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Rebounding, fouls key for Arizona women’s basketball against patient Washington offense

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 20 Women’s - Jerry Colangelo’s 2023 Hall of Fame Series - Gonzaga vs Arizona Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last week, failure to rebound led to two road losses for the Arizona Wildcats. Two offensive rebounds by Oregon State at the end of regulation eventually led to a double-overtime loss for Arizona. Getting out-rebounded by 19 in Eugene was key to another one-possession loss. In addition to second-chance points, those rebounds led to fouls that a short Arizona bench could not afford.

“The fouls, a lot of times, are coming from a missed box out, or a just lack of focus on something else, or being out of position,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said after the loss at Oregon.

Heading into Friday night’s game at Washington, the Wildcats again spent time working on it in practice this week. They spent both Tuesday and Wednesday focused on rebounding.

“You should see improvement,” Barnes said. “I think the first thing was just our technique, but the second thing is showing them a lot of film and how important it is. You play so hard, you trap, you hedge, you get in the passing lanes, and then you let up with an offensive rebound. Those are deflating, and those are really big momentum busters and shifters, so just being able to be disciplined and not loaf on those. And we talk a lot about loafs and plays you take off which is a loaf, that’s a mental load. It doesn’t take athleticism, it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of perfect technique to box takes the—not even the skill, but the will and the mentality to box out.”

It becomes even more important in Seattle because of the offense the Huskies run. Barnes joked that if they don’t box out and rebound, the Wildcats could be on defense the whole game.

“Washington runs this chin offense, which is a really patient offense that has a lot of movements and very hard to guard,” Barnes said. “A lot of back cuts, a lot of guards receiving back cuts, posting up. So just movement. I think that the challenging thing to play against Washington is you have to be disciplined for 30 seconds. And so you may play good defense for 25, and like the last five seconds, they get a backdoor or three. So that’s the challenge. It’s a lot slower than most, I’d say than every other team in the Pac-12, but it’s super efficient offensively. So definitely have to be disciplined in Washington.”

Another area of discipline the Wildcats need is fouling. They lost the free throw attempts battle at Oregon State a narrow 23-20, but that makes a huge difference in a double-overtime game that was decided by three points. The Ducks went to the line 28 times compared to just 10 for Arizona in a two-point decision.

The posts, especially, need to be more careful. The Wildcats are down to three natural posts in Breya Cunningham, Esmery Martinez, and Isis Beh. All three have had issues with fouls this season. Martinez had difficulty last year, as well.

Beh fouled out in 25 minutes in Corvallis but was able to avoid the fouls in Eugene where she ended with three. Martinez, however, fouled out against the Ducks and Cunningham ended with four. Beh is still trying to adapt to how the Pac-12 is officiated after transferring in from West Virginia before the season.

“The Big 12 was way more physical,” Beh said. “I feel like Es, we have it the same problem. We’re just so used to being physical and so it’s different. Because I fouled out on Friday, but then I was going into the fourth quarter on Sunday and I had zero fouls. My coaches talked to me. They’re like, we can’t have you foul out, so I just let some things go that usually I would go for.”

Whether the trio can stay disciplined for 30 seconds against the Huskies will be key. They at least got a regular week of practice to try to get ready. Last week, the Wildcats were delayed an extra day in Oregon due to the weather. Their usual mandatory off day had to be used for travel. Arizona had to file for a waiver from the NCAA to move this week’s off day. They will take two the week they play Arizona State.

Arizona Wildcats (10-7, 2-3 Pac-12) @ Washington Huskies (11-4, 1-3 Pac-12)

When: Friday, Jan. 19 at 8 p.m. MST

Where: Hec Edmundson Pavilion in Seattle, Wash.

TV: Pac-12 Arizona

Radio: Varsity Network

Stats: Washington Live Stats

Rankings: Neither team is ranked in the major polls. Arizona is No. 43 in the NET while Washington is No. 38.

Odds and probabilities: Washington is a 1.5-point favorite according to FanDuel. The over/under is 123.5.

Her Hoop Stats also gives the Huskies a slight edge in Seattle. They have a 55.1 percent win probability according to the stats service. They are favored by 1.4 points with a projected point total of 123.0. HHS projects Arizona as the winner if it was held on a neutral court or in Tucson.

Massey departs from the other projections, giving the Wildcats a 54 percent win probability with the most likely score 63-61 in their 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.