The Arizona women’s basketball team hit the road Thursday for their first away game of the season. Friday night’s forecast calls for 43 degrees and scattered showers in Logan, Utah.
The weather isn’t the only challenge Arizona faces when it takes on Utah State.
Friday’s game marks the Wildcats’ first of four road games in eight days. The team will play in its first Thanksgiving tournament under Adia Barnes — next week’s Warner Center Marriott Thanksgiving Basketball Classic in Northridge, California.
Barnes will learn a lot about her team over the next week-plus. From what she’s seen so far, the second-year coach has reason to be excited.
Senior JaLea Bennett was named team captain earlier in the week. Freshman Sam Thomas scored 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting in the season opener against Iona while grabbing seven rebounds, blocking three shots and stealing two passes. Another freshman, Marlee Kyles, scored a season-high 17 points against Iona, the most for a true freshman in a season opener since Davellyn Whyte scored 22 in her debut in 2009.
And senior Kat Wright’s seems to be finding a rhythm on the court. The Florida Atlantic transfer scored 13 points against Iona.
Despite all this, the Wildcats must grow even more before the start of Pac-12 play. Here’s what they’ll be focusing on:
Growing up – and quickly
Arizona has only 10 players this season, meaning the freshmen will play a ton of minutes.
The newcomers “need to grow up fast,” Barnes said. “They have to absorb everything and be ready for it. Non-conference play is very different than the Pac-12. We need people to step up fast with our seventh and eighth players ready to help.”
Barnes is already seeing maturity from Thomas, who has been a consistent presence on the court. She played 34 and 28 minutes in Arizona’s two exhibition games, and finished with a total of 10 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. Thomas played 39 minutes against Iona, turning the ball over just once.
Playing solid defense and rebounding
While the Wildcats lit up the scoreboard in their opener, with five players scoring in double figures, their defense hasn’t been as balanced.
The UA allowed 20 points in the paint and was outscored in the fourth quarter, 25-18.
“We need to rotate quicker and stick to assignments,” Barnes said. “They need more reps in practice. We need to change the defense more from man to zone to change the rhythm of the game.”
The Wildcats had only 12 second-chance points in the opener compared to Iona’s 17, and finished with just 10 offensive rebounds. This is an area of concern for Barnes, as Iona only played one 6-footer, Tucsonan Treyanna Clay.
Pac-12 teams have much taller, longer players.
“We are working on boxing out,” she said. “We need to be more sound; only 10 offensive rebounds?”
Barnes and the Wildcats will spend the early part of this season figuring out just who they are.
“We are working on creating our identity,” Barnes said. “We’re big on keeping it simple. Not trying to be someone else and doing things we do really well. We need to be more worried about what we do than what others do.”