If Arizona fans want to see the women’s basketball team play in McKale Center, Sunday will be their last chance until Jan. 7. The Wildcats have a schedule very heavy on road and neutral court games, leaving New Mexico as the last out-of-conference team that will visit Tucson this season. It will also be the first game the team plays completely without starting post Lauren Ware.
Ware was injured less than 30 seconds into the Dec. 9 game against North Dakota State. The initial concerns about major structural damage to her knee were allayed when head coach Adia Barnes announced that it was simply a dislocation that “shifted right back.” The Wildcats are expected to be without their sophomore for one to two weeks.
The injury likely means that grad transfer Ariyah Copeland will start in Ware’s place. Barnes said that the biggest difference when Copeland plays instead of Ware is on the defensive end of the court.
“The difference between her and Lauren, they’re just different styles,” Barnes said. “Lauren is more of a four, and Ariyah is a five. So I think it’s just...different sets we can run. I think it’s different looks defensively, but it’s not bad. We won’t full-court trap as much if she’s on the top, but she does a really good job on the ball. She does a good job of playing her defense whether it’s plugging or trapping or hedging.”
Where Barnes thinks they will miss Ware the most is her willingness to talk to her teammates on the court, something that demonstrates the confidence and leadership abilities of the sophomore.
“She is our best communicator,” Barnes said.
The disruption of the team’s rhythm is also a concern for Barnes, but she was just thrilled to know that it wasn’t an injury that would keep her sophomore out for an extended period of time. Ware already missed an entire season when she had to sit out her senior season in high school with an ACL injury to her other knee.
Getting two games to work out the kinks before the Wildcats potentially have to face No. 11 Texas without Ware is also helpful. Arizona will get that underway with New Mexico at home before they travel to Flagstaff to take on NAU on Dec. 17.
The Lobos come in sporting an 8-3 record. Both teams played an exhibition against Eastern New Mexico. New Mexico defeated the Greyhounds 88-72 while Arizona got the 84-25 victory.
The Lobos’ NET indicates that their schedule hasn’t been the strongest, though. They sat at No. 111 after the completion of games on Dec. 10. Their best opponents were Houston and Texas Tech. UNM lost the neutral-site game to the Red Raiders by a score of 82-75. They dropped the road game against the Cougars 89-60.
UNM averages 75.8 points per game while giving up 62.2. The Arizona defense has only given up 47.8 ppg this season while the offense is scoring 72.6 ppg.
The numbers show that New Mexico has more scoring weapons than Arizona, although the Wildcats have played their starters limited minutes so far this season. Only Sam Thomas averages more than 21.9 minutes per game in the early going, and she is only playing 25.3 mpg. The Lobos have four players who average more minutes than Thomas.
The Lobos have five players averaging double-digit scoring. They are led by Shaiquel McGruder with 14 ppg. LaTora Duff is not far behind with 13.1 ppg. Following them are Jaeydn De La Cerda (12.5), LaTascya Duff (10.9), and Antonia Anderson (10.2). Only one other player on the roster averages more than 4.5 ppg.
On the other bench, only Cate Reese is averaging double figures for the Wildcats. She is scoring 13.6 ppg, followed by Thomas (8.0), Pellington (7.4), and Copeland (7.0). Ware’s 7.3 ppg will be unavailable, but the Wildcats have eight players who average at least 5.0 ppg
Arizona will next play in McKale when it hosts Washington State in the second week of Pac-12 competition.
When and where
The game will start at 1 p.m. MST on Sunday, Dec. 12. It will be played in McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.
How to watch
The game will not be televised, but it will be streamed via Arizona Live Stream.
How to listen
In-game stats will be available on Arizona Live Stats.
UNM is not ranked in either major poll, but they are No. 111 according to the NET. Arizona is ranked No. 6 in the AP poll, No. 10 in the USA Today/WBCA poll, and No. 7 by the NET.
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