NCAA Tournament: Healthy basketball for women in Arizona is trying to get everything together for a new run

When Arizona women’s basketball entered the Pac-12 last season, the team did not play its best basketball. It came back to haunt the Wildcats in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament when they were dismissed by UCLA. This year was even worse, Arizona struggled to score in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament and went out to Colorado in the quarterfinals. Head coach Adia Barnes think the team has gotten past the tough patch, just like they did last season. Also, this time they do not have to go to a neutral court and play in the almost empty gym in San Antonio.

“Home, we’re better,” Barnes said. “Everyone is better at home. So I like all matches at home.”

There are specific aspects of Wildcat’s games that she enjoys. Barnes believes the team is past its poor offensive performance against the Buffaloes and will be themselves on that end of the field again.

“I think a couple of reasons why it was not good (against Colorado),” Barnes said. “Typically, like last year, we did not shoot the ball as well as a percentage or just in terms of staff, but then we killed zone defense, zone defense. I think what made it difficult for us was to adapt to the fact that Cate (Reese) was gone, not to have a presence inside. We had a guard who played the 4th. And then 2-24 from the 3rd, which will not happen. We are usually 36, 37 percent. So I do not think it will happen again. I think many of those shots will fall. We had open looking looks and they just could not fall. But I think you learn that then you do not have to live and die with a 3rd. To learn to move the ball and get a layup, I think we have learned a lot and worked hard against it for now because I know we will be divided into the zone. “

The Wildcats also need more players to step up to that end of the floor. Barnes noted it Aari McDonald took his game to an even higher level in last season’s tournament. Shaina Pellington had some of his best matches in Arizona uniform when March Madness began. They need it again this season.

One player who stepped up in Reese’s absence was Lauren Ware. Can she keep it now with Reese back?

“Of course when Cate comes back it will help us a lot offensively and defensively, but I do not really think it will change what I will do from now on,” said Ware. “So I think I just need to be aggressive and stuff and Cate will help me with that too because she opens the floor a lot for us because she’s a big target on the inside. People will defend her really tough. So I think that will help me a lot too and help me stay aggressive too. ”

On defense, Barnes does not believe that UNLV has seen a team like Arizona so far this season. It will play Wildcat’s advantage against a young Lady Rebels group.

“I do not think they met anyone with our kind of pressure,” Barnes said. “I think we have a little more size inside, so I think it will be a good matchup. I do not think in any way that we are much better and should win, by no means. I think they are a very good team and very capable of beating anyone. ”

UNLV’s youth factor also plays a role in Barne’s assessment of the game. The Lady Rebels are in their first NCAA tournament in 20 years. Arizona had a similar experience and went to the finals last season, but now Barnes believes the experience will help her team.

“I think UNLV is better than the 13 seeds,” Barnes said. “I think they are very good. I think they have a lot of new players. But they are not experienced in the NCAA environment and some of our players are. Our whole team is not either, but our core players, they played in a championship match, so I think it will be very valuable in March Madness. ”

That youth is also found in Arizona’s players. Sam Thomas is well acquainted with UNLV because her sister Jade is the sophomore guard and captain of the team.

“I’ve probably seen every single one of their games this year that we did not play,” said Thomas. “So just knowing that they’re pretty young, they’re a new team, obviously. I think they have about seven or eight new players on the team … So just knowing that … they’re coming in hungry, they know that they have nothing to lose, they have many connections to Tucson, so there are There will probably be many here who cheer on them as well. ”

These UNLV connections to Tucson range from head coaches Lindy La Rocque to be the late goddaughter Luta Olson and lifelong family friend of Arizona’s head coach of men’s basketball Jack Murphy to pass on Khayla Rooks to be the daughter of the late Wildcat star Sean Rooks for beginners Alyssa Brown be a former prominent for Sahuaro High School on the east side of Tucson. If Lady Rebels were not playing in their home gym, playing in Tucson was probably the next best thing.

Well, it’s fun to just drive here, I think in many ways it feels like home too because I’ve been here so much, where they’re like ‘no, in this corridor’, and I I want to, ‘No, I know where I’m going,’ said La Rocque. “I did not say that, but it is, I thrive here. You have great hospitality. I love the people here, the history, the tradition. I think it was really cool to go in with Khayla today because it just adds another level of, a layer of emotion, which is really cool. But, yes, I mean, I’m excited to be here. I have many really, really good memories and so I keep that with me. ”

But in the end, this is Arizona’s gym that is usually full of nearly 8,000 eager supporters and will probably have even more for the first home games of the NCAA Tournament since 1998. It’s one thing that most women’s teams (and even many men’s teams) never have to make face. Barnes likes their chances.

“Most teams are not prepared to play in front of 12, 13, 14,000 people,” said Barnes. “And that’s how many we will have. It’s a very tough environment. It’s very difficult to play here, and we know that. And that’s an advantage for us. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Yes, we love that play at home. Do we play better? Absolutely. But most teams across the country shoot a better percentage of third and second at home, and so do we. So I’m glad we’re at home. I’m extremely excited. And to be a host “For the first two rounds, it’s a blessing for us. So we do not take it lightly and I think it will be fun.”

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