TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Arizona women's basketball may have home court advantage in the NCAA Tournament's Second Round, but a challenge awaits in No. 5 seed North Carolina.
The No. 4 Wildcats were able to rally for a win over UNLV in the First Round behind big games from stars Shaina Pellington and Cate Reese, who returned from a shoulder injury.
But the Wildcats now will hope to play a sharper game and avoid the need for a late-game comeback. The Tar Heels also rallied in the fourth quarter to win their First Round game against Stephen F. Austin.
"I think us and North Carolina both got our jitters out the first game," said Arizona senior Sam Thomas. "So I think we're gonna bring it to the next level... They're probably gonna play ten times better, ten times harder, Sweet 16 on the line. Your season's on the line. You wanna go to that next region."
Coach Adia Barnes says transition defense and rebounding will be big keys to the game. The Lady Rebels out-rebounded the Wildcats 36-22.
North Carolina relies more on guard play than bigger players inside, but the Tar Heels still rank No. 30 in the nation in defensive rebounding, just below UNLV.
"Just gonna be a mentality," Barnes said. "It's one of those things where I can't take two hours today to work on boxing out and transition defense. It's something at this point you gotta just want to do it. Cause to me, boxing out, that's just a mindset."
"So I think against UNLV we relied on our size a little bit much, which is why we got caught ball-watching just because we feel like we could out-jump them and just get the rebounds, which wasn't the case," said Thomas. "So definitely, coming into this game knowing we just have to work on techniques and have the right mentality."
Arizona and North Carolina will tip off at 7 p.m. Monday at McKale Center. The game will air on ESPN2.
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