Members of No. 15 Arizona went to social media on Saturday to urge fans to attend its game against No. 18 Oregon on Sunday at 5 p.m. at McKale Center while wearing a white T-shirt for a “White-Out.”
Fans who do so will receive a glow stick.
ESPN2 cameras will capture it all.
— Arizona Basketball (@ArizonaWBB) January 8, 2023
These are the type of games Adia Barnes envisioned at McKale Center when she took over the operations of her alma mater in 2016-17.
Here she is and Arizona is leading the Pac-12 in attendance (7,275 fans a game) for the first time at this point in the season in program history.
Arizona ranks eighth nationally in attendance, according to this week’s Pac-12 media release.
2022-23 PAC-12 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL ATTENDANCESOURCE: PAC-12
Through games of January 20, 2023
The Wildcats will play their direct competitor for the Pac-12 attendance average title — Oregon, which has achieved that the last three seasons under coach Kelly Graves.
The Ducks have finished in the top 10 nationally in average attendance each of the last three seasons (not counting the COVID-19-affected 2020-21 season when fans were not permitted). Entering this season, Oregon averaged 8,522 fans per game at home since 2018-19. Attendance has dipped some there this season with an average of 6,113.
No question boasting about the Pac-12 attendance title and ranking in the top 10 nationally helps in recruiting because those distinctions show the state of the program and the likelihood of landing nationally televised games on ESPN or its family of networks.
Does robust attendance separate a program from others? Not necessarily but it gives a burgeoning program like Arizona a sense of identity.
Perennial power Stanford ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in attendance averaging 3,599 fans in 7,392-seat Maples Pavilion. Tara VanDerveer’s elite status overrides everything.
The Los Angeles schools — UCLA (2,992 fans a game) and USC (only averaging 727) — traditionally struggle with attendance but the lure of life in southern California helps bring talent.
Arizona sold out McKale Center when the Wildcats played Northwestern in the 2019 WNIT championship.
Some programs, especially in a larger metropolis, have more of a wait-and-see mentality from their fans.
When Washington was rolling in 2015-16 with its first trip to the Final Four, with Barnes as one of the Huskies’ assistants, it averaged only 1,880 fans a game. The next season — Mike Neighbors’ last as head coach at Washington with Kelsey Plum a senior — the average attendance increased to 3,980 a game.
The most significant question concerning Arizona’s annual increase in attendance under Barnes: Will it continue as years go on? It has actually slipped a little this season through eight games. Arizona is averaging 7,275 fans a game after achieving a program-record 7,822 last season.
Arizona average attendance on Barnes:
- 2016-17 — 1,839
- 2017-18 — 1,933
- 2018-19 — 3,553
- 2019-20 — 5,944
- 2020-21 — COVID-19 year
- 2021-22 — 7,822
- 2022-23 — 7,275 through first eight games
Tonight’s “White-Out” game against Oregon should boost Arizona’s attendance figures to come closer to last year’s average. Substantial home games remain against Stanford, Colorado and Utah, but the Los Angeles schools do not visit this year. The key to Arizona surpassing last year’s average — and solidifying the Pac-12 attendance title over Oregon — will be how fans respond in games against Washington, Washington State and California.
— The Wildcats lead the Pac-12 and rank seventh nationally in steals per game (12.7). Helena Pueyo is first in the Pac-12 and 32nd nationally in steals per game with 2.7.
— Arizona is the lone team in the Pac-12 with four players averaging at least 11.3 points per game — Shaina Pellington (12.6), Cate Reese (11.9), Jade Loville (11.7) and Esmery Martinez (11.4).
– Arizona is 13-0 when it shoots 40.0 percent or better in games. The Wildcats are also 12-0 when scoring more points in the paint than their opponents.
— Martinez, a transfer from West Virginia, is tied for third in the conference in rebounds per game at 8.9.
— Arizona’s very favorable 13-2 start marks the fifth-straight season in which the Wildcats have begun the season with that record.
— The Wildcats are coming off a thrilling win over Oregon State in which they overcame a 12-point deficit in the final 3:57, closing out the game on a 19-4 run.
— They forced 19 Oregon State turnovers and have forced 17 or more turnovers in 14 of 15 games this season.
— Lauren Fields hit her first shot of the game, a 3-pointer, at 2:28 in the fourth quarter. She scored on three consecutive possessions (eight points) to tie the game at 65-65. Fields finished the night with nine points, one assist and one steal.
— Pueyo is fourth in the conference in field-goal percentage, making 59.2 percent of her shots. She has shot 61.5 percent over the last four games. She recorded her 200th career assist against the Beavers and ended the night with six to go with three steals, 12 points and four rebounds. With the 12-point performance, she has scored in double digits in back-to-back games for the second time in her career.
— Reese tallied her 11th double-digit scoring performance of the season against Oregon State with 14. She led the team in scoring and had two steals.
— Pellington had six assists to go with three steals, 12 points (5-of-7) and four rebounds.
— Martinez collected eight rebounds, five of which were offensive, to go with nine points and three steals.
— Oregon losing former Surprise Valley Vista standout Jennah Isai, a true freshman, to BYU in the midseason can be looked at two ways — something questionable is going on within Graves’ program or her departure may improve team chemistry with addition by subtraction. Isai averaged 19.1 minutes in 10 games off the bench (7.0 points and 3.2 rebounds). Oregon is 3-2 without her but the Ducks have blown out their last two opponents (73-45 over USC and 82-62 against ASU) showing they have moved on.
— Oregon has lost its last two games at Arizona, last winning on Jan. 12, 2020 by a score of 71-64. The Ducks and Wildcats split two games a season ago, each winning on their own home floor. The Ducks are seeking their first road sweep of the two Arizona schools since the 2018-19 season.
— For the third straight game, former USC standout and Arizona transfer-recruiting target Endyia Rogers led Oregon in scoring against ASU with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. Rogers leads the Pac-12 at 22.5 points a game during league play. She was joined in double figures by Grace VanSlooten (16), former ASU player Taya Hanson (13) and Phillipina Kyei (10). All 16 of VanSlooten’s points came in the second half. She was a high school teammate in Florida of Arizona’s Kailyn Gilbert. Kyei grabbed 18 rebounds in addition to her 10 points, turning in her team-leading fifth double-double of the season.
— Kyei had a career-high 20 rebounds last week against USC – the highest single-game total in
the Pac-12 this season and most by a Duck since Jillian Alleyne’s 21 rebounds on Jan. 29, 2016 against ASU. It marked just the fifth 20-rebound performance under Graves, who is in his ninth year.
— Kyei, a sophomore, is 6-foot-8. VanSlooten is 6-2 and fellow freshman Kennedy Basham is 6-7. That might prove to be difficult for Arizona, which has struggled against tall and lengthy players of Stanford and Oregon State in the last two games, especially with 6-4 freshman Maya Nnaji under concussion protocol. Her availability against Oregon is uncertain.
— Oregon lists only nine active players, all of whom average at least 10 minutes a game. No question, Barnes and her staff will continue their aggressive brand of basketball and try to get Oregon players in foul trouble.
— In this day and age of the transfer portal, an oddity will occur on Sunday night — ASU standouts Loville and Hanson from last season will face off against each other wearing different college uniforms.
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.