Arizona Women's Basketball

No. 14 Arizona women treating venture to The Pit to face New Mexico as business trip

Arizona fourth-year player Helena Pueyo was chosen team captain by Adia Barnes and her coaching staff last week (Stephanie van Latum/Special to


An “air raid” of sorts for the No. 14 Arizona’s women’s basketball program playing New Mexico at The Pit at 1 p.m. Sunday after landing in Albuquerque at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

The late Dick Tomey famously made overnight stops successful for Saturday games after arriving late Friday.

These isolated ventures aren’t vacations — strictly business trips.

Adia Barnes’ program has started 6-0 for the fourth consecutive year. 

Arizona, usually known for its defense, is one of the top five scoring offenses in the country heading into the weekend averaging 90.0 points per game. The Wildcats have not scored less than 81 points this season.

Fourth-year player Helena Pueyo, passive offensively in past years, ranks fourth nationally in points per scoring attempt at 1.68 and is 20th in the country in three-point percentage at 62.5 percent.

Pueyo scored 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting for her first 20-point game of her career when the Wildcats defeated San Diego 86-60 on the road last week.

She was recently named team captain by Barnes and her staff after this performance, further signifying Pueyo’s responsibility to be more vocal and active.

With the 26-point win over the Toreros, Arizona has beaten five of its six opponents by 20 or more points this season. 

Kailyn Gilbert was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week on Nov. 28 after a 25-point scoring performance against Cal Baptist when the Wildcats were in San Diego last week. She averaged 17.5 points on the weekend. Unbelievable — she is the first Wildcat to win that award since Cate Reese in the 2018-19 season. 

Arizona forced 23 turnovers against San Diego, 16 of those coming in the first half, to continue its streak of 20-plus forced turnovers in each game this season. 

Maya Nnaji did not miss a shot from the field against San Diego, ending with a 7-of-7 performance with 16 points. She is one of eight players and two freshmen this season to shoot 100 percent with at least seven shots made. 


The Lobos are on a three-game winning streak entering Sunday’s game — the first time they will host a ranked opponent since 2017. They upset No. 16 Marquette 88-87 on Nov. 13, 2017.

The game with the Wildcats is the second part of a home-and-home with Arizona, with the Lobos facing the Wildcats in Tucson last season. Arizona won that game 77-60 at McKale Center last December.

New Mexico has three players scoring in double figures, led by Shaiquel McGruder’s 14.0 points per game with McGruder also leading in rebounds per game at 8.4.

McGruder against Arizona’s Esmery Martinez (13.7 points and 9.8 rebounds a game) will be a good matchup.

New Mexico is 4-5 at home against Arizona, with the last meeting on Dec. 8, 2012, a 58-53 loss.

Both teams are in the top 15 in the NCAA in steals per game with Arizona at 15th (13.0 per game) and New Mexico ninth at 13.7 per game. The Lobos have recorded double-digit steals in all seven games with Arizona in all but one of its six games.

In their last game, the Lobos opened the third quarter with a 16-0 run as they concluded their road trip with a 72-55 win over Nicholls on Tuesday.

UNM outscored Nicholls 25-11 in the third quarter and 42-25 in the final 20 minutes, using defensive pressure to force eight steals and 13 points off of turnovers in the third and fourth quarters combined.

Amaya Brown, McGruder and LaTascya Duff all had strong performances, with Duff finishing with a game-high 20 points, a team-high five assists and three steals, McGruder with a double-double behind 14 rebounds and 15 points and added three blocks, and Brown with 15 points, a career-high five steals, a block and seven rebounds.

Of Duff’s 20 points, 18 came on three-pointers, and was the 44th career game that Duff has made multiple three-pointers and 16th time that she’s scored 20 or more points.

McGruder has 10 career double-doubles, including two this season.

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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