Arizona tips off against UCLA at 7 p.m. at McKale Center. Pac-12 Networks will broadcast live with former Arizona coach Joan Bonvicini as the analyst. The game is also live on radio at KTUC 1400-AM with Brody Dryden calling the action.
This is it.
In a number of ways.
The last regular-season home games Thursday against UCLA and Saturday against USC for Arizona includes Senior Weekend celebrations of Sam Thomas — one of the most popular athletes of any sport to wear a Wildcat uniform — and fellow seniors Ariyah Copeland, Bendu Yeaney and Semaj Smith.
Yeaney and Smith may return. Arizona coach Adia Barnes confirmed in Wednesday’s press conference that seniors Cate Reese and Shaina Pellington will return next year, taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility the NCAA has allowed because of recent COVID-19 protocols that have affected the scheduling of games.
This is it, Part II.
Arizona has two more opportunities to pass Oregon in Pac-12 average attendance with the games against UCLA and USC.
If the Wildcats draw at least 9,923 fans for Thursday night’s game with the Bruins, they will pass the Ducks, who are averaging 7,751 a game. Arizona is at 7,555. A crowd of 9,923 for the game with the Bruins would increase that average to 7,752 through 12 home games.
Oregon has no more scheduled home games during the regular season.
Pac-12 Women's Basketball AttendanceEntering games of Feb. 26, 2022. In order for Arizona to pass Oregon, a crowd of at least 9,608 would have to attend today's regular-season finale against USC at noon.
This is it, Part III
Barnes made it clear that with Arizona chasing two significant goals — No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 tournament and hosting the NCAA tournament — that she is opening up starting positions to get the most out of her players down the stretch.
Reese’s starting role is already vacant with her out indefinitely after suffering a dislocated right shoulder in Sunday’s loss at Washington State. Copeland is a potential starter but she has missed the last five games after suffering from migraine headaches. Smith, a backup, and Copeland did not make the trip to the Washington schools. Smith’s reason for not going was not disclosed.
Madison Conner has made a significant surge in the last two weeks with her shooting and scoring production, so that could mean a spot in the starting lineup. If that happens, Yeaney gives Barnes a good change-of-pace defender off the bench to disrupt the flow of the opposition.
Good to be back 🏡
— Arizona Women’s Basketball (@ArizonaWBB) February 24, 2022
Koi Love is another player who could get a starting spot after being one of the most effective top reserves in the Pac-12.
“Your starting spot is good motivation,” Barnes said. “I always say the best teacher is the bench. I think that just figuring out who’s to come out because I’m not going to coach effort.
“If you’re in this program and you play for me, you have to do that. … Getting back to (effort) is impotant to me. It’s more important than winning right now, to be honest.”
This is it, Part IV
Arizona (19-5, 9-5) is tied with Washington State (18-8, 10-5) in the loss column for second place in the Pac-12 after Oregon (18-10, 10-6) lost at Colorado in double-overtime on Wednesday night.
If the Wildcats sweep UCLA (11-11, 6-8) and USC and Washington State loses at No. 2 Stanford or Cal this weekend, Barnes’ team would clinch a No. 2 spot in next weekend’s Pac-12 tournament. That’s an important goal because that would mean avoiding Tara VanDerveer’s juggernaut until the championship game if the Wildcats make it that far.
A sweep for Arizona would also bolster its chances of hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament at McKale Center in three weeks.
That would be This is it, Part V.
Arizona — Adia Barnes achieved her 100th win at Arizona last month in her sixth season at her alma mater. Her record is 108-71 (which is also her career mark). She is 88-31 (.739) since starting 20-40 in her first two seasons of rebuilding the program.
UCLA — Cori Close is in her 11th season at UCLA and overall as a head coach and she has a record of 226-121. 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 15-5 against Arizona.
— Arizona Women’s Basketball (@ArizonaWBB) February 24, 2022
WHEN ARIZONA HAS THE BALL
— Losing Cate Reese to a separated shoulder last week puts an onus on Lauren Ware, Ariyah Copeland, Aaronette Vonleh and Semaj Smith to contribute more in practice and the games. Ware has only two games scoring in double figures in her two seasons at Arizona and has yet to achieve a double-double this season. She is averaging less than five field-goal attempts a game this season. Expect her to contribute more to Arizona’s offense. Copeland has missed the last five games after suffering from migraines so how much she can add to the lineup is in question. Vonleh and Smith have not been utilized much during the Pac-12 season. Vonleh has played in five of the 14 conference games and Smith two. Vonleh is averaging 2.6 minutes in those games and Smith 1.8.
— Sam Thomas will have to take on more of an offensive presence with Reese out especially with how she has been shooting this season. She tied for the Pac-12 in 3-point percentage (.462). She can also bring a calming influence to the Wildcats’ execution with an assist-to-turnover ratio (2.9) that ranks second in the Pac-12.
— Look for reserve guard Madison Conner to get more opportunities with how she has shot and scored as of late. Conner is 13-of-23 (.565) from the floor and 5-of-10 from 3-point range in the last three games. Because of limited opportunities, it took her the previous seven games to make five 3-pointers.
— UCLA comes into the game with a three-game losing streak largely because of its defense that ranks No. 10 in the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage defense (39.8) and last in 3-point percentage defense (38.2).
— The Bruins have held its opponent under 70 points in five of the last six games and is 11-3 this season when doing so.
WHEN UCLA HAS THE BALL
— UCLA has two players ranked in the top five in scoring in the Pac-12 (No. 2 Charisma Osborne — 17.1 points per game and No. 6 IImar’I Thomas –15.5). No other school has more than one player in the Top 10. Osborne sat out the latest game against Utah because of a knee injury. Her status for Thursday’s game is undisclosed.
— UCLA has the lowest average number of turnovers in the Pac-12 with just 13.3 turnovers per game, which could be crucial against Arizona’s pressing defense. Osborne leads the Bruins with 66 assists and has 43 turnovers. Natalie Chou has 54 assists and only 20 turnovers. The Bruins turned the ball over 15 times last month when Arizona beat UCLA 73-64 for its first win at Pauley Pavilion since 2007.
— In last months game, Thomas, a graduate transfer from Cincinnati, led the Bruins with 14 points on 7-of-14 shooting. She also had four assists.
— Arizona ranks second in the Pac-12 for scoring defense (56.9).
— Helena Pueyo’s defense is key with igniting Arizona’s transition game. She ranks third in the Pac-12 with 2.0 steals per game while Bendu Yeaney checks is ninth at 1.7 a game.
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
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