It’s a busy weekend for Arizona women’s basketball. Because head coach Adia Barnes and Arizona State head coach Natasha Adair couldn’t find another date for their first rivalry game, the two teams will both play three games in five days. The Territorial Cup matchup will be the first.
It’s not a situation that Barnes is fond of.
“I didn’t agree with it, and I stated my disagreement, but it is what it is,” Barnes said. “I can’t control that but it’s not what I would have chosen at all.”
Barnes said that one reason they can never start the main part of the Pac-12 season at home is the Arizona Bowl.
“The bowl game is always on the Friday, so it always makes us go on the road, which I’m not happy with either,” Barnes said. “I want to open up the Pac-12 one of these days at home and never can. So that’s just stuff to address later. But it’s a big week and we’re playing Stanford the third game, so three games in five days.”
With the way the week fell with Christmas on a Sunday and three games the next weekend, the coaches had to get a jump on all three opponents early on. The players are not being asked to focus on all three at once, but the coaches had to prepare. For now, the focus for the team is the Sun Devils.
Barnes is especially impressed by Delaware transfer Tyi Skinner, who transferred to ASU when Adair moved from Delaware to Tempe to take over. Skinner is second in the Pac-12 with 20.6 points per game. That’s just 0.5 PPG behind league-leading Charlisse Leger-Walker.
“Skinner is really good,” Barnes said. “She reminds me of a younger version of Aari [McDonald]. She can get hot. She talks. I love her energy and stuff. I love players like that. I hate to play against them, but I love when they get pumped and start yelling 3s and all that stuff. But she’s fast. She defends, so definitely have to control her and stop her in transition, not let her get hot [and] get those 3s going.”
Skinner is the best threat from distance on ASU at 36.5 percent. The next-best shooter from the 3-point line is Jaddan Simmons at 31.6 percent. No one else shoots better than 23.3 percent and most shoot 16.7 percent or worse.
Simmons is the second-highest scorer on the team. She is tied with Arizona’s Shaina Pellington at 13.7 PPG, but Simmons is ranked one spot ahead of Pellington at 13th in the Pac-12 because she’s played in one more game.
Both Skinner and Simmons have done a good job of getting to the free throw line. They each shoot over six free throws per game. Skinner hits 82.7 percent from the line while Simmons connects on 82.3 percent.
As for the frontcourt, Barnes said that ASU brings some good size off the bench. That includes 6-foot-3 forward Meg Newman and 6-foot-4 center Imogen Greenslade. Both shoot over 50 percent from the floor, but neither one is a primary offensive option. Newman scores 6.1 PPG and Greenslade scores 1.4 PPG.
Greenslade plays behind starter Kayla Mokwuah, who transferred in from TCU in the offseason. Mokwuah is good for 5.9 PPG on 60 percent shooting.
The size has helped ASU stay in the top half of the league in rebounding per game. The Sun Devils sit in sixth with 42.0 RPG. Despite improving in that area this season, the Wildcats are still in the bottom third at ninth with 39.7 RPG.
Counting stats can be deceiving, though. Despite ASU averaging more total rebounds than Arizona, the Wildcats rebound at a higher rate. UA has controlled the rebound in 54.6 percent of the situations where it was possible. On the offensive boards, the Wildcats get the rebound 37.4 percent of the time. On defense, they get the board in 72.9 percent of the opportunities.
ASU trails in every category of rebounding rate. The Sun Devils come out on top in 50.2 percent of total rebounding opportunities, 34.8 percent of offensive rebounding opportunities, and 66.1 percent of defensive rebounding opportunities.
The difference is largely due to shooting percentages. The Wildcats have fewer opportunities to rebound simply because they shoot the ball much, much better than the Sun Devils. Arizona is hitting 46.8 percent of its shots this season, good for fourth in the Pac-12. ASU sits in last in the conference at 38 percent.
UA is even better from the 3-point line, coming in second in the Pac-12 at 38.2 percent. ASU again comes in towards the bottom of the league at 11th with a 26.4 percent 3-point shooting percentage.
All of that certainly tilts in Arizona’s favor in the matchup. Barnes knows it’s not always so easy, though.
“I think we have an advantage running the floor with our post players and I think just a little more depth from our guards,” Barnes said. “So, I think it’s gonna be a good game, but rival games are always really tough.”
Arizona State Sun Devils (7-4, 0-0 Pac-12) @ Arizona Wildcats (10-1, 0-0 Pac-12)
When: Thursday, December 29 at 6 p.m. MST
Where: McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.
TV/Streaming: Pac-12 Network and Pac-12 Arizona
Radio: Listen to the call by Derrick Palmer online on The Varsity Network or on the radio at KTUC 1400 AM.
Stats: Arizona Live Stats
Rankings: Arizona is ranked No. 18 by the Associated Press and No. 16 by the WBCA. ASU is not ranked by the AP but is receiving votes from the WBCA. The Sun Devils received eight points, putting them ninth on the WBCA’s “others receiving votes" list.
The Wildcats are No. 29 in the NET and No. 23 according to Her Hoop Stats. The Sun Devils are No. 120 in the NET and No. 116 according to HHS.
Projections: Her Hoop Stats projects Arizona as the winner regardless of where the game is played. At home, the Wildcats have a 92.2 percent win probability and are projected to win by 17.7 points with a point total of 134.2.