After losing four straight games, Arizona women’s basketball bounced back at home with a win against Cal.
UA only had seven players available to go and didn’t look tired from the long road trip.
“We played with seven people today and really just left our hearts out, made some mistakes but then just found a way to make big plays and when they counted,” Adia Barnes said.
Our recap is available here. Keep reading for more of what Barnes, Skylar Jones and Esmery Martinez said after the win at home.
Barnes on Kailyn Gilbert not playing against Cal: “She wasn’t available today. So just a decision not to play her and I could have tried to possibly but it would just risk injury.”
On foul trouble with only having seven players available: “We had a little bit of foul trouble and they were kind of making a run. I went to a zone, then they scored two threes. I was kind of like, ‘oh gosh.’ I was a little bit worried and then we kind of played with fouls and I thought the game was managed well and just made some big plays.”
On Skylar Jones getting the start:“I think that she’s a little nervous. But I think she really did some great things defensively, some steals, fast breaks. I think she’s just young. So, some of the passes they look great, but they’re just really hard, especially in the seams. But that’s just the learning thing. She just needs to learn to jump stop and slow down. But I thought she did some really good things. I thought she played good minutes and she’s getting experience. She was two-for-two from the field, six points, three steals. So, I thought it was a solid performance for a freshman in a difficult situation that found that she was starting today, you know, because we didn’t know what our availability would be today. And then she stepped up, and I think that’s hard. So all these things are going to help us later down the road.”
On Courtney Blakely’s play off the bench: “I thought Courtney played the way Courtney can play today. She didn’t take as many risks defensively. I thought she was super tenacious on the ball. Great energy, good finishes, some brilliant plays, she kind of bobbed and weaved, reminded me of Aari (McDonald), through defense and she found a way to make the layups. I thought she jump stopped and finished strong and that’s something we were working on in practice because before she just go up and miss. But you saw her jump stop and gathering and she can jump. I thought she was really good tonight.”
On playing as a team and returning home to McKale: “I think we’ve had a really tough road stretch, which is—I’ve never had four games on the road in the Pac-12. Some of my friends have coached in the league over 20 years and never seen that. So, unfortunately, we were the culprits of that, but I think it was just like relief to be home. To be home with our crowd, to be home in our beds. And we know we play well at home. I think it was just a really big confidence thing. And I think that they knew that we possibly potentially go into the game with seven players and everybody knew they had to step up. I saw it in their eyes at shoot around. They really wanted to win this game. I knew they were gonna pour everything on the line to do it and find a way and they did that and they were determined to do it.”
On the defensive performance against Cal:“Salvo (Coppa) talked about our defense and our heart. To have a defensive performance like this when people are playing tons of minutes. That’s hard to do with our style and we have to play that style because that’s the way that we could win. So, I thought that they just were really confident, determined, happy to be home.”
On how Barnes helps the team flip the switch after a long road trip and get ready for Cal: “The psychological part of being home is one thing. I think you have more confidence at home. I think you’re in your bed, stuff is more routine for you. So I think that brings confidence and I think that they know we play really good at home. They know we have the fans, so I think that brings confidence. This was a really important game for us, because it could have led to a six-game losing streak. And I think it would have for sure if we don’t win this game. And we only have three at home and then we go to LA, which is a tough weekend. So, getting at least two wins at home was very important. Two out of three would be ideal, three out three is perfect and that would be the perfect situation. And then go steal some on the road. But I feel like because we’ve lost some close games before that we need to win if you want to make the tournament. So, you have to win some tactical games. So statistically, if you look at the stats, they’re really bad on the road. They were coming into this game like 11 and 29. So I think they’re worse now. So it’s essential to win games at home.”
On Cal and winning in the Pac-12: “Cal is good. I think in the past couple years, they weren’t as good but they are talented. They can shoot the ball, they can post you up. They can rebound. They have a good point guard and all shooters sometimes on the court, they have four shooters and they bring a shooter coming off the bench. They’re good and they’re going to beat some people. But our conference is a monster and every weekend is tough. So, you can win a tough one at home. But now we’ve exerted a lot, so we gotta rest tomorrow. And then we got to try to beat another really good team on Sunday, so it doesn’t get easy. And then we got to beat another good team the next week, and then we gotta go on the road. We got a couple of teams so it’s hard to get wins.”
On Esmery Martinez slowing down and not turning the ball as much as of late and her play: “Talking to her about not driving all the way in the congestion. Not forcing the game, let us run some stuff that gets her with movement. She can use her quickness and she doesn’t have to drive and force stuff. She also doesn’t have to jack up threes out of frustration and she didn’t today because she’s a good three-point shooter but her numbers aren’t good because they’re bad shots of frustration, not with the flow and going, Oh, I’m not touching it, shoot it.’”
“But I think just letting things come, not putting so much pressure. I think you see with fifth years and seniors they always play with a tremendous amount of pressure in January and February, because even we saw this with Aari when she was here because it’s the stress of you want to play really good in the Pac-12 .We still have some games but like you’re almost halfway but you want to play good. So, you press and I think you see that a lot because then the stress of not knowing what’s next. You know you have the Pac-12 but then what are you gonna do after? So, I think that’s a normal stress I see kids in like February. It’s like you’re trying to go pro, you’re like, are you on those boards? They all look at that stuf. Are you gonna get drafted? What are you gonna do? The unknown is very stressful. So you see them with a lot of very tense. I’ve seen that with every fifth year. So, I think she kind of took a step back and she knows that she’s capable. She’s capable of a double-double, and 20 and seven is really good. She’s rebounding a lot harder. Think about the last two games. She’s pursuing the ball more. She wasn’t doing that a month ago because I think she was frustrated from offense.”
