Conventional wisdom might say that it’s better to play your tougher opponent the first day of a Pac-12 road trip. In the case of the Mountain schools, Arizona coach Adia Barnes doesn’t agree with that.
Colorado is the stronger of the two schools this season, although not by much. According to Her Hoop Stats, Utah has a slightly better offense, while Colorado has a much better defense. That doesn’t matter to Barnes. She’s more concerned about logistics.
“I’d always rather play Utah first, because traveling from Utah is hard,” she said. “You’re stuck all day on a Sunday. Everything’s closed. It’s just the grind. So much easier when you go to Utah first, then you go to Colorado. It’s easier to get there.”
Barnes also believes that starting off the weekend on a high note makes everything easier.
“When you’re on the road, if you have success the first day, I think it’s more loose the second day,” she said. “If you don’t play well the first game, it’s a little bit more stressful.”
If Arizona plays its game on Friday, it should be a successful first day of the road trip. Utah has been fairly effective on offense this season, but they are 292nd out of 351 teams in scoring defense. The Utes allow an average of 70.6 ppg by their opponents.
The Utes do have some nice young players, though. Sophomore point guard Dru Gylten was on the early season watch list for the Nancy Lieberman Award. She’s averaging 5.2 assists per game against just 2.8 turnovers.
The scoring leaders are both freshmen. Guard Brynna Maxwell won Pac-12 Freshman of the Week on Feb. 10. She’s averaging a team-high 12.8 ppg while shooting 43.9 percent for 3-point distance. Her 3-point accuracy is third in the Pac-12.
The second-leading scorer is someone familiar to at least one Wildcat. Arizona freshman Helena Pueyo played alongside Utah’s Lola Pendande on Spain’s U19 team in last summer’s Women’s World Cup in Thailand.
Pendande is scoring 11 ppg on 57.4 percent shooting, the third-highest shooting percentage in the Pac-12. She also leads Utah with 5.6 rebounds and 1.24 blocks per game. Her blocks tie her for fifth in the conference.
The problem for the Utes this season is that they don’t have upperclassmen taking on big roles. Coach Lynne Roberts has opted to give most of the minutes and the starts to underclassmen. While the youth movement bodes well for the future of their program, the lack of experience makes things difficult for them this year.
Arizona-Utah game details:
Date: Friday, Feb. 21, 2020
Time: 7 p.m. MST
Location: Huntsman Center Salt Lake City, Utah
Records: Arizona (21-4, 10-4), Utah (12-13, 5-9)
Rankings and ratings: Arizona is ranked No. 11 in both the Associated Press and the USA Today/WBCA polls. Utah is unranked.
Analytics site Her Hoop Stats rates the Utes No. 103 and the Wildcats No. 17 overall. Utah is rated the No. 70 offense and the No. 176 defense. The Wildcats are the No. 30 offense and the No. 7 defense.
The official RPI has Utah at No. 112 and Arizona at No. 24.
Which channel is Arizona-Utah on?
The game will be aired on Pac-12 Mountain only. It will not air on Pac-12 Arizona.
How can I stream Arizona-Utah?
The stream will be available on Pac-12.com, but only if you already subscribe to the Pac-12 Network. Click the “How to watch” button at the top of the link.
How can I listen to the radio call of Arizona-Utah?
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.
Where can I find stats for Arizona-Utah?
Official stats are available on Arizona Live Stats both during and after the game.
How can I follow Arizona-Utah?
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.