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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona WBB remains on the road, facing Washington and Washington State in this week’s matchups

Celeste Lizarraga
The Arizona women’s basketball team continues the tradition of banging on the drum before a game against Loyola Marymount University on Sunday, Nov. 12, in McKale Center.

The University of Arizona women’s basketball team is preparing for another challenging week on the road, beginning with a matchup against the University of Washington on Friday, Jan. 19, at 8 p.m., followed by a face-off with Washington State University on Sunday, Jan. 21, at 1 p.m. The Wildcats find themselves on a two-game losing streak, suffering a close 73-70 defeat to Oregon State University and a closely contested 70-68 loss to the University of Oregon in last week’s matches. Now, with a week to regroup and refocus, Arizona aims to turn the page and get back on track.

Washington (11-4) enters the upcoming matchup amid a challenging four-game losing streak. After an impressive 11-game winning streak, the Huskies suffered their first loss of the season, a 59-51 defeat against the former-No. 19 University of Louisville on Wednesday, Dec. 20, triggering a series of subsequent losses. On the other hand, Washington State (12-5) comes into the matchup with its own struggles, holding a 1-3 record in conference play

Game 1: Washington — Friday, Jan. 19, at 8 p.m.

History vs. Washington  

In the upcoming 71st meeting between Arizona and Washington, the Wildcats trails significantly in the all-time series with Washington holding a commanding 43-27 lead. However, recent history reveals a different narrative, with the Wildcats asserting dominance in the last ten meetings, riding a seven-game winning streak against the Huskies. Their most recent encounter on Jan. 27, 2023, in Tucson, Arizona, resulted in a 61-54 victory for Arizona.

Despite the recent success against Washington, the Wildcats face a challenge as this upcoming matchup takes place on the road. Arizona has encountered difficulties on away courts this season, currently holding a 2-3 record. Historically, the Wildcats have struggled on Washington’s home turf, with a 9-25 record in away games against the Huskies. With the added pressure of a recent slump, the dynamics of home and away advantage become crucial factors to monitor as the Wildcats prepare for this matchup.

Washington’s season

Tina Langley, named the twelfth head coach of the Washington women’s basketball program on April 5, 2021, is entering her third season at the program’s helm in 2023-24. Langley, an eight-year head coach known for her success and transformative leadership, has made significant strides at Washington. In just two seasons, she orchestrated one of the most remarkable turnarounds, elevating the Huskies from 7 to 19 wins. Notably, this improvement occurred during a season where the Pac-12, a highly competitive conference, sent nine teams to the postseason.

The Washington women’s basketball team started the season on an impressive note, going undefeated in its first 11 games with dominant victories. The team experienced its first loss in a closely contested matchup against former-No. 19 Louisville, where the team fell 51-59. The struggles continued with losses to the University of California, Berkeley and No. 8 Stanford University, signaling a shift in momentum. In Round 2 of the Boeing Apple Cup Series, the Huskies faced adversity once again, falling 59-72 to Washington State. This recent downturn has marked a challenging phase for the team, with the need to regroup and rediscover its early-season form as it faces upcoming matchups, including a pending matchup with Arizona.

Junior forward Dalayah Daniels stands as one of Washington’s top players, she leads the Huskies in rebounds (6.9 per game), blocks (1.6 per game) and ranks as the second-leading scorer with an average of 12.5 points per game. In the recent game against Washington State, Daniels showcased her versatility with 23 points and eight rebounds despite the team falling short. Daniels’ all-around play will be crucial as the Huskies aim to end their current four-game skid. Then there’s sophomore guard Elle Ladine, who leads the team in scoring, averaging 15 points per game and ranks second in rebounding with 5.8 per game. Ladine’s offensive contributions, demonstrated in the most recent game with 14 points and four rebounds, will be essential as the Huskies seek to rebound against Arizona and return to the win column.

Game 2: Washington State — Sunday, Jan. 21, at 1 p.m.

