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Arizona women’s basketball lets another one slip away in loss to Cal

After leading by 20 points, the Wildcats lose in overtime to the Golden Bears.

Arizona and California tip off in Berkeley, CA on Feb. 24, 2019
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

After failing to hold off Stanford on Friday night, the Arizona Wildcats still had something to accomplish on their road trip to the Bay Area. A victory over California would mean a season sweep of the Golden Bears and a win against a team with a top 40 RPI. It would also give star guard Aari McDonald the chance to set Arizona’s single-season scoring record in a winning effort.

For all appearances, it looked like the Wildcats would do just that, as they built a 20-point lead in the third quarter. But a mad comeback by the Golden Bears would put an end to those dreams, as Cal went on to win 82-76 in overtime.

McDonald led all scorers with 31 points on 12-for-23 shooting. She added four rebounds, seven assists and two steals, but also had eight of Arizona’s 16 turnovers.

McDonald ended the night with 672 points for the season, giving her sole possession of the Arizona women’s single-season scoring record. She has at least three games to add to that total.

Sam Thomas and Tee Tee Starks also put up double digits on the night for the ‘Cats. Thomas had 13 points on 50 percent shooting to go along with three rebounds and two steals. Starks added 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting, hitting four of her five three-point shots.

The Golden Bears were led by Reece Caldwell with 24 points. Kristine Anigwe pulled down 20 rebounds to go with her 16 points, and McKenzie Forbes added 17 points.

The competition was tight through the first quarter. The two teams traded the lead a couple of times, but Arizona ended the quarter with a two-point advantage.

The Wildcats pulled away in the second period. Cal struggled to score while Arizona made one bucket after another, extending their lead to 19 points.

With 3:56 to go in the first half, McDonald connected on her 13th point, giving her 654 points for the year. That was good enough to take over the single-season scoring record previously held by her head coach, Adia Barnes.

The Golden Bears didn’t connect until the 1:41 mark in the second quarter. They made the final two buckets of the half to cut Arizona’s lead to 32-17, but were held to four points on 14 percent shooting in the period.

Coming out of the locker room, the Wildcats looked like they were going to run away with the game. They pushed their lead out to 20 points.

Then, Cal started to chip away, largely on the back of Caldwell. The Golden Bears cut the lead to 11 at the end of three.

The fourth was more of the same. Cal fought to make it a seven-point game before Barnes was forced to call a timeout with 6:38 left to go.

With a nine-point lead, Arizona allowed Cal to inbound to an open Forbes. Her 3-pointer kicked off a six-point run that cut the lead to three with just over five minutes to go.

Arizona held onto a three-point lead as the clock ticked down. Caldwell wiped it away with 17 seconds to go on another 3-pointer.

A foul by Anigwe sent Thomas to the line with 15 seconds left. She hit one of two to give Arizona a one-point lead.

On the other end, Thomas was called for the foul that sent Anigwe to the line with 3.2 seconds to go. Anigwe, too, missed one of two, sending it to overtime tied at 63 apiece.

The overtime period was a back-and-fourth affair until 1:05 left in the game. The go-ahead 3-pointer from Forbes gave the Golden Bears a two-point lead at 76-74. Arizona wouldn’t make another field goal, although McDonald put two more points up via free throws.

The Wildcats return to McKale Center next weekend to finish up the regular season. They will host Oregon at 8 p.m. MST on Friday, Mar. 1. Two days later, they will face off against Oregon State at 3 p.m. MST. Both games will air live on the Pac-12 Networks.