Arizona women’s basketball has a tough non-conference schedule. It’s not just because they face teams like No. 10 Louisville and No. 12 Texas. Most of the Wildcats’ games are on the road or in neutral venues this year. Friday night is one of the exceptions.
The Marist Red Foxes are making a Pac-12 weekend of it as they swing through Tucson on Friday before heading to Tempe to play Arizona State on Sunday. It will mark the only two games against major conference opponents for the team from Poughkeepsie, NY this season.
For the Wildcats, it marks their last game in McKale Center before Dec. 9 when they will return to play North Dakota State after four games played on neutral or away courts. Three days later, they will play their final home game of the non-conference schedule against New Mexico.
Marist is coming off a successful season that ended with a first-round loss to Louisville in the NCAA Tournament. Like most teams across the country, the Red Foxes mostly faced opponents from their own league last year. They went a strong 18-4 on their way to representing the MAAC in San Antonio.
At their level, Marist is one of the most successful teams in the country. They have won at least 20 games in every non-pandemic season going back to 2016-17. In 2019-20, the Red Foxes went 26-4 before the season came to a crashing halt following the first round of the MAAC Tournament.
Arizona will be a new kind of challenge, though. Even in a typical season, Marist rarely faces a top 25 team before the NCAA Tournament. Their strongest opponent is typically a mid-level major conference team or Princeton. They have been unable to come out on the winning side of those matchups most seasons.
That’s not to say that the Red Foxes have never pulled off the big upset. In 2013-14, they were able to get two home games against Top 25 teams in their own arena. While they dropped the first to No. 7 Kentucky by 14 early in the season, they were victorious against No. 20 Oklahoma.
Barnes certainly isn’t overlooking anyone, and she believes there are things to be learned from playing quality mid-majors like Marist.
“If you look across the country the last week there’s been a lot of upsets,” she said. “So these games prepare us in different ways. A lot of mid-major teams are really versatile. So that makes Ariyah (Copeland), Netty (Vonleh), Lauren (Ware) have to guard guard-like posts which is a challenge.”
For Arizona, the game will be one more chance to get rotations right, to put practice principles into action against an opponent, and, hopefully, to get the newer players real game experience.
“Giving valuable minutes in certain situations gives you experience for later,” Barnes said. “And in the non-conference, you’re supposed to be building a team, figuring out your identity, figuring out your rotation, because you’ll need these players later. But when you play the teams like Louisville, the rotation gets shorter. So you want these games where you have a longer rotation, so you can see what people do in a game situation and then you earn more time.”
Marist Red Foxes (2-1, 0-0 MAAC) at No. 11 Arizona Wildcats (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12)
Date and Time: Friday, Nov. 19 at 6:30 p.m. MST
Location: 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).
Stats: In-game stats are available on Arizona Live Stats
How to follow along with us: Follow us on Twitter @AZDesertSwarm or on our Facebook page for regular coverage during the week. For live tweets during games and other coverage, follow our deputy editor on Twitter @KimDoss71.
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