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Arizona women’s basketball tries to halt losing skid at Washington State

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

The Arizona Wildcats have lost their past three games by seven points and four of their last five by a total of eight. Three of those losses have come on a four-game road trip. The hope is to end that against Washington State in their final road game before finally returning home.

Next year, the Wildcats will be in a conference that rarely makes teams play two straight games on the road during the conference season. This year, though, the Pac-12 had the Arizona schools go to the Pacific Northwest two weeks in a row for a four-game stretch. Last week, that also meant an extra day in the state of Oregon for the Wildcats due to the weather.

“It’s always a hard trip to Washington and then going to Pullman,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “There’s no excuse, but those are just hard trips and difficult places to play. So our freshmen are newbies, they’re gonna see what it’s like on the road. And we’re going back to the Pacific Northwest. So you go there, come back and go there, come back. It’s like a three-hour flight.”

Ending the run in Pullman will be a tough ask. The Cougars are the defending conference tournament champions and they play well at Beasley Coliseum. They have wins over Gonzaga and Maryland and played Stanford to a nine-point loss on their last road trip. They also have Charlisse Leger-Walker.

“She’s been a little bit more of a distributor this year, but she’s still able to score the ball at a high level,” Barnes said. “And they have just, their core is back, the same team. Then they’ve added this Italian shooter, so they’re good. They’re hard to guard. I think the post inside that can play that gives us problems. Shooting on the outside. Good ball movement.”

On Friday, the Wildcats gave up 10 three-point shots on 30 attempts against Washington. Even many of the missed shots were open. Against the WSU, they need to mark the freshman “Italian shooter” Eleonora Villa. The underclassman plays over 29 minutes per game and hits at least 36 percent of her 3-point shots.

Once again, Arizona will need to focus on blocking out, which they did a much better job of in Seattle. Fifth-year post player Bella Murekatete and Leger-Walker are seventh and eighth in the Pac-12 in total rebounds. Murekatete falls to eighth in rebounds per game while Leger-Walker falls to 12th. The Wildcats’ best rebounders are Esmery Martinez and Kailyn Gilbert, who are back in 19th and 21st in the league in total rebounds, falling to 23rd and 24th in rebounds per game.

The inside game could be one of dueling foul trouble. Murekatete and all three of Arizona’s post players are foul-prone, but the problem is more pressing for the Wildcats. Their three natural posts are all in the top seven in the Pac-12 for fouls per game. Murekatete is back at 12th and is the only Cougar in the top 20.

Escaping the Pacific Northwest with only one win may not be what the Wildcats were aiming for last week when they started their road trip, but getting back on the winning track before finally returning to McKale Center would be a huge boost. California and Stanford are waiting when they return home. Without a road win, they could conceivably be losers of six straight or five of six when next Sunday is over.

Arizona Wildcats (10-8, 2-4 Pac-12) @ Washington State (13-5, 2-3 Pac-12)

When: Sunday, Jan. 21 at 1 p.m. MST

Where: Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, Wash.

TV: Pac-12 Washington

Radio: Varsity Network

Stats: Washington State Live Stats

Probabilities: Her Hoop Stats gives the Cougars a 72.7 win probability and makes them 6.9-point favorites. Massey has the Cougars with a 60 percent win probability with the most likely score 69-65.

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.