One game of consequence that comes to mind that helped fuel Arizona’s ascent to a nationally-prominent program was the Wildcats’ 83-54 loss at home to Oregon in the 2018-19 season.
The Ducks clinched at least a share of the Pac-12 title that day, March 1, 2019, by outscoring Arizona 19-0 in the fourth quarter — yes, 19-0 — en route to the win at McKale Center.
Oregon’s post players Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard (both 6-foot-4) were unstoppable on offense and they effectively shut off Aari McDonald from the lane with their height and athleticism. Sabally and Hebard combined for 32 points on 15-of-22 shooting from the field and 19 rebounds in the game.
Sabally and Hebard’s presence loosened the offensive flow for Sabrina Ionescu to have 22 points on 6-of-9 shooting from 3-point range.
“We’re just not there yet as a team, as a culture, as a program, but we will be,” Adia Barnes said after that loss. “It just shows you where we need to be and the level we need to play at.”
Barnes has Arizona at that level, not only because of the magical run to the Final Four in 2021, but with her recruitment of high-caliber interior players the last two years.
Thank you for the visit @ArizonaWBB #MadeForIt 🐻⬇️ pic.twitter.com/A7eAbaIHSa
— Breya Cunningham (@BreyaC2023) June 19, 2022
The commitment of 6-4 five-star post player Breya Cunningham of La Jolla (Calif.) Country Day today is the latest development of Arizona having one of the best frontcourts in the nation. She is from the San Diego area, where Barnes played in high school.
Cunningham is the No. 10-rated prospect in the Class of 2023 by ESPN’s HoopGurlz Recruiting Rankings.
Montaya Dew, a 6-2 forward from Las Vegas Centennial High School, is rated No. 9. She committed to Barnes and Arizona last December.
Breya Cunningham actually is coming home. Her mom Christania Houghton attended the UA and left Tucson upon graduation to attend Naval officer training school. This happened shortly after Breya was born in Tucson. https://t.co/IW4zarAB2Z
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) June 27, 2022
Dew and Cunningham are slated to be on the same roster next year as 6-4 Maya Nnaji and 6-5 post player Lauren Ware in what should be one of the most formidable frontcourts in the country.
UCLA, USC, Oregon and Texas were the other finalists in the running for Cunningham, who is quite athletic, especially for her height. She plans on studying athletic training and kiniesology at Arizona.
Cunningham’s first sport was gymnastics when she was 4. Her mom turned her to basketball after the realization that very tall gymnasts are not prevalent.
“I can still do a mean cartwheel, though,” Cunningham told the San Diego Union-Tribune in a January article.
Cunningham was dominant against Mission Hills in the San Diego Section championship game this season, finishing with 25 points on 12-of-14 shooting from the field and 13 rebounds despite facing double and triple teams.
Playtime Over!!! 10000000% #Committed 🎥: @Videoboostt1 pic.twitter.com/gPxSaSRbYm
— Breya Cunningham (@BreyaC2023) June 26, 2022
In three varsity seasons, Cunningham has compiled 1,335 points, 872 rebounds, 173 blocked shots and 104 steals.
“I chose the school (Arizona) with four things in mind — education, development on and off the court, support and NIL opportunities,” Cunningham said in a video she released on Twitter on Sunday. “Tucson, I’m coming home.”
The video shows Cunningham informing Arizona’s coaches and players about her commitment last weekend during her official visit. They all celebrated with confetti flying in the air and balloons.
From that scoreless fourth quarter against Oregon to now — Arizona has literally undergone a big(s) change.
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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.