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How to watch and what to expect as Arizona women’s basketball takes on Loyola Marymount

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Arizona freshman guard Kailyn Gilbert (15) prepares to beat the drum after an Arizona win.
Photo by Catherine Regan / Arizona Athletics

Arizona women’s basketball has two more games in the friendly confines of McKale Center before it heads out to play neutral site and road games. The Wildcats get that started with Loyola Marymount on Friday evening.

Head coach Adia Barnes saw things she liked in her team’s games last week. First, she knows they can score even when they don’t run “good offense.” The Wildcats are currently ranked third in the nation averaging 100 points per game in the early going.

What do they need to do to run good offense?

“Just moving the ball around,” said freshman guard Kailyn Gilbert. “I think that it’s a lot of one-pass shooting, and I think that I do a lot of that, as well. But it’s just kind of trusting one another. I think that now it should be a thing of we over me, so that’s the main thing.”

One player who has exemplified the “we over me” mentality for her previous three years at Arizona is senior Helena Pueyo. While Pueyo came to Arizona as a shooter, she has been one of the Wildcats’ best facilitators and defenders, as well as a player that’s seemed perfectly happy whether she’s starting or coming off the bench.

“Helena is the most unselfish person I’ve ever played with,” Gilbert said. “She doesn’t care about scoring. It’s always the best shot possible. So just kind of seeing her mentality, I definitely do pay attention to it a lot.”

As for the importance of starting or coming off the bench, Barnes has stressed repeatedly that she doesn’t place a lot of value on who starts over who comes in off the bench. Changing according to circumstances is higher on her list of priorities. It can be more important who finishes the game, especially in close games, than who starts it.

“I think so many people put so much weight in the starting,” Barnes said. “I don’t think it’s that important. I think we should be able to change without devastating someone. I think that there’s sometimes we’ll play four guards. Sometimes we’ll play a really big team. I think we have to be able to adapt because the main thing should be winning.”

Arizona’s assist numbers are down in the early games, and that’s not something she wants to see continue. After averaging 14.1 assists per game last season, the Wildcats are only assisting 13.0 times per game so far this season. That’s in the 56th percentile according to stats service Her Hoop Stats.

“We’re emphasizing that a lot,” Barnes said. “That’s an area that I think just not trying to do it on our own. Just understanding that we can get higher percentage shots later in the shot clock. So you may have an okay shot with one pass with 25 seconds, but you can get that same shot putting pressure on the defense with eight seconds left.”

When it comes to ball movement, Barnes is as concerned about keeping everyone engaged as she is about the end result of the possession.

“There is a power to everybody touching the ball,” Barnes said. “I’ve been a player that has not been a scorer on the team. I was a role player, was not a good player. And I’ve been on WNBA teams where I was a role player, but it’s different when you touch the ball, even to pass it, or you’re involved in a reversal. You are much more confident and that’s just the way basketball is. If you’re standing in the corner, and you’re not touching the ball, you are not as involved, so you aren’t going to play as hard. It’s just kind of the way it is.”

Loyola Marymount Lions (1-2, 0-0 WCC) @ No. 18 Arizona Wildcats (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12)

When: Friday, Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. MST

Where: McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.

Broadcast: Arizona Live Stream

Radio: The radio broadcast can be accessed online via The Varsity Network.

Stats: Arizona Live Stats

Ratings and rankings: Her Hoop Stats has Arizona rated at No. 6. The Wildcats are ranked No. 18 by the AP voters and the WBCA voters. LMU is rated No. 314 by Her Hoop Stats.

Odds: Arizona is favored by 35.5 points according to DraftKings. The over/under is 127.5.