Arizona Women’s Basketball Game Day Notebook: About Helena Pueyo, #BurgerGirls and What to Expect from Washington

Arizona women’s basketball returns home after its last three games on the road. The Wildcats’ schedule during the first eight conference games was slightly biased toward street games, with five being away from the McKale Center.

The first game of the weekend is Pac-12’s ninth game and marks the halfway point in the league season. What’s happening to the Wildcats as they head back into the season?

Helena Pueyo becomes defensive

Barnes always says it’s possible to make a great defender. Improving your shot is a whole different topic.

“It’s easier to teach defense than offense,” Barnes said after the game in Utah. “So I can’t make a player who can’t shoot a great shooter, but I can make a player who is a great shooter a better defender by teaching him certain things. “Hey, she’s really fast, give her another step.” But I can’t say improve and change your shot to become a shooter. So I think it’s better to teach defense than offense.”

An example of turning a great shooter into a great defender is Pueyo, one of 15 players named to Naismith Women’s College’s Defensive Player of the Year watchlist earlier this week. While Barnes thinks the likelihood of Pueyo actually winning is slim, she knows her versatile sixth player has already made tremendous strides at this end of the court.

“Usually those awards go to whoever has the most steals in the country,” Barnes said. “I think it’s just a numbers thing that usually the person with the most steals … defensively is led to by someone else. But I think she gets the recognition… to be one of 15 in the country is phenomenal. And why is it more special for Helena and for me Helena defense is not spellable. Helena was a bad defender. I remember seeing Helena. She stood. I didn’t get into the stance. And I remember saying to Salvo, “There is no way She will be able to play defense within our system.’ But then watching her develop makes me think of the years. Two years ago things really got going. Remember, she didn’t have these deviations for the first few years. She…was hidden [on defense]. And to see her getting distractions now and making big key plays in games like on-the-ball or out-of-bounds. Seeing the development of their defense makes us proud as coaches and just plain proud of them. And I don’t think she ever thought she’d get that.”

How likely is Pueyo to return to Arizona for her fifth year?

Even if Pueyo doesn’t win the award this season, she could try again next year. As she nears the end of her senior season in Arizona, that doesn’t mean she has to go. The guard still has the extra year granted by the NCAA due to the pandemic. She just has to decide whether to spend another year in Tucson or return to Spain and be closer to family and old friends.

What are the chances of Pueyo coming back?

“I think it’s very likely,” Barnes said. “I think, I think so extremely probably if we can get her some zero deals.”

Barnes said she knows the market in Europe for a European pro player with Pueyo’s talent. It is possible to get ZERO deals even for international players competing with this amount. However, there are some limitations that make it more complicated.

Barnes said she doesn’t fully understand all the rules, but does know that international players are not allowed to work for zero money. The entity providing the money simply has to give it to the player with no expectations. She said it’s difficult to get that kind of engagement.

Even if Pueyo made more money playing in Arizona, she would still be thousands of miles from home for the fifth year in a row. It might be worthwhile for them to return home and play in front of family and old friends.

“I really really hope she comes back here next year,” Barnes said. “She’s a really good player and she’s getting better and better.”

Two more burger girls

Pueyo’s recognition by the Naismith committee was just one testament to Arizona’s improvement nationally. A national committee putting a wildcat bencher on the list says people are taking notice. There was another message on the same day that indicated the same thing.

Arizona signer Breya Cunningham and Jada Williams were named to the McDonald’s All-American Game. It was the second year in a row that the Wildcats had called up two players on the team Maya Nnaji and Paris-Clark received the award last year. Since then, five McDonald’s All-Americans have signed with the Wildcats Cat Reese became the first in 2018.

It could also have been more. Barnes believes so Kailyn Gilbert was about to be selected last year. This year, Montaya dew was #8 on the ESPN HoopGurlz rankings. She decided to enroll early and forego the honors typically bestowed in the senior year of high school.

What does it mean when young women of this talent repeatedly place their trust in a seventh-year head coach like Barnes?

“I think it means a lot because … we weren’t even talking … when I first came here for the top 100 kids,” Barnes said. “And now to be on multiple lists — we’re pretty much on the bottom 10 or 20 lists of every top kid — and then just being in the hunt for Connecticut, Notre Dame, Louisville, South Carolina… I think it’s called.” a lot. And I think there’s so many more factors now because of NIL stuff but just getting these caliber kids because what it does helps you sustain success.

What to Expect from Washington

The Huskies have been down for a number of years but are head coaches as a sophomore Tina Langley has begun to reverse the program. She brought some players from Rice when she was hired last year, and she just signed her second straight top-25 class, according to HoopGurlz. She also has a hometown player Dalayah Daniels from conference competitor California back to Seattle.

The improvements haven’t resulted in as many wins as UW would like, but the Huskies regularly spook top-25 teams. They have single digit losses against Colorado, Utah, Oregon and UCLA. All four of these teams were ranked at some point in the season.

“Washington is a lot better than their record,” Barnes said. “Very difficult to guard. They run Princeton and Chin, and it’s getting a lot of reading response. They don’t shoot fast. They go deep into their shot clock. And I think it’s going to be a tough game. And I think these are games we have to win at home and they won’t be easy. And winning these two at home would be huge. I think the games that Washington lost — I mean, they were at UCLA and they controlled the game through the third quarter. And they are good. I think it’s just new. I think their defense is better. I think their stuff is difficult to guard, so it’s not a group we take lightly.”

Washington Huskies (10-8, 2-6 Pac-12) @ No. 19 Arizona Wildcats (15-4, 5-3 Pac-12)

When: Friday, January 27, 2023 at 7pm MST

Where from: McKale Center in Tucson, Arizona.

TV: Pac-12 Arizona

Stream: Streaming is available through the Pac-12 Now app or on-line. Both options require a subscription through a TV provider. Streaming is also available with a subscription to a TV package that includes the Pac-12 network via loop, fuboor vidgo.

Radio: Listen to Derrick Palmer’s appeal online The university network or on the radio at KTUC 1400 AM.

Statistics: Arizona live stats

Placements and placements: Arizona sits in fifth place with USC Pac-12 leaderboard at 5-3. Washington is 10th at 2-6.

The Wildcats are in 19th place from Associated Press and No. 14 in the WBCA/USA Today Coach Survey. The huskies are not ranked in any of the major polls.

UA is #25 on the Internet and The ranking of their hoop stats. Washington is #83 on the NET and #92 on HHS.

Projections: Your hoop stats Projects Arizona will win no matter where this game is played. At the McKale Center, the stats site assigns the Wildcats a winning probability of 89.6 with a predicted winning margin of 14.3. The score is 124.3.

How to get involved

Follow us on Twitter @AZDesertSwarm for all things Arizona wildcats. For women’s basketball live tweets and news throughout the week, follow our Deputy Editor @KimDoss71.


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