In their season opener, the Arizona Wildcats got the honor of a visit from the point guard who led them to within a basket of a national title. In their second home game, they will see the fruits of that labor in the form of a banner hoisted to the rafters of McKale Center.
Arizona women’s basketball will raise their Final Four banner after Monday’s game against Texas Southern. For this year’s team, it’s a reminder that things aren’t finished yet. If anyone had any doubts, they didn’t watch them defeat No. 6 Louisville on Friday afternoon.
For the No. 22 Wildcats, it’s another season of wondering what they have to do to get respect. While the coaches of the WBCA placed Arizona No. 15 in the nation in the preseason poll, the voters of the AP didn’t have the same respect for the team.
“They always doubt what we do, and I think we’re pretty good,” head coach Adia Barnes said after the team defeated the Cardinals. “And I think that we just earned some respect today, which is good. But I don’t mind being the underdog. It’s kind of fun.”
The “no respect” and “underdog” cards can be more than fun. Last year, they provided motivation that paid off in a huge way. The combination of the lack of respect shown in the early polls and the banner that proves what you can do when you believe in yourself can provide the motivation the Wildcats need for another successful season.
It’s not all about the mental game, though. They also have some things to do on the court. Louisville showed that there were still things to work on. Arizona turned the ball over 17 times. They survived because they also forced 17 turnovers.
The shooting was also a problem for Arizona. The program’s best 3-point percentage in the Barnes era came in 2018-19 when the team hit 34.8 percent of the shots from outside. In the two exhibitions and their opening night game, the Wildcats connected on 41.6 percent of their 3-pointers. In the home opener alone, they were good on 42.1 percent.
It was early, but it looked like there might be hope for the outside shooting this season. The returning players had worked on it. Barnes and her staff had gone after transfers who could shoot the ball. Had it paid off?
It’s certainly too early to call one way or the other, but when it came time to face a team of their own caliber, the early returns weren’t promising. The team’s 3-point shooting percentage plummeted back down to 26.3 percent against the Cardinals. That’s a number that’s been fairly typical of the program the past several years. Is it something to worry about?
Arizona will get the chance to try to put things right again against Texas Southern. It’s unlikely to tell them how they will do against the kind of teams the Wildcats will face in Pac-12 play, but it offers another opportunity to work on it in real competition.
Although their next opportunity won’t come against the kind of competition they will regularly face in the Pac-12, Arizona will face a team with some interesting storylines. Texas Southern also has some talent. At least one player will be familiar with Arizona and the Pac-12.
Shalexxus Aaron came out of high school as a four-star recruit ranked No. 83 in the class of 2017. She landed at USC but rarely played during her four years there due to injury. In 2020-21, she was still listed as a redshirt sophomore by the Women of Troy.
Aaron left as a grad transfer over the offseason, originally ending up in a Syracuse program that had just seen 11 players enter the transfer portal. Soon after signing her name on the dotted line for the Orange, the coach who had overseen the departure of those transfers was on his way out. Aaron eventually ended up at Texas Southern where she still has two years of eligibility.
Aaron and her teammates are coached by one of the greatest to ever play the game, former USC and Houston Comets standout Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. It’s the second go-round at TSU for Cooper-Dyke. She spent one year there before heading off to coach USC from 2013-17. She returned to TSU in 2019, where she will coach the player she originally recruited to play for the Women of Troy.
It has started out slowly for the duo this year. The Tigers, who were picked to finish sixth in the SWAC this season, fell to DePaul in their opening game. The 114-71 score was brutal, but even more brutal is the schedule for TSU. The Tigers will not have their home opener until Dec. 22. That will be the only non-conference game that they play in their own arena.
How to follow the game when No. 22 Arizona (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12) hosts Texas Southern (0-1, 0-0 SWAC)
The best option for residents of Tucson is to go to McKale Center to see the game and the banner ceremony in person. If that’s not possible, here are the next best options.
Date and Time:
Monday, Nov. 15 at 6:30 p.m. MST
McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.
TV, streaming, and radio:
The game will not be televised, but it will be available on Arizona Live Stream. The radio call by Brody Dryden is on 1400 AM (KTUC).
In-game stats are available on Arizona Live Stats