hands.

“I was like, ‘we’ll fill it!’” she texted her sisters.

Don’t count on the Rebels accepting Arizona’s offer. If they are like the other regional opponents that have spurned the Wildcats, they won’t be so willing to face a top-10 team on the road in fear of a blowout.

“Well, they don’t say that, but it’s obvious that’s the reason,” Barnes said. “Because at one point GCU was missing seven games and didn’t want to play us, and I think financially they have more constraints than we do. So I don’t understand. I mean, if you would have asked me a couple years ago, ‘Do you want to play South Carolina?’ I would have said, ‘Heck no!’ But if they’re an hour away I would have if I’m a mid-major school because if we played out of our mind and beat them, it’s the upset of the century. But if you lose it’s not, so I don’t understand. It has to be that, but I think at this point in a pandemic when we’re all trying to save money for our programs, and people are losing jobs and stuff, I want to play regionally. I want to save our department money.”

Barnes wants to schedule at least one more non-conference game to help ensure Arizona will reach the 13-game minimum to be eligible for the NCAA Tournament. She’s even willing to play an NAIA team if there are no other options. She’s been active on Twitter trying to find games.

Here’s hoping UNLV will be a match.

“We’re going to reach back out and I’m sure Sam would be happy,” Barnes said. “I think Sam sent out a tweet talking about it. I think her parents and her would love to see that.

“We’re trying everybody and we’re not having luck. I think the frustrating thing for me is people that are in town (NMSU) or an hour away (GCU), it doesn’t make sense to not play.”