The end of the game in Salt Lake didn’t make Adia Barnes happy. She wasn’t sure that there was enough time on the clock for the moves that got Alissa Pili to the line for the winning free throws. But if Arizona women’s basketball had done a few things earlier in the game, it wouldn’t have mattered.
One thing to change is to cut down on fouls. Arizona had three foul out with Esmery Martinez leaving on the final whistle that put Pili on the line. Both Shaina Pellington and Cate Reese were disqualified before that.
“It was good officials,” Barnes said. “I think it was just taking chances early.”
Overall, she was happy with the play of the Wildcats in Salt Lake just two days after losing to Colorado in their only two-game losing streak of the season. She hopes to build off that in McKale.
“I think we played a really good offensive game,” Barnes said. “We made some mistakes defensively, but I felt like we moved the ball, shared the ball, and that was after a tough loss to Colorado. So, I think that we played well so I think we’ll play a little bit better than that offensively at home and defensively. So hopefully we can have a good game, but they’re good team.”
Utah head coach Lynne Roberts is in the running for not only Pac-12 Coach of the Year but national coach of the year after blending her team into a powerhouse despite losing two of her best players to transfer after last season. The Utes are at a program-high No. 4 in the Associated Press Top 25.
Pili is a big reason why.
“They don’t take bad, contested shots,” Barnes said. “And Pili was very hard for us to guard last game. So, we have to do a better job of doing work early against her. I mean, she just kind of turned and shot over us.”
A win against Utah would go a long way to ensuring better seeding in the Pac-12 Tournament and maybe get home court in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona is currently tied with UCLA and USC for fourth in the league, but the Wildcats hold the tiebreaker over both by virtue of their wins in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. The teams don’t play again this regular season.
As for the NCAA Tournament, ESPN Bracketology has the Wildcats as a six seed playing in South Bend, Ind. right now. Arizona must move up two lines to get to host the opening weekend of the tournament. Sitting at No. 27 in the NET makes that a difficult proposition. Wins over No. 6 Utah and No. 20 Colorado this weekend followed by a win over No. 21 Oregon next weekend would help a great deal.
“There’s no denying the fact Friday is a big game,” Barnes said. “Sunday is a big game, and then ending at the Oregon schools is a big game. We need to try to win these four games. Then just take one game at a time. Utah’s a really good team. We felt we had chances to win the game in Utah, and they’re good but we played good also to lose on the buzzer from free throws after. That was a hard way to lose. So, I think everybody’s going to be pumped up—like they are, too—to really go for that game. But if we don’t win a few games here, we’re not going to be a top four seed [in the Pac-12] and then we won’t be a top 16 [in the NCAA Tournament]. So the way I look at it, there’s no pressure but we have to win some games. I would say realistically probably three out of four.”
- Barnes said that junior post Lauren Ware is already back in limited practice. She will return to full practice next week.
“Unfortunately, we can’t have Lauren for this year,” Barnes said. “Because I wish we could have her just for the playoffs, but it would burn a year, so it’s not worth it.”
No. 4 Utah Utes (22-2, 12-2 Pac-12) @ No. 18 Arizona Wildcats (19-6, 9-5 Pac-12)
When: Friday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. MST
Where: McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.
TV: Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Arizona, Pac-12 Mountain
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: Arizona Live Stats
Rankings and standings: Utah is ranked No. 4 in the AP Top 25 and No. 5 in the WBCA/USA Today coaches poll. Arizona is No. 18 in both the media and coaches polls.
The Utes are No. 6 in the NET, the Massey Rating, and Her Hoop Stats Rating. The Wildcats are No. 18 in the Massey Rating, No. 27 in the NET, and No. 32 according to HHS.
Projections and Odds: Probabilities depend heavily on the system. Massey gives Arizona a 53 percent probability of winning the game in Tucson. That system predicts a two-point margin as the most likely outcome. Considering how the first game went, it seems like a sound projection.
Her Hoop Stats gives Utah a 65.5 percent win probability in McKale Center and projects a 5.1 point margin. The point total is projected to be 146.7 points.
DraftKings Sportsbook has Utah tied with Maryland and Texas with the seventh-best odds to win the national title at +4000. Arizona is tied with North Carolina at 17th at +7500. No sportsbook gives odds on the actual game between the two.
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.