March 5, 2024 

Locked On Women’s Basketball: Adia Barnes, Arizona are ten toes down at Pac-12 Tournament

'So here we are, not winning as many games but figuring out a way to be successful'

On today’s episode of Locked On Women’s Basketball, Arizona head coach Adia Barnes joins host Howard Megdal to break down what started as a tumultuous season, that eventually landed the Wildcats a chance at a post-season berth.

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The Wildcats have dealt with significant injuries throughout the season, at times playing with just seven players and having to add walk-ons along the way. Barnes has also had to make difficult choices, in particular, deciding to dismiss the team’s leading scorer just a week ago.

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“I think culture is everything. When I think about when we went to the national championship, we weren’t the most talented team, we were just a team that believed in each other, believed in the mission,” Barnes said. “I think with the landscape of women’s basketball, that has shifted, so we’re all pivoting because now with the transfer portal, it’ll be more transactional versus [relationships], just for recruiting, I think it’s changed a lot of things. So I want to make sure as we’re rebuilding, or not just rebuilding, but re-establishing ourselves nationally and getting better, I wanted to start young to keep our core together because I felt like that’s how we were at our best, when I have a strong core together. So here we are, not winning as many games but figuring out a way to be successful.”

Then, Barnes spoke about her younger players and how they have risen to the occasion despite the roller-coaster season. Freshmen Jada Williams and Breya Cunningham are both playing well over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, and helping the team find new success.

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“So I said, if I want to build something special, I’m not gonna get all the top kids in the country, I’m not getting the JuJus and kids like that. So I need to get that next year and build them up, but I can’t build them up if after one year … they transfer and then the next team reaps the benefit,” Barnes said. “But I think that I wanted to sustain and I know that you have to play the freshmen, but the flip side of that is not winning as many games, losing some close games because a freshman mistake. We lost in double overtime against USC last week, we should have won that game … so that’s going to pay off later, but it just hurts now, that’s the reality. And most teams aren’t going to win with freshmen. If you look across the country, there was only one Hannah Hidalgo. There’s only one JuJu Watkins. There is no one else in the country at the level they are that’s helping their team win. It is upperclassmen. But you’ve got to keep those freshmen.”

The two also discussed how important the Wildcat’s experience playing in close, multiple-overtime games will help them as they fight for a spot in the post-season, more on building a strong team culture, and the lessons Barnes is taking away from this season. Tune in to Locked On Women’s Basketball on YouTube and make sure to subscribe to the Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast to keep learning about the WNBA, women’s college basketball, basketball history and much more!

Written by The Next

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