The back of Arizona’s warm-up t-shirts read “#LeavingALegacy.” From the first meeting with the media this summer, Adia Barnes and her players have made that their calling card. It’s not just about today, this season. It’s about building for the future.
The WNIT is part of that project. Three postseason games. Three victories. It hadn’t happened for Arizona women’s basketball since 1996 when they won the WNIT. Could they push it to four?
The Wyoming Cowgirls stood in the way, but not for very long.
Arizona dominated in a 67-45 victory in front of 7,717 fans at McKale Center. They held the Cowgirls to 31.4 percent shooting, including 16.7 percent from outside.
“We look like we have a we’re-not-going-to-lose mentality,” Barnes said. “That’s the feeling I have from (the players).”
Aari McDonald led all scorers with 25 points. She added six rebounds, four assists and a steal.
Cate Reese had a strong third quarter when McDonald had to sit out with three fouls. Reese finished the day one rebound short of a double-double with 13 points and 9 rebounds.
Arizona rushed out to an 11-0 lead, shooting over 83 percent. Wyoming wasn’t able to break through and score until the 5:52 mark in the first quarter. By that time, Cowgirls’ starting forward Bailee Cotton already had two fouls.
“Wyoming is a great team and they have great players,” McDonald said. “But we knew that one of their weaknesses was defense, guarding us one-on-one. And, so, we took advantage of that from the get-go.”
On the other end of the court, Wyoming was stymied by Arizona’s defense, looking at a complete loss on the offensive end for the entire first half. After scoring just 10 points in the opening quarter, they put up only five in the second. By the time half-time rolled around, Arizona had built a 26-15 lead.
The problem for the Wildcats was that the lead should have been bigger. After scoring 19 in the first quarter, Arizona struggled to put points on the board in the second. They, too, scored in single digits, adding just seven points in the second quarter.
New challenges presented themselves after the half. When McDonald picked up her third foul early in the third quarter, someone else needed to step up. That someone was Reese, who had nine points and four rebounds in the third after scoring only four points in the first half.
“Earlier in the year, we couldn’t play without Aari on the floor,” Barnes said. “So, now, different people are stepping up, and we’re playing so much better as a team. That’s what I’m proud about.”
Wyoming picked up their own scoring coming out of the locker room, adding 14 points—only one fewer than they scored in the entire first half. Arizona was barely able to win the quarter 16-14.
After the third quarter, the Cowgirls seemed to have lost what little fight they had. With 2:46 to go and a 63-37 lead, Barnes pulled her starters.
“It’s a blessing to keep playing right now,” Tee Tee Starks said. “Everybody’s not playing right now, and we have the opportunity to. So, we don’t want to take this opportunity for granted. We want to come out and play our best basketball in these last few games that we’re able to play in this season.”
The Wildcats will have their next opportunity when they host TCU in the WNIT semifinals on Wednesday, Apr. 3 at 6:30 p.m. MST.
Here’s Adia Barnes after Arizona Women's Basketball’s win over WyomingPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Sunday, March 31, 2019
Aari McDonald and Tee Tee Starks
Here’s Aari McDonald and Tee Tee Starks after Arizona Women's Basketball’s win vs. WyomingPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Sunday, March 31, 2019