“We played our worst basketball of the season,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes told the Pac-12 Network at halftime.
Barnes credited the poor play to a lack of intensity.
After losing their first game of the season on a buzzer beater by Arizona State, Utah came out looking like they had something to prove. They wasted no time doing just that.
The Utes shot 73 percent in the first half including a blistering 78 percent from three. Arizona struggled to put pressure on the ball as Utah’s ball-handlers easily found teammates for open shots. The Utes had 14 assists in the opening 20 minutes as they built a 51-26 lead. Every Utah player who entered the game scored.
On the other end of the court, Arizona struggled to get points from anyone not named Aari McDonald. Only three players had any points going into the half—McDonald (14), Sam Thomas (8), and Dominique McBryde (4).
The Wildcats were also losing on the boards, pulling down 12 rebounds to 19 by Utah. The battle inside became especially one-sided when Cate Reese had to go to the bench with two fouls.
Arizona picked up the pace after the half. As always, a combination of McDonald driving to the basket and aggressive team defense led to good things for the Wildcats.
Utah’s shooting percentage dropped to 36 percent over the final 20 minutes, while the Wildcats improved from 32 percent shooting in the first half to 46 percent in the second. The Utes especially cooled off from outside, where they connected on just one of eight shots after the break.
Arizona also kept their opponent from finding teammates with the ball so easily. After 14 assists in the first half, Utah had only four in the second.
While McDonald’s furious play kept the Utes from extending their lead, the team struggled with offensive balance. She ended the game with 34 points, but her teammates passed up open shots on several occasions. When the final horn sounded, Thomas and McBryde each had 10 points, but no one else had more than three and Reese didn’t score at all.
Utah, on the other hand, was able to keep the Wildcats off balance by spreading the wealth. The Utes had five players in double figures led by Kiana Moore with 19.
The Wildcats will try to get back on track when they host the Bay Area schools next week. No. 18 California comes to McKale Center on Friday evening followed by No. 6 Stanford on Sunday afternoon.