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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona WBB welcomes its in-state rivals ASU in McKale

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Noor Haghighi
A referee follows Jada Williams as she travels up the court in a game against Cal in McKale Center on Jan. 26. The freshman guard scored 13 points for the game.

The Arizona women’s basketball team will remain in McKale for this week’s face-off against in-state rival ASU on Sunday, Feb. 4, at noon. The Wildcats are coming off a weekend where they ended their previous four-game losing streak by defeating the University of California, Berkeley, 66-55, on Friday, Jan. 26. However, they faced No. 6 Stanford University on Sunday, Jan. 28, and were completely outclassed and outmatched, losing 96-64.

Heading into this week with more questions than answers surrounding this team and the remaining part of their season ahead, Arizona (11-10, 3-6 in Pac-12) sits in 9th place in its conference, while ASU (10-11, 2-7 in Pac-12) sits in dead last in the conference. Two teams whose seasons have been a disappointment up to this point now face off against one another. However, as everyone knows, when it comes to rivalry matchups, records usually go out the window because of how familiar both schools are with one another. That is even more accurate in this matchup, with both teams having almost identical seasons up to this point. It will really come down to whichever team is able to play their best ball this Sunday that will be able to hold the bragging rights for the time being because neither team has much else to play for at this point.

History vs. ASU 

This upcoming meeting between these programs will be their 104th all-time. In the all-time series, the Wildcats trail significantly 63-40. However, they have dominated the recent matchups, winning seven of the last 10 against the Sun Devils and are currently on a four-game winning streak against them. In the school’s last meeting, which took place on Dec. 17, 2023, in Tempe, Arizona, the Wildcats came out on top in a big way, defeating the Sun Devils 91-52 and completely dismantling them. However, this time around, the game will be played in Arizona’s arena, where history shows the Wildcats have been about evenly matched against the Sun Devils at home with a 23-25 record. Even with the struggles this season for Arizona, it’s still 7-3 at home, so that’s something this team can rely on—the energy of the crowd—to play a part in this upcoming matchup.

ASU’s season

Natasha Adair assumed the role of head coach for ASU’s women’s basketball program on March 28, 2022. In her first season in Tempe, Adair led the team through challenges, including significant injuries to key players. Despite the setbacks, the Sun Devils achieved noteworthy milestones, starting the season 5-0 for the first time since 2002-03. They concluded the season ranked No. 2 in the Pac-12 and 10th in the nation for the fewest turnovers per game (12.3). Adair’s coaching record stands at 185-174.

The Sun Devils have been through a season marked by highs and lows, opening with a 70-55 win against the University of Texas at San Antonio. Their early success continued with victories over Montana State University and the University of San Francisco, but they faced adversity with their first loss against Grambling State University (70-67). Undeterred, the Sun Devils swiftly rebounded, dominating Idaho State University with a 72-40 win. Their journey included challenging matchups, such as an 82-42 loss to No. 12 University of Texas at Austin at the Paradise Jam. Responding resiliently, they secured victories over the University of South Florida and High Point University, concluding the Paradise Jam on a positive note. Despite setbacks, including a significant loss to in-state rivals Arizona (91-52), the Sun Devils showcased resilience with a crucial win over Fresno State University (80-76). However, they faced additional challenges, falling short against Santa Clara University and experiencing a turning point with consecutive losses, notably to former-No.15 University of Utah (58-41) and former-No.5 University of Colorado (81-68). Despite a tough stretch with six straight losses, the Sun Devils rebounded impressively, breaking the streak with a victory over the University of Washington (73-65) and securing another conference win against Cal (76-71).

The first Sun Devil to watch out for in this contest is sophomore guard Jalyn Brown, who is ASU’s leading scorer, averaging 17.5 points per game. Brown showcased her scoring prowess in the recent victory over Cal with a 21-point performance. Despite her prolific ability to put the ball through the hoop, the team has struggled to find consistency and translate that into wins. In the upcoming rematch against Arizona, Brown’s scoring will be instrumental. The next Sun Devil to watch out for is senior guard Jaddan Simmons, she is the Sun Devils’ third-leading scorer and brings a well-rounded game, averaging 11 ppg. Simmons also leads the team in assists (3.2) and steals (2.0). In the recent victory over Cal, Simmons contributed with a 15-point performance, showcasing her ability to score, facilitate and make defensive plays. As ASU seeks to end its losing streak against Arizona, Simmons’ all-around game and Brown’s prolific scoring will be two crucial factors in the Sun Devils notching out this victory against the Wildcats

Wildcats to watch 

With Arizona missing several players due to injuries and personal reasons and the rotation shrinking to seven players, according to head coach Adia Barnes, now more than ever, fifth-year forward Esmery Martinez will be depended on. Among the active players, Martinez plays the third-most minutes, yet she is the team’s second-highest scorer this season, averaging 11 points per game. She also ranks second in rebounds with 5.8 per game and second in steals with two per game. In the Wildcats’ game last week, it was Martinez who led the team in scoring with her 20-point performance that helped secure the victory over Cal. Martinez’s scoring ability will be required once again against the Sun Devils this week, along with her ability to facilitate and play scrappy when needed to help Arizona end the week with another victory.

Then there is junior guard Courtney Blakely, who had to step up in the absence of Kailyn Gilbert and assume the role of one of the Wildcats’ main ball handlers. In their most recent game against Stanford, despite being dominated in this matchup, Blakely had her career high against the Cardinal, scoring 24 points and collecting four steals. Although this performance came in a losing effort, it was still impressive nonetheless, given the ability to do this against one of the best teams in the country. Now, heading into this week’s matchup against ASU with the level of competition heavily reduced, Blakely will be called upon to step up once again and help lead this team back into the win column against its in-state rivals.


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