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Arizona women’s basketball notebook: Adia Barnes makes debut, plans to change program’s culture

Arizona+womens+basketball+coach+Adia+Barnes+signals+at+Charise+Holloway+to+step+in+during+Arizonas+74-59+win+against+Alcorn+State+on+Sunday%2C+Nov.+13+at+McKale+Center.
Steven Spooner
Arizona women’s basketball coach Adia Barnes signals at Charise Holloway to step in during Arizona’s 74-59 win against Alcorn State on Sunday, Nov. 13 at McKale Center.

The Arizona women’s basketball team started its season this week, defeating Western New Mexico in an exhibition Tuesday before opening the regular season with 74-59 win over Alcorn State on Sunday afternoon.

Head coach Adia Barnes, a UA alumna and the program’s all-time leading scorer, made her highly-anticipated debut.

“As a coach, you can only control so much, so there was adrenaline, excitement, it’s new, it’s fun and you get to see your work put into place,” Barnes said after Tuesday’s game. “I’m excited, I’m gamer. I was excited to see how they were going to respond. It’s funny because the team was really nervous. … They want to impress, they want to do the right things.”

UA senior forward LaBrittney Jones classified Barnes as a laid-back coach, and it showed in her coaching style. Rather than standing and pacing on the sidelines like many coaches do, Barnes was sitting down, occasionally yelling directives at her players.

RELATED: LaBrittney Jones posts a double-double as Arizona defeats Alcorn State

“I’m not a real yell-the-whole-game type of person,” Barnes said. “Everybody says it’s different when you move over [to the head coach’s seat]—it’s only 18 inches—and it is different, but it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s your team.”

Barnes isn’t sure if that easy-going demeanor on the sideline will last, though.

“When I brought a little bit of intensity a couple times, they went out and played a little better,” Barnes said. “So figuring out what buttons to press for my team … figuring out that style and how to do it and every player you have to coach differently.”

Barnes is still learning some of the ins-and-outs that come along with being a head coach, but at this point, it’s the “small things,” like determining where team managers stand and how the team’s pre-game shootaround will be conducted.

Plus, making decisions. A lot of them.

“Everything else I was really prepared for and thought of, but one of the adjustments is the stuff everyday, like making decisions,” Barnes said.

As a whole, being a head coach has been “rewarding” for Barnes.

“What’s really cool about it is you get to implement things and see what works and see what doesn’t work, so it’s really rewarding,” she said. “I think the girls are having a great time.”

Building a culture

The Arizona women’s basketball program has had just one winning season since 2005, and Barnes’ goal is to replace the losing culture with a championship culture.

One way to do that is to increase accountability. Starting guard Malena Washington, for instance, came off the bench Tuesday for disciplinary reasons.

“You have to make decisions. I have to make a decision about Malena because she was one of our best players,” Barnes said. “I have rules and I’m going to hold people accountable, and that’s going to be the way it is because I’m looking at the big picture. I’ve been in championship cultures, I know what it looks like, and I know what’s important and you can’t sacrifice early, so that’s really important to me.”

What does that culture look like on the court? More cohesiveness.

“I think we’re playing more together, that was one of the biggest differences to me,” Jones said. “We shared the ball more. We just work on us and work on our culture that we’re trying to set for this year. We’re trying to run fast and get going.”

Added Washington, “I think this year we have more confidence and trust in each other, it’s easier to play with each other knowing that we have each other’s backs and knowing that we can count on each other.”

Barnes still tweaking rotations

In the win versus Alcorn State, 12 different Wildcats saw the court as Barnes is still looking for lineup combinations that are effective.

“I think initially, especially early in the season, what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to work through different combinations and see what’s the most efficient lineup, who plays the best together, so you’re trying different things,” Barnes said.

Arizona has used two different starting lineups in the first two games.

Lucia Alonso learning quickly

While the lineups are constantly shifting, freshman point guard Lucia Alonso’s presence has been consistent. The Spaniard has started in both games, running the team’s offense in the process.

“Lucia has done a great job stepping in and she came in and didn’t speak a ton of English, she’s learning, she’s picking it up, she’s learning the plays fast,” Barnes said.

Alonso had 10 points, six assists and four rebounds in Sunday’s season-opening victory.

“She’s a very smart point guard and she can shoot, she can score, and she knows where the open pass is,” Washington said. “So I think that takes some pressure off the rest of our players because her basketball IQ is very high.”

Lauren Evans is doing the little things

Another constant in Arizona’s starting lineup thus far has been Lauren Evans. In Arizona’s first two games, the senior forward made a minimal impact on the stat sheet—she scored two points and grabbed one rebound in 14 minutes in the season opener—but an absence in the stat-sheet isn’t indicative of her impact on the court.

“And the reason why is because she’s one of our best on-the-ball defenders, she’s one of our best at doing all of the little things that I really like—that blue-collar type player that I love,” Barnes said of Evans on Sunday. “Tonight just wasn’t a great night for her because at times, she wasn’t visible. But I think that that’s not normal Lauren and that hasn’t been Lauren in practice, she usually brings us so much.”

Barnes is still finding a way to put Evans in a position to succeed moving forward.

“I know I can get more out of her,” Barnes said. “She can go to the basket, she can hit pull-ups, she can hit set-shots, but for her it’s just confidence, but she’s going to be a valuable piece to what we do.”

Arizona returns to action Friday when it travels to Fairfax, Virginia, to take on George Mason. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.


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