History vs. Washington State   

In the longstanding series between Arizona and Washington State, Arizona currently holds the upper hand with a 40-32 lead in the all-time series. However, the recent ten matchups have seen a balanced competition, as both teams stand at an even 5-5. Notably, the last encounter between these teams favored the Cougars, who secured a 70-59 victory on Jan. 29, 2023, on the Wildcats’ home court.

When playing on the road against Washington State, Arizona maintains an even 17-17 record. While the historical series is closely contested, this season’s road struggles for Arizona add an additional layer of uncertainty. The upcoming matchup will likely hinge on which team brings its best game on that particular day. Arizona possesses the capability to beat Washington State, but the key factor will be whether Arizona can finally put together a complete game and make the necessary winning plays down the stretch when it matters most.

Washington’s State season

Kamie Ethridge, named head coach of WSU women’s basketball on April 15, 2018, has transformed the Cougars program into a force to be reckoned with. Ethridge’s leadership has seen the team’s win total increase consistently each season, culminating in its first Pac-12 title by winning the 2023 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament. Her remarkable journey from navigating the Cougars from the Pac-12 basement to champions in just five seasons underscores Ethridge’s impact on the program.

Under Ethridge’s leadership, Washington State’s season began with it ranked No. 24 in the country and it opened the season with a strong 78-61 victory over Cal Poly. The team showcased resilience with standout performances, including a thrilling overtime win against Gonzaga University. The Cougars continued their winning ways, securing victories against Idaho State University, the University of Montana and Prairie View A&M University. Some of their other wins included an 87-67 victory over the University of Maryland and a dominating 111-50 victory over Texas A&M University–Commerce. They also had convincing wins over the University of California, Davis and South Dakota State University. However, they faced challenges, such as a tough loss to Green Bay, No. 8 Stanford, a narrow defeat to California and a split series with Washington, losing the first encounter before rebounding with a 72-59 victory in the second.

The first player to watch heading into this matchup is senior guard Charlisse Leger-Walker, tied for the Cougars’ leading scorer at 13.5 points per game, also leading in assists with 4.9 per game. Despite a relatively modest statistical game against Washington, Leger-Walker’s contributions were crucial in the team’s latest win. Expect her to return to form against ASU and Arizona, where her offensive scoring will be pivotal. Then there’s Bella Murekatete, a fifth-year center, who shares the scoring lead with Leger-Walker, averaging 13.5 points per game. Murekatete also leads the team in rebounds with 7.6 per game and steals with 1.8 per game. Against Washington, Murekatete’s 10 points and five rebounds played a significant role in the Cougars’ success. As a dynamic duo, Leger-Walker and Murekatete are poised to showcase their talents against the Wildcats, aiming to build upon the success they have had so far this season.

Wildcats to watch 

In the recent matchup against Oregon, freshman guard Jada Williams once again showcased her scoring prowess with a season-high performance despite the Wildcats falling short. Williams led all scorers with an impressive 23 points, adding two rebounds and a steal to her performance. While this marked only her sixth game of the season scoring in double digits, Williams’ offensive firepower stands out. Even in the previous game against Oregon State where she scored 11 points, albeit less efficiently, Williams proved to be a key offensive contributor, ranking as the team’s third-leading scorer. As the Wildcats gear up for the upcoming matches, Williams’ ability to serve as an offensive spark plug will be something to keep an eye on in this week’s games. Her performance could be the deciding factor, and if she can maintain her offensive momentum, she has demonstrated the capability to keep up with anyone on the team.

Another player to watch out for is freshman forward Breya Cunningham. She has recently achieved back-to-back double-digit scoring games, although the wins haven’t followed suit as in the early part of the season. Cunningham has two double-doubles this season, both resulting in victories for Arizona. Additionally, when she records at least 10 points and eight rebounds, Arizona has a perfect winning record in those games. In contests where Cunningham has at least three blocks, Arizona has won five out of seven games. Cunningham’s influence on both ends of the court is evident, showcasing Arizona’s peak performance when she plays her brand of basketball. As the Wildcats approach their upcoming games, a return to Cunningham’s impactful and well-rounded style could position Arizona favorably to secure victories this weekend.

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