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NCAAW Preview: Arizona and UCLA to test each other in Pac-12 showdown

Aari McDonald of the Arizona Wildcats and Michaela Onyenwere of the UCLA Bruins are two of the best players in the country. But Friday’s game between the two teams could come down to which supporting cast performs better. Enter Cate Reese of Arizona and Charisma Osborne of UCLA.

Utah v UCLA
Charisma Osborne scored 31 points to lead the Bruins in their opener.
Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

The No. 7 Arizona Wildcats and No. 9 UCLA Bruins both have a lot of hype surrounding them early in the season and will clash at 9 p.m. ET. on Friday in Tucson.

Two of the best players in the country, senior guard Aari McDonald and senior forward Michaela Onyenwere, play for the Wildcats and Bruins, respectively. Both stars have great supporting casts, especially Arizona, which has key returners Cate Reese and Sam Thomas and brought in three solid transfers in Trinity Baptiste, Shaina Pellington and Bendu Yeaney.

Arizona has a lot of potential on the court but off the court they have been dealing with some sobering COVID-19 issues.

The Bruins feature star sophomore guard Charisma Osborne, who was one shy of tying a career high with 31 points in the team’s opener. They also return Natalie Chou, Lauryn Miller, Lindsey Corsaro and Chantel Horvat, all of whom were contributors last year.

McDonald, who is one of the best scorers in the nation, notched 18 points in the first game of her senior season and UCLA will probably be content to hold her to that total if they can. It will be interesting to see Osborne, an up-and-coming guard, go up against McDonald.

So far, Arizona has a win against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (Nov. 29) and UCLA has bested the Cal State Fullerton Titans (Nov. 27). The Wildcats didn't excatly blow away Northern Arizona, winning by just 13 points. The Bruins, on the other hand, dominated the Titans, 98-49.

Now, in the second game of the season for both teams, the Wildcats and Bruins will face a huge test as they kick off Pac-12 play.

Game information

No. 9 UCLA Bruins (1-0) vs. No. 7 Arizona Wildcats (1-0)

When: Friday, Dec. 4 at 9 p.m. ET

Where: McKale Center in Tucson, AZ

How to watch/listen: Pac-12 Network/Dave Marcus’ radio broadcast (UCLA) or 1400 AM local radio in Tucson or TUNEIN Arizona Women’s Basketball

Key to the matchup: Rebounding. Last year, Arizona’s leading rebounder was Reese, who is 6-foot-2, followed by McDonald, who is 5-foot-6. Semaj Smith, the tallest player on the team both this year and last at 6-foot-6, only played 14.3 minutes per game last year and the team’s rebounding margin was -0.7. UCLA will try to exploit that but it will be harder now that 6-foot-5 freshman post Lauren Ware has joined Arizona. Ware had eight points and five rebounds in 18 minutes against Northern Arizona. The Bruins’ tallest rotation player is 6-foot-4 freshman Emily Bessoir, who doesn’t only play in the post but will certainly be battling for rebounds. She had seven points and eight boards in her debut.

Reason to watch: The Pac-12 was really exciting to watch last year and this year promises to be similarly enticing. Both of these teams are loaded with talent and everyone expects them to be good, but nobody knows how good. Can they prove themselves to be legitimate national championship contenders as the season progresses? It all starts with this game against each other.

Highlights: Emily Bessoir shows off her all-around talent

Also in action

The No. 10 Oregon Ducks, who are also Pac-12 contenders, will face the Colorado Buffaloes in Eugene on Friday at 5 p.m. ET. That game can be seen on the Pac-12 Network and listened to on Oregon’s athletics website or Colorado All-Access.