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Arizona women’s basketball goes for the road split at Oregon

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 07 Women’s - Utah at Arizona Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Throughout the season, Arizona Wildcats head coach Adia Barnes has talked about how she must manage practices to avoid tiring or further injuring her depleted team. That’s been an even bigger issue on Saturdays between Pac-12 games. Minutes after the double-overtime loss against Oregon State on Friday, she was already trying to figure out how to help her team focus on rebounding without physically practicing it.

“We have to work on it and figure out a way to get reps without actually getting reps, get mental reps with watching film because we’re not going to win games if we get out-rebounded by 20-some,” Barnes said.

Even in the best situation, film is an important instructor. She especially wanted her team to see how they missed scoring opportunities after turning the Beavers over 25 times.

“We were doing a good job of turning them over and then not converting or not being aggressive or not taking advantage of a two-on-one or a three-on-one, and those are the things we have to get better at and the best teacher is film,” Barnes said. “On film, you can see, ‘Okay, well, I missed this person.’ I think it opens up your eyes.”

There’s a point where that’s not enough, though. That’s especially true with young players. Barnes has mentioned previously that inexperienced players tend to need to physically practice the changes after watching film or receiving instruction. After the Oregon State loss, Barnes specifically brought up the importance of getting freshman post Breya Cunningham more reps.

Cunningham had 10 points in the first half of Friday’s game, often finishing through contact. Despite the regular contact, she didn’t shoot a single free throw while her counterpart Raegan Beers shot 18.

“We have to teach her you can’t keep on fading because you even if you get bumped a little bit, which she was, they’re not going to call those,” Barnes said. “So I think getting her to learn and use her body and post a little deeper, a little lower. not be afraid to send back to her left. Breya has a good left hand, she’s just—you go back to your habits and your comfort level in games, especially when there’s stress and things on the line. So getting her 1000s of repetitions so she is comfortable and confident to go back to her left because once she does that, she finishes well.”

How much the Wildcats can implement such changes against Oregon is open to question. The team is bound to be tired. Cunningham’s 33 minutes were the fewest played by any of the five starters. Helena Pueyo, Kailyn Gilbert, and Esmery Martinez all played over 42 with Pueyo playing almost every minute of the 50-minute contest.

They will face a team that just broke through with its first Pac-12 win in Friday’s game against Arizona State. The Ducks have a similar record to the Wildcats at 10-7. They haven’t looked as dangerous, though.

Both Oregon and Arizona have played OSU and ASU. They have the same 1-1 record in those games, but the Wildcats looked like the more complete team in both. Against the Beavers, UO lost 62-41 in Corvallis compared to Arizona’s double-overtime three-point loss. Arizona defeated ASU by 39 on the road while the Ducks defeated the Sun Devils by 12 at home.

In their other two conference games, both teams played two ranked opponents. Oregon lost to No. 2 UCLA and No. 9 USC on the road. The Bruins took a 26-point victory and the Women of Troy won by 14.

Arizona faced No. 5 Colorado and then-No. 15 Utah at home. The Wildcats lost to the Buffaloes by one and beat the Utes by one in overtime.

If everything else were equal, Arizona would seem to have the edge. Everything isn’t equal, though.

In addition to the Wildcats coming off a long road game, the two teams will have their only meeting this year in Eugene where UO is 7-1 this year. The Ducks do not make the return trip to Tucson.

Last year, it appeared that Arizona had the edge going into the game in Eugene as the Ducks came in on a seven-game skid. It didn’t unfold that way. Oregon won by 14 behind big games by Te-Hina Paopao, Endyia Rogers, and Chance Gray.

In the Wildcats’ favor, Gray is the only one of the three who is still in Eugene. The other two transferred out after last season.

The young Ducks team has struggled without them. They are still a midlevel defensive team but they no longer have the offensive firepower they did during their most dominant years. Even last season, Her Hoop Stats had the Oregon offense ranked 18th and the defense ranked 51st. This season, those ranks are 76th on offense and 68th on defense compared to Arizona’s 44th-ranked offense and 35th-ranked defense.

Is it enough for Arizona to get its first win in Eugene since February 8, 2021?

RV Arizona Wildcats (10-6, 2-2 Pac-12) @ Oregon Ducks (10-7, 1-3 Pac-12)

When: Sunday, Jan. 14 at 1 p.m. MST

Where: Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore.

TV: Pac-12 Oregon

Radio: Varsity Network

Stats: Oregon Live Stats

Rankings: Arizona is receiving a few votes in both major polls. It is ranked No. 41 in the NET. Oregon is not appearing on any poll ballots. It’s ranked No. 91 in the NET.

Projections: Prognosticators don’t agree on this one. Her Hoop Stats gives Arizona the edge no matter where this game is played. In Eugene, the stats service gives the Wildcats a 60.2 percent win probability. The winning margin is projected a 2.9 with a 128.3 point total.

Massey makes this one a toss-up when played in Matthew Knight Arena. Each team has a 50 percent win probability after rounding. However, the Wildcats are narrowly projected to win based on the point total. The most likely score is 66-65 in Arizona’s favor.

How to follow along

Follow us on X (Twitter) @AZDesertSwarm for all things Arizona Wildcats. For live posts of women’s basketball games and news throughout the week, follow our deputy editor @KimDoss71.