On the shot selection against Cal: “And Esmery only took 10 shots. So if you look at the balance and in the distribution on our team with shots, no one took over 10 shots. And that’s team basketball. So Esmery took 10, Breya (Cunningham) took seven, Jada (Williams) took eight, Skylar only took two, Helena (Pueyo) five, Courtney seven. That is balanced. And everybody scored and contributed. That’s what you want. You don’t want a big imbalance, you won’t win games like that. You may score some points, but you’re not gonna win like that. And a lot of those quick shots will lead to—they’re like a turnover. They will lead to transition baskets. And we were able to hold a team to 55. I don’t know the last time we held a team to 55. And Cal was a good team. So I think that this was a good team basketball. This is how we need to play.”
On Stanford and guarding Cameron Brink: “Stanford’s really good. They play the percentages. We know we’re gonna be open every position. They’re not gonna guard us. Like, they’re gonna make us, if we don’t have a high percentage shot from three, they’re not gonna guard us. So, I think being patient. Similar to how you play against Oregon State. So, you’re gonna have the pull-up jumper. You need to reverse the ball and try to attack on the backside. Pull Cameron away from the basket. And then we have to guard Cameron. But you may have to do some different double teaming schemes because she’s hard for us to handle one-on-one and that’s a reality. She’s a very good player, and so I just think we have to put a solid defensive performance.”
On the improved rebounding: “We have to rebound a little better. We out rebounded for the third game in a row, which is good. So we’ve improved, but you saw that stretch of like three or four offensive rebounds. Those are those stretches we can’t have. But before we had those stretches the whole game. Now we have them for these minutes but it’s improved. But we still have growth in that area and if we don’t do it against Cameron Brink, she’ll have 20 rebounds and Kiki (Iriafen). So, just a little bit more solid.”
On playing the right way and the recipe to wins: “But playing team basketball like this will help us, moving the ball, finding the open person. I don’t think anybody forced shots tonight. Did you guys see shots that were double teamed, any forced shots? I don’t think we forced any, if anything we were unselfish on some shots like Isis (Beh) is an example that sticks out in my mind before film. She received the pocket pass, she had a layup and she found someone for a three that hit it. Those are the unselfish plays. In transition we didn’t ever force. We had an assist to layups and that’s how you want to play because everybody runs harder. And that’s just the type of basketball we have to play and we are better like that. So, when Kailyn comes back, we’ll play the same sharing, distribute it even, that’s just how we’re going to win. We’re not going to win another way.”
Jones on getting the start: “During practice. I had to get my nerves out after our pregame meal. I had to get my nerves out. Get myself ready because I was nervous I’m not going to lie.”
On how she got the nerves out: “I went to sleep. I had to sleep it off, and took a quick little 45 minute nap.”
On how she played against Cal: “I was actually frustrated in the beginning of the game because I had two turnovers that I shouldn’t have had early. And Es knew I was frustrated with it and she told me to snap out of it and get it out of my head and then the rest of the game was smooth from there. I understand getting deflections and steals and making good passes is good but also want to make offensive impacts too and not turn the ball over. So, I feel like I’m too hard on myself in that aspect. But otherwise I think the game went pretty well from a team perspective as everybody played good. Everybody was doing their job.”
On how it felt to be back at McKale: “Great. I was so excited to be back in McKale and see all of our fans. They’re just so sweet and supportive. And it’s just such a great place to play in the environment.”
On if there was a spark for being home: “I think just throughout the week, we really saw because we had a really good practice week overall. So, I feel like we really seen what this team can really be. And I think we also came into the locker room and talked about how we want to win, just like Es said, we want to come together. Like we need to do this. We need to get out of this losing streak. And that’s what we did today. And we did and what we did, we stood on business. That’s what we put on the little locker room. And we stood on business and stood on 10 toes and we all came together. We all came together. Everybody did their part and it shows on the stat sheet and not on the stat sheet. Everybody came and did their part and that’s how we have to play from now on.”
On her three steals and reading the floor: “I just had to learn to use my length to my advantage because I’m long and quick so I can get a lot of steals like that And read the defense and pick passes. Because like if Es is fronting and I need to have her help and have the back so I can get the steal or tip or something. So just reading the floor, reading the offensive end when I get the steal too, knowing what to do with it, things like that.”
Martinez on the importance of picking up a win after the losing streak: “Really important. I feel we have to keep winning games to make the tournament because I’m worried about that too. I’m proud of the team too. How hard we are working. How hard we are going inside the court too. And how big they have at the heart, we are only seven players. To be honest probably six and I’m proud of them, the way we handled our stuff.”
On playing like a cohesive unit: “Yes, I feel like it was more together today, we were helping each other more. We were communicating more, we’re ready to win the game, we came prepared. That’s what I feel.”
On this being one of the best team games played by UA: “We just decided to come together because we need to win. Like we want to have fun. So, if we keep losing games, we’re not gonna have fun together. We talk with each other and try to figure out what it is. We came today and showed up. We’re gonna keep learning from this game.”
On not only having one turnover and playing under control: “To be honest, I felt like last game, I was rushing too much. I was trying to play real fast. And because I was watching film, I was thinking that that’s not my game. So, stop trying to sit down and control and see what they give to me. So, I started realizing of playing my own way. And that’s how it is.
On adjusting the perimeter defense in the game: “We just want to win the game. We got to do whatever you got to do. So we just started switching with me because who I played before was a really good shooter. So start switching because she used to pop a lot and that’s it.”
Martinez on Courtney Blakely’s play: “She’s the type of player that I don’t want to play. She’s annoying, I mean in the game”
Jones on Courtney Blakely’s play: “Courtney just a dog. She is a dog and she played like it…Like a bug. She’s everywhere. She’s everywhere. You need a player like that. She scores. She can defend. She is going to make them hustle play. She going dive on the floor. She’s going to do everything.”