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Arizona women’s basketball focusing on defense, fitness in preparation for final exhibition

Arizona’s Jade Loville (30), Cate Reese (25), Paris Clark (22), and Madi Conner (4) in exhibition game against West Texas A&M on Oct. 27, 2022 at McKale Center.
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

Arizona women’s basketball gave up 63 points in its first exhibition against Division II West Texas A&M. The Wildcats allowed the Lady Buffs to shoot 44.6 percent overall and 46.7 percent from three-point distance. It did not please Arizona head coach Adia Barnes.

WTAMU is a very good DII team. It’s ranked No. 6 in the WBCA DII coaches poll, and Barnes said she hopes to play the Lady Buffs in future exhibitions because it’s a challenge. The defense still didn’t please her. So, that has been the focus of practice heading into the second exhibition game against CSU Los Angeles.

“It’s been a long week,” Barnes said. “We’re going to be a little tired tomorrow, but just definitely better. I think just our rotations, discipline, just all those things, which a lot of times with seven [new] players we’re kind of like that right now. But it’s just our rotations, our hugging on the weak side, just things we don’t do, but it’s just a lot of new people. So we have a lot of defensive work, but we’ll get there, too. And I think it’s fun, just the process of it.”

Whether the players think it’s fun to work on defense is another question. Barnes said that they probably don’t, but it’s necessary to get where they want to be.

She also noted that their conditioning is not where it should be for most of the team, especially if they are going to play the kind of defense she wants to see.

“I don’t mind that we’re not in tip-top shape,” Barnes. “But to play our way and just play as fast as you want, we got a lot of work to do. And this is really the last week I can really, really push this. I mean, I can push this in the nonconference but not like now.”

Small injuries have kept the team from being at full strength in the lead-up to the season, as well. Barnes noted that Cate Reese is just coming back from shoulder surgery, Lauren Ware has been in and out, and Maya Nnaji had some issues that kept her from being at 100 percent, among other injuries.

Barnes is happy that the team has two exhibition games this season, though. Some Pac-12 teams are just playing one public exhibition and a second closed scrimmage. The events of recent years and the number of new players moved Barnes to schedule a second public exhibition for the sake of both the fans and the players.

“One of the things is we missed some home games last year,” Barnes said. “And so with our crowd, and everybody’s so excited, selling all the tickets, I thought there was momentum. I wanted to get us out in front of people. I think there was like 3,000 people or 4,000 people at the game which is good for an exhibition, but I wanted us to get in the uniforms, have them feel what this is like. This is a way different crowd than anybody’s played in front of. And I think exhibitions are good, and I like to play.”

The next opportunity to get in front of those fans is on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. MST when the Wildcats face the Cal State Los Angeles Golden Eagles. The game will not be streamed or televised. It will be on the radio and stats will be on Arizona Live Stats.

How to follow along

Follow us on Twitter @AZDesertSwarm for all things Arizona Wildcats. For live tweets of women’s basketball games and news throughout the week, follow our deputy editor @KimDoss71.