No one really wants to take almost two weeks off during the regular season. It’s a long time to sit idle without getting into a competitive situation. At least Arizona women’s basketball has plenty of talented depth to practice against during the 12-hiatus caused by COVID-19 issues within the UC Riverside program. Those concerns caused the Wildcats’ Dec. 3 game to be canceled, but it’s finally time to get back on the court.
Arizona will face North Dakota State at McKale Center on Thursday night. The Wildcats will then host New Mexico on Sunday in their last home game until Jan. 7 when Washington State comes to town.
Although Arizona needs to reacclimate to real game situations on Dec. 9, there are some advantages to the time away from competition. That’s especially true after traveling more than 3,000 miles and playing three games in three days.
“It feels like it’s been a long time, but I think the good thing is that we kind of were able to just take a break for a couple days,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “The players had a weekend off. You never get weekends off during the season. They look re-energized and I think for us, we got to do some recruiting and in practice, we got to work on some things. Usually, with such a quick turnaround, you don’t have time to work on things, so we’ve plenty of time to work on things and get rest. So, I think it’s a good thing.”
As for those things they had to work on, the Paradise Jam exposed several of them. The ability to handle pressure and avoid the sheer volume of turnovers they committed in St. Thomas was probably first on the list.
According to Her Hoop Stats, Arizona has not committed more than 13.6 turnovers per game since the 2016-17 season. That year, they gave the ball away 17.4 times per contest. It’s not that bad in early 2021, but it is up considerably. Through seven games, the Wildcats are committing 15.0 turnovers per game. That places them in the 78th percentile. The 13.6 turnovers they committed in 2017-18 were in the 84th percentile.
Barnes said last week that she believed a lot of those turnovers were due to “lazy” passes. They made it a priority in practice.
“Just basic fundamentals of our passing and our spacing and timing moving to the pass,” Barnes said.
It wasn’t the only thing that bothered the Wildcats, though. Playing against a zone and a zone press left Arizona struggling to get into their offense. Even though Arizona has better shooters this year, they still had problems with the zone. They failed to get the ball into the area around the free-throw line, another way to break the zone. Instead, they did a lot of dribbling around the perimeter.
“In St. Thomas, we got a surprise,” Barnes said. “So working against different ways that people are gonna play us in the zone because I think this week we will get zoned.”
The Wildcats have this game and two more to prepare for their matchup with No. 11 Texas. Seeing how they emerge from their time off will be the first big test.
Adia Barnes’ weekly media availability
North Dakota State Bisons (3-4, 0-0 Summit) at No. 7 Arizona (7-0, 0-0 Pac-12)
When and where
The game will take place at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. Tipoff is at 6:30 p.m. MST on Thursday, Dec. 9
TV and streaming
The game will not be aired on television, but it will be streamed on Arizona Live Stream.
In-game stats will be available via Arizona Live Stats.
Rankings and NET
NDSU is not ranked in either major poll. The Bison are 144 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.
Who to watch
The Bison are led in scoring by two players in double figures. Ryan Cobbins scores 15.7 ppg while Heaven Hamling scores 14.1 ppg for the team. The group is efficient on offense. Seven of the 10 players who regularly play shoot at least 40 percent from the field.
How to follow