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Arizona women’s basketball notebook: On Cate Reese’s health scare, Sam Thomas’ career night, and a first-round bye

Reese was hospitalized twice on Arizona’s recent road trip

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 17 Women’s Colorado at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Sophomore forward Cate Reese had a rough time in the Rocky Mountains, with her on-court struggles being the least of her worries.

A Type 1 diabetic, Reese was hospitalized twice on Arizona’s road trip after her blood sugar surged to unsafe levels. If left untreated, she could have suffered a seizure.

“We didn’t know why,” coach Adia Barnes said Wednesday. “We didn’t know if it was the elevation, the travel, the stress, or fighting the flu or something. She went to the hospital (Thursday) and then played on Friday, which we weren’t even sure if she was going to be able to play. She played and was fine during the game.

“Saturday, same problem happened. We traveled to Boulder and her numbers were way off again. It never has happened to her because her health is controlled...so she had to rush back to the hospital and then was in the hospital until like 11:30 at night.”

While Reese played in both games, her energy was clearly sapped. She averaged just 8 points and 6 rebounds on the road trip, only shooting 4 for 22 from the field, including 1 for 11 in Sunday’s 50-38 loss to Colorado.

“I think that when you’re in the hospital with those things, you’re given a lot of insulin, it’s normal that your body’s just dead the next day,” Barnes said. “So she was exhausted and you saw her playing like she was fighting, and we didn’t know till game time if she’d play, because we had to check her numbers and get them under control.

“That was something that never happened to her, so it’s scary; she’s a kid. That’s something that we didn’t think would happen, but that wasn’t the reason why we lost (to Colorado) and that wasn’t going to be an excuse. So we honestly just didn’t talk about it. ...But everything’s good. She’s going to doctors this week. But it could be that she is fighting the flu.”

Seems plausible.

Barnes said Dominique McBryde, Tara Manumaleuga, and some staffers have been battling the flu. To prevent it from spreading, the Wildcats stopped by a drug store in Boulder to pick up a prescription of Tamiflu.

“It’s just kind of going around,” Barnes said. “As long as it’s not corona (virus), we’re OK.”

Thomas reflects on career outing

With leading-scorer Aari McDonald out with a lower leg injury and Reese not her usual self, the Wildcats needed someone to step up, and Friday that was junior Sam Thomas, who scored a career-high 31 points in an 85-69 win over Utah.

She was uber-efficient, shooting 8 for 13 from the field, 2 for 2 from 3, and 13 of 13 from the free-throw line. Thomas reckons it was her highest scoring outing since she dropped 33 in a high school game.

“I kinda surprised myself,” Thomas smiled. “It was nice to hit those free throws. That was just really exciting. ... It’s nice that we can still win some games without Aari and we have the capability to step up. We aren’t 13th in the country because of one person. We’re a team.”

The downside to scoring so many points? Opponents make adjustments. Two days later, Colorado held Thomas to seven points on nine shots.

“Obviously you could tell the coaches watch the games and they sat on my left hand,” Thomas said. “That was obviously difficult for me. I was trying to go right, just wasn’t flowing in the game. My shots were kind of off, so we just lost a little bit there. But we’re ready to come back and bounce back.”

And Thomas won’t have to do as much, with McDonald expected to play Friday vs. No. 4 Stanford.

A good bye

The Wildcats received a consolation prize after losing to Colorado, earning their first-ever first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Wildcats clinched a top-four finish in the conference after ASU was upset by Utah.

“It was just a nice little (boost),” Thomas said. “Like OK, we still have a chance to make amazing things happen here. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to host the (NCAA) Tournament, so we’re just trying to strive for that as one of our goals and this (bye) really helps us.”

For one thing, the Wildcats receive an extra day of rest (Lord knows they can use it) and will not have to win four games in four days to win the Pac-12 Tournament championship.

“Now it’s just three games, you really get to scout the other team and they’ve already traveled there, they’ve already played a game, their bodies are probably beat up,” Thomas said. “I mean, there’s injuries and sickness happening all over the world, so you just get to have that one up on the other team.”