It was a big weekend for Arizona women’s basketball in Los Angeles. The Wildcats fought back from double-digit deficits against both UCLA and USC to take overtime wins. Now, it’s on to face Stanford, which is trying to rebound from an unexpected loss at Washington. What did head coach Adia Barnes and fifth-year guard/forward Jade Loville have to say about the week that was and Thursday’s big game on ESPN?
On the physicality at USC
Loville ended up with prominent scratches on her face during the USC game. They were still visible on Wednesday morning when she met with the media. It was a bit of a surprise to Arizona’s best shooter that she ended up with the foul on the play.
“I have a lot of Neosporin on right now,” Loville said. “I just remember we all huddled and Cate kind of looked at me crazy. And I’m like, ‘Why is she looking at me like that?’ And she’s like, ‘Here.’ I watched the livestream back and she was dabbing my face, so shout out to Cate Reese for having my back. It was a physical game, but we expected that. Both teams play really physical.”
On Stanford coming to Tucson off a loss
The Cardinal lost a surprise game to the Washington Huskies on Sunday. With Arizona getting an increase in confidence from the road trip and Stanford trying to get back on track after a loss no one expected, each has something to prove. The Wildcats want to show that their hard-fought wins in LA weren’t flukes. The Cardinal needs to prove once again that a loss to an unranked team on the road was a fluke.
“They’re gonna be fired up,” Loville said. “I mean, they lost one over in Washington. Obviously, that messes with their momentum, so they’re gonna be out for blood. But we’re coming off a good weekend, as well. We have a lot of momentum moving forward. Two great wins in LA. So, I think it’s going to be a fun matchup. I think it’s anybody’s game and obviously we go into it with that mindset to get a win.”
There are things to be learned from UW’s win. The Huskies were effective in getting Cameron Brink in foul trouble, which helped them win the rebounding battle 34-24. The Cardinal average 45.7 rebounds per game, so it was a huge feat for Washington.
“If you rebound and make shots, I think you have a chance,” Barnes said. “And [Washington] really packed it in. It was interesting. Washington had multiple people around Cameron, and they left some people unguarded. I’m sure [Stanford is] gonna make changes and it’s gonna be hard, but I think [Washington] just played a really big game. And I think in this league if you catch anybody on any given night, everybody’s capable of winning.”
On facing shot blockers
One way to get Brink into foul trouble is to dare her to try to block shots. She’s one of the best shot blockers in the country, but she has also been prone to fouling throughout her career precisely because it’s a big part of her defense.
Barnes thinks it’s important to challenge shot blockers for a variety of reasons, especially with the personnel Arizona has. It played out in the game against USC, which also sports one of the country’s best shot blockers in Rayah Marshall.
“I always tell players who cares if you get a shot blocked,” Barnes said. “Like, who cares? If you look at some of the best players in the country at blocking shots, they average like two or three game. And [Marshall] happened to have seven that game, which is a lot, but usually, typically a couple. So, you’re more likely to get to the free throw line than you are to get blocked. And I love the fact that Cate got blocked four or five times—I mean, probably five out of seven was against Cate—but she didn’t care. And at the end of day, who cares, because then if you’re successful, you have 33 [points]. So, you got blocked five times. Do you really care? It doesn’t matter. And I think teaching that to Shaina [Pellington], you don’t have to alter your shot. If you’re a guard and someone 6-3, 6-4 who’s an athlete blocks your shot, who cares? But yeah, Cameron Brink’s a good shot blocker. Also, I think they can get in foul trouble. You know, I think very foul prone and just has to stay on the court because I think Stanford’s very different with her on the court.”
On what Helena Pueyo brings to the team and what she needs to do
After Arizona’s primary sixth player played less than 19 minutes this weekend, including less than four against USC, there were questions from the fan base about why Helena Pueyo didn’t play much in the two wins. Pueyo came into the weekend tied with Reese and Pellington with a team-high 26.1 minutes per game this season despite coming off the bench in all but four games. What was different this week?
Barnes addressed it some after the win over USC and talked more about that when asked on Wednesday. What does she want to see from Pueyo, someone she called one of the smartest players on the team and praised for how many different things she brings to the Wildcats?
“I think it’s probably a sense of urgency and coming in just a little bit more focused and ready,” Barnes said. “And I think that she only had a few minutes here and there and other people played really well. But she’s not selfish. She understands how that is. And she only played for like three minutes, so it’s hard to do a whole lot in there, but just other people came in and really made stuff happen. And it’s hard…to play like 11 people. So even me playing 10 in these games is very difficult. And I think as these games get bigger, it’s harder to play everybody, so the margin of error is very slim. So, if you come in and make a mistake right away or you don’t look ready, these are one possession games so you might not get another opportunity, which is hard as a coach, but just trying to win games.”
On providing new services to the fans, staff and students in McKale Center
Barnes was part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new lactation room for nursing mothers that opened in McKale Center on Tuesday. She has talked a lot about how difficult it was to be a nursing mom on the Wildcats’ run to the Final Four two years ago.
Barnes, executive senior director of athletics/SWA Erika Barnes, and Arizona Athletics assistant vice president and chief of staff Krystal Swindlehurst all mentioned how lucky they were to have private offices to pump breast milk or nurse their children. They realize that many women don’t have that option, though.
“As women, when you don’t have support and things are hard, it’s really hard to do your job,” Barnes said. “And most women quit their jobs and most of them get out of high-level positions because of it. So, when you have something to reduce the stress, to make it more of a happy place, it’s a great thing. And to support it? I think it’s extremely meaningful.”
The room is near the Lohse Room on the south end of McKale Center just off the third-floor concourse. It was a collaboration between the Office of University Initiatives and Arizona Athletics, joining 11 other lactation spaces around campus that University Initiatives have helped open this year. There is a total of 35 at various locations around the University.
The McKale Center space was already set to be used this weekend.
“We also had someone from the visiting team that will be joining us for our women’s basketball game this weekend reach out to…our communication staff asking if we had a space for them…just a couple weeks ago,” said Swindlehurst. “We were able to respond that we have a private dedicated space for that visiting mother.”