There isn’t much crossover between the résumés of the Arizona and Oregon State women’s basketball teams.
The Beavers (19-9, 11-5 Pac-12) are a likely NCAA tournament team; picked to finish eighth in the preseason, they’re fighting for fourth place in the Pac-12.
Arizona has one Pac-12 win, five overall in 27 games, and the second-worst RPI (241) among all 84 major conference teams.
The UA was picked to finish 11th in the preseason — it’s already clinched last place with two games left.
Oh, and if Arizona loses its last two games, plus one in the Pac-12 tournament, it will tie a program record of 25 losses. But the season ain’t over, until it’s over.
“I told the girls,” coach Niya Butts said. “As long as we have games, we have something to play for.”
Tonight at 8 in Corvallis, Ore., the Wildcats take on the Beavers, and if the way OSU is talking is any indication, the game is pretty much over before it even starts.
“They’ve been doing a lot of trash talking,” said Candice Warthen, “saying that we’re an easy team to win against, that they’re not worried about Arizona, that this is a winnable game. To them, they basically already won the game.”
The Beavers won the last one easily, by 14 points at McKale Center on Feb. 2. That was the start of a seven-game win streak coming into tonight’s game. In fact, the Beavers won all seven games by an average of 12 points. They’re cruising, and to them, Arizona is just the next in line.
But, with the season all but over, the Wildcats are ready to play spoiler.
“They’re feeling really confident,” Warthen said, “but we’re trying to break their confidence.”
Added senior Erica Barnes, who is in the final stretch of her career: “It gives us a lot of motivation, it’s gonna be a battle.”
The last time Arizona played in Corvallis, in 2012, the Wildcats eked out a 58-56 win thanks in large part to an 18-point, 11-rebound performance from Barnes.
“We’re approaching it like we approach any other game,” Warthen said, “just knowing that anything can happen.”
Butts knows that Oregon State is overlooking her team. But Arizona’s coach chose to take the high road.
“Oregon State’s done a good job,” Butts said. “They’ve put themselves in position to be talking about the NCAA tournament, and sometimes when you can see the light at the end of the tunnel you get a little bit excited about that, and you start to talk about that. There’s nothing wrong with that.
“Sometimes,” she added, “you just gotta hope that the light that you see is not a train, and you gotta keep working.”