Arizona Women's Basketball

Adia Barnes notches 125th career win in sweep of Sun Devils

Helena Pueyo returns to a jubilant Arizona bench with Adia Barnes looking on (Arizona Athletics photo)

TEMPE — It was an exciting trip to Tempe for the Arizona women’s basketball team. Adia Barnes reached a new career milestone on Sunday afternoon in the 80-67 rivalry win over Arizona State, leading the Wildcats to their 125th victory under her leadership.

Arizona also beat ASU at Tempe and swept the Sun Devils for only the second time since the 1999-2000 season.

For Barnes, the 125-win milestone achievement was a surprise.

In the middle of the press scrum outside of the locker rooms of Desert Financial Arena, Cate Reese came out and asked Barnes if she could make an announcement.

“This is also Adia’s 125th win, so, not a big deal or anything,” Reese said, jokingly.

“I didn’t know that,” Barnes said as she started smiling from ear to ear. “All this stress for only 125 wins? I don’t know if I’m going to make it!”

Knowing the Sun Devils (7-10, 0-8 Pac-12) had a limited roster due to injuries after being forced to forfeit their road trip last week against Utah and Colorado, Barnes rotated in all of her players, ensuring everyone got to see the court. While it was tough to stay relaxed on the sidelines at times, Barnes knew the benefits of getting each girl on the floor would outweigh the drawbacks.

“We know they were undermanned,” Barnes said. “I had to be a little bit patient, because it was ugly and we weren’t able to run some good offense. But the importance was giving everybody time, or experience, which I think will pay dividends later.”

The game got off to a close start. Former Sun Devil Jade Loville, who had 27 points in an upset win over Arizona last year in Tempe, got the day started off for the Wildcats (15-4, 5-3) with the first bucket as she attempted to help set the tone for her new team in familiar territory. While the Sun Devils were able to tie things up early, the Wildcats never handed over the lead.

At the end of the first quarter, Arizona led 20-16.

Emotions started running a little higher in the second quarter as the intensity from the rivalry was shining through on the hardwood. The friction between the two teams was intense, with words being exchanged by some players and the relentless fight for the ball.

It wasn’t until the final stretch of the second quarter when the Wildcats started to really Bear Down, outscoring ASU 10-4 in the final five minutes of play leading into halftime.

Sending the Wildcats into the locker room leading 43-31, Helena Pueyo had perhaps the most exciting bucket of the night to put an exclamation point on the first half. Just as time was expiring, she was able to knock down a jumper, sending the Wildcats’ fans in attendance into a frenzy.

Barnes noted their keys for the second half were to stop fouling and to step up their transition defense.

Coming back out of the locker room at the half, the Sun Devils brought the heat. After going on a 10-2 run largely led by Kentucky transfer Treasure Hunt to open up the second quarter and cutting Arizona’s lead to 45-41, Barnes was forced to call a timeout with 6:17 left to play in the third.

Sparked by a three coming out of the timeout by Loville, the Wildcats were able to jump back out to a 56-44 lead and force the Sun Devils to call a timeout with 3:02 left in the third.

“We talked about that in practice — we need someone to come in and change that momentum,” Barnes said.

Things didn’t get better for Arizona State, as a technical foul was called after the timeout to send Madison Conner to the line where she knocked down both shots.

“She just gave us some big buckets,” Barnes said on Conner’s play off the bench. “We all know she can come out and shoot and play, and I thought the match-ups were more favorable (than last week at Utah when Conner played less than a minute).”

From there, the Wildcats were able to close out the third quarter leading 62-48 with another buzzer beater, this one coming from freshman Kailyn Gilbert.

Going into the fourth quarter, the momentum was behind the Wildcats as they looked to close out the final 10 minutes of play. At one point, the Wildcats had pushed the lead to 17, and while Arizona State was able to close the gap slightly, the lead would be too much to overcome. When the final buzzer sounded, it was 80-67 Arizona.

“I think it was a good win against our rivals,” Barnes said. “We were able to sweep and get a road win and a win at home, and that’s good for us because they’re a good team. It’s always going to mean a little more, because it’s our rival.”

Conner led the Wildcats in scoring, finishing with 16 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal.

Esmery Martinez also had a phenomenal game, posting a double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds with an assist.

“I thought she was relentless on the boards,” Barnes said about Martinez. “I thought she had a different sense of energy.”

With the sweep of the Sun Devils, the Wildcats will now shift their focus to their upcoming home games against Washington and Washington State on Friday and Sunday, respectively.

Following the win over ASU, Barnes noted they still have a lot of defensive improvements to make as they prepare to hit the thick of their schedule.

“We’re getting ready to have a pretty tough stretch,” Barnes said. “We have the Washingtons, which they’re both really good, then UCLA, USC, Stanford.”

Barnes specifically said this team is not a team that’s able to put teams away by 30 after being up by 15 because they’ll make mistakes, which is why she’s hammering home the mentality of, “We have to lead, and we have to maintain.”

Barnes believes part of the problem is that the Wildcats get too comfortable and start to relax. It’s not something they can do if they want to be elite, she indicated.

To close out the postgame presser, Barnes was asked to reflect back on her time at her alma mater as head coach since 2016-17 and to describe what the transformation has been like from her eyes.

For her, it’s been like a dream come true.

“It’s incredible,” Barnes said. “When I first came, there was a couple hundred fans there. I think just to have Tucson embrace me and embrace our team and support us and love on our team is incredible. … I love Tucson, I think they’re the best fans in the country. I think we’re gonna have games where we sell out this year, and they care about women’s basketball.”

Brittany Bowyer is a freelance journalist who started her career as an intern for a small sports website back in 2015. Since then, she’s obtained her master’s degree in Sports Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU and is in her fourth year of covering various levels of sports across a broad range of platforms in Arizona. You can follow her on twitter @LittWithBritt

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