Three games in just under four full days, two of them on the road, require careful planning and a precise itinerary. Thursday evening, Arizona Wildcats head coach Adia Barnes had that itinerary committed to memory despite having just come off the floor from her team’s victory over rival Arizona State.
Barnes went over the weekend’s schedule in detail in her postgame press conference. After their evening game on Thursday, they had to recover and be ready for morning practice on Friday. That’s when the group would be able to concentrate on the Golden Bears, although the coaches have been watching film all week.
“So, film, practice in the morning, focusing on Cal,” Barnes said. “Leaving right after practice. Get there, and then [Friday] is the only time we can get into the gym at Cal, so we’ll go shoot in the gym there just for like 30 minutes, and then we’ll go to dinner. So, it’s a late dinner and go back to the hotel.”
The team doesn’t get to have shootaround in Haas Pavilion on Saturday morning. They have to use another gym which, according to Barnes, is “not that helpful because you want to shoot in the game gym.”
The lack of access to Haas on Saturday morning is why the Wildcats were scheduled to rush into the gym Friday evening after practicing in Tucson, traveling, and checking into the hotel. It was the only time they could get access to the gym they’ll be playing in.
With three games packed into a period of about 90 hours, Arizona does have one thing going its way. Barnes was able to play her entire bench, including all four freshmen, significant minutes against ASU on Thursday. No one on the team played more than 24 minutes against the Sun Devils. That threshold was met by only Esmery Martinez and Maya Nnaji.
On the other side of the court will be a team that hasn’t played a game since losing to Stanford on Dec. 23. Whether that makes the Bears “rusty” or “rested” will be open to interpretation and—as is typical in such situations—how they perform against the Wildcats.
Unlike last season when Cal depended on Jayda Curry to do an excessive amount of its scoring, this year they have three players averaging double figures. Curry is still leading the team with 15.8 points per game, but Evelien Lutje Schipholt has upped her scoring from 9.3 PPG to 10.3 PPG, putting her third on the team.
Schipholt was there last year, though. The biggest change this year has been the addition of Kemery Martín, who transferred to Berkeley after spending three seasons at Utah. The native of Sandy, Utah played in 52 games in her first two years in Salt Lake City, starting 26 of them. She was limited by injuries last year, then decided to leave her home state. It’s been a positive for the Bears, who are getting 11.3 PPG from their addition.
Cal has put a scare into at least one very good team. Early in the season, the Bears challenged then-No. 5 Notre Dame before falling by 11 on a neutral court in Missouri. They also lost to SMU. The Bears dominated an otherwise weak nonconference schedule before being blown out by No. 2 Stanford to open Pac-12 play just before Christmas.
In general, they lack size, especially in the backcourt. Cal’s starting backcourt consists of 5-foot-6 Curry and 5-foot-5 Leilani McIntosh. Arizona is relatively big on the perimeter this year with the smallest guards being Shaina Pellington, Kailyn Gilbert, and Paris Clark, all of whom are listed at 5-foot-8.
No. 18 Arizona Wildcats (11-1, 1-0 Pac-12) @ California Golden Bears (9-3, 0-1 Pac-12)
When: Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022 at 8 p.m. MST
Where: Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, Calif.
TV: Pac-12 Network and Pac-12 Arizona
Streaming: Streaming is available via the Pac-12 Now app or online. Both options require a subscription via a TV provider. Streaming is also available with a subscription to a TV package that includes the Pac-12 Network via Sling, Fubo, or Vidgo.
Radio: Listen to the call by Derrick Palmer online on The Varsity Network or on the radio at KTUC 1400 AM.
Stats: California Live Stats
Rankings: Arizona is ranked No. 18 by the Associated Press and No. 15 by the WBCA. California is not ranked in either major poll.
The Wildcats are No. 29 in the NET and No. 22 according to Her Hoop Stats. The stats service has them as the No. 21 offense and the No. 25 defense in Division I.
The Golden Bears are No. 79 according to the NET and No. 89 according to HHS. Their offense is ranked No. 70 by HHS and their defense is No. 146.
Projections: Her Hoop Stats projects Arizona as the winner regardless of where the game is played. The probability is much lower for the Wildcats on the road, though.
In Haas, HHS gives the Wildcats a 78.7 percent win probability. The margin of victory is projected to be 9.7 points with a point total of 138.4.