Arizona Women's Basketball

No. 8 Arizona looks to stay on pace with Pac-12 leaders playing at UCLA

UCLA was able to do twice last week what No. 8 Arizona was unable to do once — beat USC.

The Bruins (9-4, 4-1 Pac-12) swept the regular-season series against their rivals with a 66-43 win at Pauley Pavilion last Thursday and a 68-58 win at the Galen Center on Sunday.

Arizona (14-2, 4-2) suffered its first loss of the season after an 11-0 start at USC on Jan. 9. The Wildcats allowed USC to shoot 8 of 14 from 3-point range — including four to Alyson Miura in the fourth quarter — in the 76-67 loss.

In the two losses to UCLA last week, Miura was a combined 1 of 9 from the field, 1 of 8 from 3-point range.

The conference season has not yet reached the midway point but Arizona’s game Wednesday at UCLA is a must-win situation for the Wildcats to keep pace with the conference leaders, including the Bruins.

The game, a rescheduled matchup after the Jan. 2 meeting was postponed due to COVID-19 protocol, tips off at 6 p.m., Tucson time. Pac-12 Networks will broadcast live on TV and stream and KTUC (1400-AM) on radio.

No. 2 Stanford, which hosts Arizona on Sunday, is 5-0 in league play and Oregon (hosting Utah on Wednesday) is 3-1 with a win over the Wildcats.

UCLA is on a four-game winning streak and it features the Pac-12 Player of the Week — Charisma Osborne, who had 27 points in Sunday’s win over USC.

The Bruins have the No. 2 and No. 3 scorers in the conference in Osborne (18.4 points per game) and IImar’I Thomas (17.2).

Arizona’s Cate Reese (14.9 points per game) is the only Wildcat averaging scoring in double figures, but Shaina Pellington (28 points in Sunday’s win over Colorado) and Sam Thomas (9 of 13 from 3-point range in her last two games) are coming on strong.

The Wildcats can get scoring from many players off its “Arizona Defense” pressure. They are scoring 19.9 points off turnovers.

“The most important thing to limit their scoring is to take care of the ball, to be really strong with the ball, to create clean catches,” UCLA coach Cori Close said in a press conference Tuesday. “If we’re able to string together five good catches on a possession, I think we’re gonna be just fine.”


Arizona — Adia Barnes achieved her 100th win at Arizona earlier this month in her sixth season at her alma mater. Her record is 103-68 (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. She reached 100 wins faster than any other coach in program history at 166 games. Joan Bonvicini held the former record at 181 games. Barnes, who coached Arizona to its first Final Four and national championship game appearance last season, trails only Bonvicini for the most wins in Arizona history. Bonvicini was 287-223 from 1991-2008.

UCLA — Cori Close is in her 11th season at UCLA and overall as a head coach and she has a record of 224-114. She was an assistant at UCLA, her alma mater Cal-Santa Barbara and Florida State for 18 years before becoming UCLA’s head coach in 2011-12. She is 15-4 against Arizona.


— Look for plays designed to get Sam Thomas more looks from beyond the arc. She is coming off a 9-of-13 performance from 3-point range in the sweep of Utah and Colorado last weekend at McKale Center. She was 9 of 27 from beyond the arc in her previous eight games. Thomas is one made 3-pointer shy of becoming only the fourth Arizona player to reach 200 behind Lisa Griffith (285), Davellyn White (274) and Aimee Grzyb (208).

Shaina Pellington set a new Arizona career high with 28 points against Colorado on Sunday. Pellington is averaging
15.8 points per game in Pac-12 games. She is also shooting a phenomenal 58.7 percent from the field in conference games. Her ability to penetrate and score opens Arizona’s offense for her teammates, and Thomas and Cate Reese benefitted mostly from that against Utah and Colorado.

Helena Pueyo is tied for the league lead with a 3.4 assist/turnover ratio. Thomas ranks fifth (2.7).

— UCLA’s 3-point defense is 11th in the Pac-12 with opponents shooting 35.6 percent. The Bruins also rank 10th in steals (7.2 a game) and 11th in blocked shots (2.9).

Natalie Chou leads the Bruins with 21 steals and is second in blocked shots with nine. Izzy Anstey, a 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman from Australia, leads the team with 11 blocked shots. She is the daughter of former NBA player Chris Anstey. He played against Lute Olson’s Arizona’s teams in exhibitions while representing Melbourne.


— UCLA is known as cool, calm and collected under Close. The Bruins lead the Pac-12 in free throw percentage at 78.4 percent and fewest turnovers per game at 13.2.

— High-profile Cincinnati graduate transfer IImar’I Thomas, a forward, currently ranks third in the Pac-12 with 17.5 points per game and is coming off a 20-point outing in the team’s win over USC on Sunday. Thomas transferred to UCLA this past offseason following a sensational four-year career with Cincinnati. She ranks third all-time in scoring with 1,925 points and is the only player in program history to record at least 1,900 points and 800 rebounds. She was the 2021 AAC Player of the Year after averaging 23.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest.

Charisma Osborne, this week’s Pac-12 Player of the Week, has scored 989 points in her career and has knocked down 145 3-pointers. She has also dished out 174 assists.

Helena Pueyo ranks second in the Pac-12 with 2.3 steals per game while Bendu Yeaney is eighth (1.8).

— Arizona’s pressure defense going against UCLA’s efficient offense when it comes to taking care of the ball will be a game-within-the-game to watch. The “Arizona Defense” as Adia Barnes and her players call it, has forced 15 or more turnovers in 14 of 16 games this season and have forced at least 22 turnovers five times

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! 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, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, 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

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