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Arizona beats San Diego State for first road win in tale of two halves

Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

Arizona (6-1) used the hot hand of Lucia Alonso and the driving of Aari McDonald to put together a 21-point turnaround in their first true road game of the year. After being down to San Diego State (4-4) by 12 in the first half, the Wildcats put their foot down in the second half to win 69-60.

“We knew it was going to be difficult to keep McDonald in front of us,” San Diego State coach Stacie Terry told the Mountain West Network. She added that they planned to make Arizona shoot the three. The Wildcats just made them, especially in the second half.

On the defensive end, Arizona went to the zone in the second half, slowing down an Aztec offense already missing guard Tea Adams. Adams has missed the last two games for SDSU.

Early in the game, it looked like the Aztecs might run away and hide. They opened the game playing their own zone defense. Arizona struggled to find shots. McDonald settled mostly for outside jumpers, and the team as a whole failed to make the three.

Their inside players didn’t find much success, either. Forward Cate Reese didn’t make her first basket until the third quarter. She ended up with five points and nine rebounds on the day.

After falling behind by 12 points with 4:21 left to go in the second quarter, the Wildcats finally seemed to get their bearings. Three-pointers by McDonald and Alonso, along with a layup from Sam Thomas, helped close the margin to two points.

The Aztecs responded with a four-point run to close out the half, extending their lead back to six. They headed into the locker room up 37-31.

Arizona coach Adia Barnes made adjustments at the half. The most important was to rely on a two-three zone to slow down the Aztec scorers.

It worked.

After shooting 48.1% from the floor in the first half, including 40% from three, SDSU only made 31.8% of their shots in the last two quarters. They also began to rely more heavily on the outside shot, going 2-for-10 from three over the last 20 minutes compared to 2-for-5 in the opening half.

Arizona did the opposite. The Wildcats put up 20 three-point shots in the first half, making only six of them. They connected on six in the second half, as well, but they were better shots and there were only 11 attempts.

Alonso was responsible for half of the team’s threes in the second half, going 3-for-5 after a 2-for-4 first half. She ended up with 15 points for her third double-digit game of the season. All three of those games have come in the last four contests.

Despite struggling with the outside shot in the first half, McDonald still led the team in scoring. Coming into the game, she was scoring 26.2 points per game, good for second in the country and first among Power 5 players. She went for 29 against the Aztecs, taking 26 shots to get there. She added nine rebounds, four assists and four steals. She also had six turnovers.

Arizona returns home to face Montana at McKale Center on Dec. 5. The School Day Game tips off early, getting underway at 11 a.m. MST.