Oregon State enters Sunday’s game at McKale Center a far cry from the program it normally is with the Beavers losing three straight games before it was paused six consecutive games because of COVID-19.
No. 11 Arizona (9-2, 7-2) will look to build off Thursday’s convincing 57-41 win over No. 10 Oregon when the Wildcats host the game-deprived Beavers (3-3, 1-3) at 2 p.m. The game will be televised live by the Pac-12 Networks and broadcast live on KTUC (1400-AM) with Arizona graduate Derrick Palmer calling the action.
The Beavers’ last game was almost a month ago, on Dec. 19, a loss at Washington State. That followed losses at home to Utah (Dec. 8) and Oregon (Dec. 13) and then they shut down because of numerous COVID-19 cases within the program.
— Arizona Women’s Basketball (@ArizonaWBB) January 17, 2021
Oregon State has not had a practice with a full complement of its players until the last week. Coaches were forced to participate in practices until recently.
“We need 10 (participants in practice) and so we have worked hard, all of us, to hang with the team a little bit and challenge them on the court and just make a complete practice up so we can give them somewhat live reps,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said in a video released by the university. “But we’ve been able to go back to some skill work, we’ve been able to just do some foundational things. … We’re trying to make the best of it and turn it into a positive.”
Senior guard Aleah Goodman told the Albany (Ore.) Democrat-Herald: “We knew going into this year there were going to be challenges that we came across so I mean we can’t say we’re completely surprised when something like this did happen.”
The Beavers normally enter their game against Arizona ranked and vying for another deep postseason run.
Since Adia Barnes took over coaching at her alma mater in 2016-17, she has coached against Rueck when Oregon State was ranked a total of seven times. Her record against the Beavers in those games: 1-6.
The lone win was a 65-58 overtime victory last February at Corvallis, Ore. — the Wildcats’ first road victory over a top 10 team in the program’s history. The triumph for Barnes and her team is one of five against top 10 competition over the last calendar year.
The Wildcats’ record against top 10 teams starting from when they routed No. 8 UCLA 92-66 on Jan. 30 at McKale Center: 5-3.
The school’s record against top 10 teams before that win over the Bruins: 5-118.
Freshmen eligible after starting year at high school level. An interesting note on today’s game — both schools on Friday had high school seniors clear eligibility requirements and join their respective teams.
Madi Conner of Gilbert Perry and AZ Compass Prep was cleared to join Barnes’ program on Friday after completing her academic requirements. She is a four-star talent known for her deft shooting touch from the perimeter. The final step in her clearance to join Arizona was testing negative three times for COVID-19 and that happened Friday.
— ADIA BARNES 🐻⬇️🌵🌞 (@AdiaBarnes) January 16, 2021
— Steve Gress (@stevegress19) January 15, 2021
Talia von Oelhoffen, a five-star wint player out of Pasco, Wash., has graduated high school early and will join the Beavers upon completion of university health protocols.
Cate Reese closing in on 1,000 career points. Junior forward Cate Reese stands at 985 career points through 79 games at Arizona, all starts. She appeared she would get closer to 1,000 early against Oregon when she scored Arizona’s first five points in the initial three minutes but then she did not score again.
Reese, an All-Pac-12 performer from a year ago, is looking for a breakout performance this season. She achieved a double-double in the season-opener against NAU on Nov. 29 but has not recorded one since, an oddity because she ranks sixth in Arizona history with 16 career double-doubles.
Reese is shooting 58 percent over her last six games, going 23 of 40 in that span. However, 40 attempts in six games is only 6.7 shots per game.
That may be welcomed by Barnes, however, with frontcourt addition Trinity Baptiste having a significant role as being an enforcer inside. In those same six games, Baptiste has 41 attempts (making 20). That means Reese and Baptiste are splitting their contribution to the offense practically in half.
Rueck loves challenge of coaching against Aari McDonald. Rueck, who coached Oregon State to the Final Four in 2016, has coached against the quickness and playmaking ability of Arizona fifth-year senior All-American guard Aari McDonald since McDonald was a freshman at Washington in the 2016-17 season.
On New Year’s Day 2017, McDonald ignited a rally for Washington against Oregon State scoring seven points in the last 3:40 before the Huskies succumbed 73-70.
“I actually had a vision of that game earlier (Thursday against Oregon) as I was watching them and one of their games and just like my gosh how fast is she,” Rueck told the Corvallis Gazette-Times. “It’s unbelievable. She gets a rebound and it’s three steps and she’s at half court before you even know it.”
Rueck said he relishes the opportunity to coach against standouts like McDonald.
“I mean I love competing,” he said. “I loved competing against Sabrina (Ionescu). I love competing against Aari. The great players, that’s the most fun of what we do. How can we slow them down — in the literal sense with Aari McDonald.”
Oregon State has a tough task on Sunday against Aari McDonald and Arizona. https://t.co/hhgJrrp8MD
— Steve Gress (@stevegress19) January 17, 2021
McDonald is averaging 18.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game this season. She has scored in double figures in 77 straight games, spanning her entire Arizona career. She is the NCAA’s career scoring leader among active players with 1,963 points and is fourth in Arizona history at 1,690.
Sam Thomas valuable on both ends. Without a doubt, every coach in the nation would like a player like Sam Thomas on their team, showing her value.
Thomas does the work on both ends. She is the career leader in blocks among all active Pac-12 players with 148. No other Pac-12 player has 100 blocks.
She also scored her 1,000th-career point at Washington State last Sunday and now stands at 1,012. She has amassed 144 made 3-pointers in her career, ranking sixth in school history.
With a start Sunday against Oregon State, she would reach 110 starts, moving into a tie for fourth place in most starts in school history with Barnes (1994-98) and Lisa Griffith (1997-2000). Davellyn Whyte holds the record with 126. Thomas has a shot at that record inasmuch as the Wildcats have 12 regular-season remaining on their schedule and they figure to have multiple games in the postseason.
Arizona Career Starts Leaders
Layups. Arizona junior reserve center Semaj Smith did not suit up for Thursday’s game against Oregon because of a concussion and her status for today’s game is questionable. … In its last two games at McKale Center, Arizona has limited Cal and Oregon to a total of only 74 points with 54 turnovers (with only 28 field goals made). In eight games overall this season at McKale, opponents have amassed 147 turnovers (average of 18.4 a game) and have made only 156 field goals out of 443 attempts (35.2 percent). Imagine these stats if fans were allowed into McKale Center making it an even more difficult place to play against Arizona’s pressuring defense.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.