This week will define a lot of how No. 10 Arizona will be a factor in the Pac-12 regular-season title chase.
The Wildcats (13-2, 3-2 Pac-12) play four games from this Sunday to next starting with a matchup with No. 22 Colorado (13-3, 2-3) at noon at McKale Center. The game will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Mountain (click on this link to access) and on radio at KTUC (1400-AM).
Arizona next plays on the road against UCLA (8-4, 3-1) on Wednesday, California (9-5, 0-3) on Friday and No. 2 Stanford (14-3, 5-0) in a rematch of last season’s NCAA championship game.
Top-25 match up in McKale, let's Pac the House 💪💯
— Arizona Women's Basketball (@ArizonaWBB) January 23, 2022
The Wildcats are coming off a competitive 76-64 win Friday over an improving Utah team that cut a 20-point deficit to six points early in the fourth quarter.
“That’s a tough five-game in nine days against really good teams,” Adia Barnes said, factoring the Utes into this arduous stretch. “We need to take care of home court. We need fans. We need to pack this place (McKale).
“And then after (this week), we return and we have the Oregons. I want sellouts for those too, especially against Oregon. I want to sell this place out against Oregon State, that would be a good thing too because they’re two really good teams. We play better and this place is electric and loud. We have the best fans in the country.”
Barnes added to the media, “So 10,000 fans on Sunday (against Colorado). You guys have to help me pub that.”
Arizona, 7-0 at home this season, must contend with the NFL playoffs and the men’s team playing at California at 1 p.m. in an attempt to reach that season-high mark. The largest to this point is 8,884 on Dec. 12 when Arizona beat New Mexico 77-60.
Arizona is second in the Pac-12 in attendance averaging 7,086, which trails Oregon;s mark of 7,757. When the teams played last week at Eugene, Ore., the attendance was 7,944.
Colorado reached a Top 25 ranking after being the last remaining undefeated team in the country before losing at home against Stanford 60-52 on Jan. 14.
That started the Buffaloes’ current three-game losing streak that includes a 69-66 overtime loss at Oregon State on Monday and another overtime setback on Friday, 57-52 at Arizona State.
Colorado is a couple of plays away from being 15-1 overall and 4-1 in conference play.
“These are one-possession games against teams that have had a week and a half to prepare for us,” Colorado coach JR Payne said. “We are a really good team, but we are also playing really good teams. It’s one free throw. It’s one box out. Our team is disappointed, but we also know we are a really good basketball team and we’re one possession away from being right there on the road.”
Quay Miller, formerly of Washington, is vying for Sixth Playher of the Year in the Pac-12 along with Arizona’s Helena Pueyo.
Miller led Colorado with 12 points and eight rebounds against Arizona State. Jaylyn Sherrod scored 11 and Frida Formann had 10.
Freshman Kindyll Wetta set a Colorado record for steals in a quarter and a half, totaling six in just 5:22 in the second quarter.
Leading scorer Mya Hollingshed (13.5 points a game) was a non-factor against the Sun Devils scoring six points on 2-of-11 shooting.
Arizona — Adia Barnes achieved her 100th win at Arizona two weeks ago in her sixth season at her alma mater. Her record is 102-68 (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. With a win against Colorado, Barnes, who coached Arizona to its first Final Four and national championship game appearance last season, will trail only Bonvicini for the most wins in Arizona history. Bonvicini was 287-223 from 1991-2008 and Niya Butts was 102-147 from 2008-16.
Colorado — Ali-Marie “JR” Payne is also in her sixth season at Colorado and she has a record of 85-78 at the school. Payne is 186-191 overall in her 13th year as a head coach. She was 67-86 at Southern Utah from 2009-14 and 34-27 at Santa Clara in 2014-15 and 2015-16. She has yet to coach a team to the NCAA tournament but has four WNIT appearances (two with Colorado in 2016-17 and last season).
WHEN ARIZONA HAS THE BALL
— Look for plays from penetration to get Sam Thomas in good position to shoot the ball more after she achieved a season-high 25 points in the win over Utah. She made 7 of 11 shots from the field, 6 of 9 from 3-point range. Thomas is four made 3-pointers shy of becoming only the fourth Arizona player to reach 200 behind Lisa Griffith (285), Davellyn White (274) and Aimee Grzyb (208).
— Arizona is second in the Pac-12 with 16.0 assists per game led by Helena Pueyo, who has 42 in 15 games (2.8) a game. Five players have at least 20 assists — Pueyo, Bendu Yeaney (40), Thomas (37), Shaina Pellington (26) and Taylor Chavez (20).
— Cate Reese, who is now No. 9 on the Arizona career scoring list with 1,371 points, is one of only three active Pac-12 players to record 1,300 points and 700 rebounds in a career. She has 706 rebounds. Colorado’s Mya Hollingshed and UCLA’s Ilmar’i Thomas are the others.
— Colorado ranks No. 1 in the Pac-12 in steals averaging 12.8 a game. Kindyll Wetta is averaging 2.5 steals while Jaylyn Sherrod is averaging 2.1.
— The Buffaloes ranked 10th in the league in blocked shots per game (3.8) and last in defensive rebounds per game (24.4) but they are first in points allowed per game (53.9).
WHEN COLORADO HAS THE BALL
— Hollingshed, a fifth-year senior similar to Thomas of Arizona, ranks eighth in the Pac-12 averaging 13.5 points a game. She has 1,418 points and 772 rebounds in her career.
— The Buffaloes has shown the ability to draw fouls and go to the free-throw line, ranking fourth in the Pac-12 with 17.6 attempts per game (making an average of 11.6). Jaylyn Sherrod has gone to the line a team-high 68 times but has made only 40 (58.8 percent).
— Colorado is second-to-last in the Pac-12 shooting 30.8 percent from 3-point range. Hollingshed leads Colorado’s regulars shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc.
— As of Friday, Arizona is 16th nationally in scoring defense (54.0), 16th in blocked shots per game (5.3) and 21st in steals per game (11.7).
— Helena Pueyo ranks second in the Pac-12 with 2.3 steals per game while Bendu Yeaney is seventh (1.9). Arizona trails Colorado for the Pac-12 lead in steals averaging 11.7.
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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