The week started with No. 15 Arizona facing No. 2 Stanford on the road. It will end with the Wildcats facing No. 18 Oregon. Next week, it’s No. 8 Utah and the Colorado team that just handed the Utes their first loss of the season. Such is Pac-12 women’s basketball.
The good thing is that Oregon and Oregon State aren’t completely different. It’s especially beneficial because Barnes doesn’t think just focusing on the opponent is going to get them where they need to be.
“Oregon and Oregon State are both...big,” said Arizona head coach Adia Barnes. “The good thing is they both run a lot of pick and roll. They do some similar things. So, the preparation isn’t like night and day. I think it’d be hard if one team pressed and one team walked the ball up. So, I think the differences aren’t that drastic. But the focus for us [after the Stanford game] was there are some things that we have to work on. One would be boxing out, obviously, and just some other discipline things that we can control and that we can work on. That’s more important at this point than it is running 10 plays of Oregon State... So, we’re obviously still scouting a lot, still prepared, but working on our deficiencies and then their tendencies are more important at this point right now from what I saw Monday.”
The Ducks bring in a talented team but one that is short on depth. Like Arizona, they lost an expected frontcourt starter before the season started. In their case it was 6-foot-7 Sedona Prince. They have recovered nicely because of the play of freshman Grace VanSlooten, who played with Wildcat Kailyn Gilbert at IMG Academy last season. VanSlooten and fellow freshman Kennedy Basham join sophomore center Phillipina Kyei in a formidable if young group inside.
The Ducks’ length could be a problem for the ‘Cats, who have struggled against Kansas, Stanford, and Oregon State. All three featured big posts who bothered Arizona. UA was only able to defeat OSU, which although big is also young like Oregon.
Oregon’s bench got a little shorter with the departure of guard Jennah Isai. She left the program recently and announced her transfer to BYU last week. That leaves the Ducks with nine players on the roster. While most coaches don’t use more than that on a regular basis, Isai was playing over 19 minutes a game before she left and it cuts into their ability to go into the bench if they get into foul trouble.
Arizona has similar problems, though. The status of Maya Nnaji is still unknown. She did not play against Oregon State. After that game, Barnes noted that the freshman post was in concussion protocol.
If Nnaji is unable to play on Sunday, Arizona’s tallest available players will be Cate Reese and Esmery Martinez. Oregon would counter with 6-foot-8 Kyei, 6-foot-7 Basham, and 6-foot-3 VanSlooten with only 10 fouls to give. Like they played against OSU, it would force some of the bigger guards like Helena Pueyo and Madi Conner into the four position while Reese and Martinez play the five.
It wasn’t an easy task against Oregon State’s Raegan Beers and Jelena Mitrovic on Friday.
“It hurt us today not having Maya,” Barnes said after that game. “We should have Maya back on Sunday, but...Cate and Esmery had to play a lot of minutes battling bigger posts, bodying Beers. And then we had to put our guards at the four, which was a little bit hard. Usually, we do it for a couple minutes, but to do it for a significant time wasn’t easy today. But we found a way to win and being short-handed. Maya plays 15, 17 minutes for us.”
No. 18 Oregon Ducks (12-3, 3-1 Pac-12) @ No. 15 Arizona Wildcats (13-2, 3-1 Pac-12)
When: Sunday, Jan. 8 at 5 p.m. MST
Where: McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.
Streaming: Watch ESPN
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. 15 by the Associated Press and No. 13 by the WBCA. Oregon is ranked No. 18 by the media and No. 17 by the coaches.
The computers are higher on the Ducks than the voters are. Oregon is ranked No. 10 in the NET and by Her Hoop Stats. The Wildcats are No. 27 in the NET and No. 25 according to Her Hoop Stats.
Projections: Her Hoop Stats projects that Oregon will win this game no matter where it is played. In McKale Center, the Ducks have a 56.4 percent win probability according to the stats service. However, the margin of victory is just 1.6 points. The point total is projected at 135.6 points.
How to follow along
Follow us on Twitter @AZDesertSwarm for all things Arizona Wildcats. For live tweets of women’s basketball and news throughout the week, follow our deputy editor @KimDoss71.
Our coverage this week
- Oregon expert weighs in on game against Arizona women’s basketball, gives prediction
- Arizona uses a mad 4th-quarter comeback to escape the Oregon State upset bid
- How to watch and what to expect when Arizona women’s basketball hosts Oregon State
- What we learned from Arizona women’s basketball’s opening weekend of Pac-12 play
- No. 15 Arizona falls to No. 2 Stanford to end tough three-game stretch
- Arizona women’s basketball moves up to No. 15 in Associated Press Top 25 ahead of game against No. 2 Stanford