New Mexico comes into McKale Center on Sunday at 1 p.m. to face sixth-ranked Arizona with an 8-3 record and postseason history under fifth-year head coach Mike Bradbury.
The Lobos have advanced to the postseason WNIT in 2017-18 and 2018-19 under Bradbury, who coached Wright State to an NCAA tournament appearance in 2013-14.
The game is available on Arizona’s online streaming service and will be broadcast live on KTUC (1400-AM).
Arizona (8-0) enters the game preparing without injured post player Lauren Ware for the first time, and the matchup with the Lobos is the last of the calendar year at McKale Center.
Adia Barnes’ team is on the road the next four games starting Friday in a rare trip to Flagstaff to face NAU followed by a game against No. 11 Texas at Las Vegas next Sunday. The Wildcats begin Pac-12 play at USC on New Year’s Eve followed by a Jan. 2 game at UCLA.
They retun home Jan. 7 to face Washington State.
Barnes said after Wednesday’s game against North Dakota State that Ware might be out a week to two weeks after Ware went down less than 30 seconds into the game grasping her right knee. Barnes mentioned the injury was a dislocation (and not an ACL tear) that required the knee to shift back.
Alabama graduate transer Ariyah Copeland will start in place of Ware. Copeland is averaging 7.0 points and 5.8 rebounds a game while shooting an impressive 62.5 percent from the field.
Ware leads the team with 17 blocked shots and Copeland has tallied eight.
Ware also is one of Arizona’s most vocal leaders on the court.
“The difference between (Copeland) and Lauren, they’re just different styles,” Barnes said. “Lauren is more of a four (power forward), and Ariyah is a five (center). It’s just different sets we can run. It’s different looks defensively, but it’s not bad. We won’t full-court trap as much if (Copeland’s) on the top, but she does a really good job on the ball.
“She does a good job of playing her defense whether it’s plugging or trapping or hedging.”
Arizona — Barnes is only three wins shy of achieving her 100th win at Arizona in her sixth season at her alma mater. Her record is 97-66 (which is also her career mark). Making that record especially impressive is the fact that Barnes started 20-40 in her first two seasons of rebuilding the program.
New Mexico — Bradbury is also in his sixth season at New Mexico and has a record of 102-58 with the Lobos. He was 128-73 in six seasons at Wright State (2010-16) and 50-44 in three seasons at Morehead State (2007-10). In 15 years as a head coach, his record is 265-170.
WHEN NEW MEXICO HAS THE BALL
— The Lobos’ starting is averaging 10-plus points per game: wing Shaiquel McGruder (14.0), guard LaTora Duff (13.1), guard Jaedyn De La Cerda (12.5), guard LaTascya Duff (10.9) and forward Antonia Anderson (10.2). The Duffs are twin sisters. LaTascya has two 20-plus point games with McGruder four, including one 30-point game. The Lobos have had six different leading scorers in their 11 games to this point.
— New Mexico starts off strong and finishes that way. The Lobos are outscoring opponents 834-684 with the largest margin in the first quarter (218-153, 65 points). The greatest point output is in the fourth quarter with 224 points, an average of 20.4 points per game in the quarter.
— Anderson and LaTascya Duff have made at least one 3-pointer in each game this season and have a 13-game streak of making one dating back to last season. The Lobos are making 9.5 3-pointers per game and have reached double figures in five games and made nine in three games. New Mexico made a season-high 13 3-pointers and shot a season-best 54.2 percent from beyond the arc against New Mexico State on Dec. 3.
— Arizona leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense (47.8 points a game) and scoring margin (24.8 points).
— As of games on Dec. 11, Arizona is sixth nationally in field goal percentage defense (31.4), fifth in scoring defense (47.8), ninth in blocked shots per game (6.6) and 15th in steals per game (12.8).
WHEN ARIZONA HAS THE BALL
— Sam Thomas leads the Pac-12 with a 5.3 assist-to-turnover ratio (16 assists and three turnovers) and ranks third in the conference with a 48.1 3-point field goal percentage.
— Aaronette Vonleh ranks third in the Pac-12 with a 61.1 field goal percentage.
— Cate Reese became just the 15th player in program history to score at least 1,200 points on Nov. 12. Reese ranks fifth in career rebounds per game (6.5), second in career free throw percentage (.780) and sixth with 17 career double-doubles. Reese is at 1,264 career points, only 35 from tying Dana Patterson (1985-88) at No. 10 on Arizona’s scoring chart.
— Shaina Pellington has averaged 11.7 points in her last three games while shooting 48.3 percent from the field.
— McGruder for New Mexico has recorded multiple steals in six games with a season-high four steals against Prairie View. She has recorded at least one steal in eight games, including the last three. After not tallying a block in the first four games, McGruder has had at least one block in five games, including a season-best three blocks against Texas Tech and two games with two blocks.
— The Lobos have held an opponent to single digits in a quarter seven times, with the latest in the first quarter of Friday’s 73-66 win at New Mexico State. Against Louisiana-Monroe, the Lobos held the Warhawks to single digits in the first two quarters with nine in the first quarter and eight in the second quarter.
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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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District