In the past, one thing was certain for the Arizona Wildcats: the weekend facing the two teams from the state of Oregon was going to be difficult. That’s also true this year, but the reasons are a bit different.
The Wildcats follow up their big win over the Oregon Ducks with a matchup against an Oregon State Beavers team that is still an enigma. The Beavers came into the season ranked in the Top 20, finally falling out of the polls after their last game—a loss to Washington State.
They were picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 by both the coaches and the media. As it is, they stand in ninth place at 1-3 in the conference and 3-3 overall. The team has fallen victim to both the pandemic and inconsistent play.
The inconsistent play was an issue from the start and it should not have been a surprise. The Beavers lost Mikayla Pivec to graduation and Destiny Slocum to transfer, ridding them of a significant portion of their offense, rebounding and facilitation.
OSU is also still waiting for sophomore post Kennedy Brown to recover from an ACL injury last spring. Her recovery means that only two starters from last season returned.
On Dec. 19, they lost to Washington State. Two days later, they would pause activities due to a positive COVID-19 test on their team and the related contact tracing.
That meant postponement of games against Washington, UCLA, USC, California and Stanford. Then, when they were set to return this week against Arizona State and Arizona, ASU was out for COVID-19 cases in their own program.
The “pause” didn’t mean a complete cessation of activity, though. Those not in quarantine continued to practice.
“We’ve been able to work on lots of different things with limited numbers,” Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck said in a video released by the Beavers’ program. He added that the Beavers have been able to turn the adversity into a positive.
Arizona head coach Adia Barnes agrees that there are some advantages to that, especially this season when there was so little opportunity to play out-of-conference games or hold proper offseason preparation.
“They’ve had a whole new preseason,” Barnes said. “If we had a month of practice right now, we’d be so much better in a month. If we just were able to not play games and practice for a month and work on things, we’d be better.”
The fact that the Beavers didn’t have to prepare for Arizona State is also an advantage from Barnes’ perspective, although there were certainly disadvantages from such a long layoff.
“It’s probably hard because they haven’t had that game prep,” Barnes said the day before the Wildcats were set to play the Oregon Ducks. “They haven’t played in games in a while. So, it’s challenge. But for us, it’s hard because they’ve probably improved on a lot of things and been able to scout and focus on us for like a week or so. And we’re focused on Oregon right now more than Oregon State. So, it’s a tougher weekend for us.”
Both the Beavers and the Wildcats added highly-touted members of their 2021 classes to the roster on Friday. On the same day Arizona announced that four-star guard Madi Conner is joining midseason, Oregon State announced the addition of Talia von Oelhoffen. It's unlikely that the five-star guard will appear in Sunday's game, though.
Last season, the Beavers became the first Top 10 team that Arizona had ever defeated on the road. Although Arizona sits just outside the Top 10 this season, they are well on their way back in after dominating Oregon. Oregon State could exact some revenge by spoiling that.
Will the Wildcats be able to avoid the hangover after the big win against the Ducks? They weren’t last season when they defeated a Top 5 team for the first time ever by beating Stanford, then laid down and let a struggling California team beat them.
How to watch or follow the game
- Date/Time: Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021 at 2 p.m. MST
- Location: McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.
- TV: Pac-12 Networks (Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Arizona, Pac-12 Oregon)
- Radio: Derrick Palmer will have the call on KTUC 1400 AM or online at TuneIn
- Stats: In-game stats are available on Arizona Live Stats
- Twitter: Follow us at @AZDesertSwarm. You can also follow our editor at @RKelapire and our reporter at @KimDoss71 for coverage during the game and throughout the season.