On February 26, 2000, the Arizona Wildcats won their second game against Arizona State in less than a month. It was the last time they had swept the Sun Devils prior to Friday night.
“It’s about damned time,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes told the 10,160 fans after the game.
After all, even her freshman year as a player her 11-19 Wildcats swept their rivals from up north. She would graduate never having lost to ASU.
The game was made bigger by the fact that both teams were ranked for the first time in their history. It also could impact the seeding for the Pac-12 Tournament, with the teams now sporting identical Pac-12 records and Arizona holding the tie-breaker.
A full recap of the game by Ryan Kelapire can be found here, but let’s look at some of the major takeaways.
Running makes you rebound
After Arizona lost to Oregon and Oregon State two weeks ago, Barnes promised that her team would be working on rebounding every single day. It paid off.
ASU averages 41.6 rebounds per game with 16.4 coming on the offensive end of the court. Arizona, on the other hand, has had difficulty rebounding against teams like North Dakota.
On Friday night, the Wildcats won the overall battle of the boards 38-35. They even won the battle for offensive boards with a 9-7 edge.
Aari McDonald was a major reason why. The 5-foot-6 guard had 11 rebounds. Her four offensive rebounds were almost half of her team’s total.
“It does surprise me,” Barnes said. “Our goal was to give them 12 (offensive rebounds) because they averaged 17 offensive rebounds a game and we really struggled with boxing them out (in December). I think (they had) seven offensive, but they had two at the end. So to hold them to basically five, we did a remarkable job.”
How did they do it? Good old-fashioned consequences. Running.
“The players will tell you we have worked on it every day,” Barnes said. “I don’t think it takes athleticism. I don’t think it takes anything but your determination to box out. I think everybody’s capable of doing that. So we worked on it every day for two weeks. And every missed box out in practice, they run for. So we chart every missed box out, and then after practice sometimes they have 10. Then they run. So it’s paying off. They’re not going to like that, but we’re going to continue to do that.”
The Wildcats can win ugly
The atmosphere was great. The moment was historic. The victory was enormous. The shooting?
“Both teams’ offense looked like crap, except for (ASU’s) Robbi Ryan,” Barnes said. “But we found a way, I think. I’m just proud of our team. Really, really proud.”
Ryan led all scorers with 25 points on 10-for-21 shooting. She went 4 for 9 from the 3-point line. Overall, her team shot just 36.4 percent, though.
Arizona had some truly terrible stretches on offense. The Wildcats shot just 25 percent in the first half, scoring only 20 points. Part of that was the defense, but part of it was just poor shooting. Cate Reese didn’t score until a putback late in the third quarter.
One great quarter
In many of their games against ranked opponents, the Wildcats have been done in by one bad quarter. On Friday, they won on the back of one good quarter.
Arizona shot 25 percent or worse through three quarters of the game. In the third, though, they came out hot and finally took the lead.
The Wildcats won the third quarter by nine points, outscoring the Sun Devils 19-10. They shot 53 percent from the field, going an even more impressive 60 percent from 3. Meanwhile, they didn’t allow ASU to hit any 3s.
The two teams scored just 10 points each in the first quarter, then ASU won the second by a score of 13-10. They both finally put up 20 points apiece in the final 10 minutes, making the third crucial to Arizona’s victory.
10,000 plus and a victory are good things to show a recruit
The Wildcats had an important recruit in the house for the victory. Former Minnesota guard Destiny Pitts announced that she was leaving that program just over a week ago. On Friday, she was taking in the atmosphere at McKale Center as 10,160 fans cheered on.
Pitts could be an extremely important addition for Arizona. She would likely have to sit out next year, then have one year to play. Provided that McDonald comes back for her senior season, Pitts would be able to step in to create a backcourt with Shaina Pellington after Arizona loses its star guard.