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‘It’s devastating’: No. 13 Arizona upset by last-place Cal on Senior Day

The Wildcats trailed by as many as 14

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 11 Women’s Cal at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Adia Barnes wasn’t worried about her team having a letdown following Friday’s historic win over No. 4 Stanford.

“We’re a little bit more mature than that right now,” she said that night.

Not quite.

Bogged down by a sluggish first half, No. 13 Arizona was upset by last-place Cal 55-54 on Sunday, closing out the regular season with an “atrocious” performance.

“I’m very disappointed in our focus. I’m very disappointed in our effort. I’m very disappointed in our lack of mental toughness,” the UA coach said. “We did uncharacteristic things today that we never do and it’s a devastating loss for us. Not devastating in the sense that we won’t play anymore basketball, devastating because it took away the great thing we did on Friday. It negates everything.”

The Wildcats (23-6, 12-6) missed 14 of their first 15 shots and committed 11 turnovers in the first half, falling behind by 14 in the second quarter.

Arizona finally found their footing late in the period, using a 12-2 run, capped by a Dominique McBryde 3 at the buzzer, to pull within 30-26 at the break. They then made their first six shots of the third quarter to take a five-point lead early in the period.

But the Bears (11-18, 3-15) hung around, and after the teams traded the lead six times in the fourth, they went ahead for good when Jaelyn Brown battled for an offensive board after a missed free throw and laid in the go-ahead basket with 14.3 seconds left.

Aari McDonald hoisted a 3 from the wing on Arizona’s final possession, but it bounced off the back of the rim, ending a horrific 1-for-16 night from behind the arc.

And, yet, the missed shots were the least of Barnes’ concerns. She lamented other things. Like Arizona fouling a jump shooter three different times. Like Arizona committing 15 turnovers. Like Arizona getting outworked for 14 offensive rebounds, including the back-breaking one that resulted in the game-winning basket.

“The standards are higher than this,” she said. “I think that we really thought that we won when we walked on the court, and that’s not how it works in the Pac-12.”

Barnes thought Arizona had learned that lesson last week when it lost to Colorado. Guess not.

“I think we were more focused on the celebration after,” McBryde admitted.

McBryde had 12 points in her final regular-season home game, but watched the final moments from the bench after fouling out with 16 seconds left.

McDonald led the Wildcats with 17 points and Cate Reese finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, but Barnes pointed out that they combined for nine turnovers in the first half.

“Not acceptable,” she said.

Still dejected from defeat, McDonald—a redshirt junior—and Arizona’s four seniors were commemorated on the court after the game. Once the ceremonies ended, Barnes grabbed the microphone and apologized to the fans, telling them that she was heartbroken about the seniors being sent off with a loss.

“It’s definitely a high and low,” McBryde said. “We come in on Friday and beat the No. 4 in the country and then today was probably one of our worst performances of the season, if not the worst. So to be one of those great teams ... we have to have that consistency and you have to be able to beat No. 4 and then pound one of the last teams in the conference.”

She added: “And it’s emotional because it’s hopefully not the last game in McKale but my last game of the regular season with my best friends, so it sucks.”

As McBryde alluded to, Sunday’s loss could make the Wildcats a not-so-sure thing to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Only the top 16 overall seeds get that privilege.

The Wildcats have a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament next week and will either play 5-seed ASU or 12-seed Cal in the quarterfinals Friday, perhaps needing a win to give their seniors another home game.

“We had control of our own destiny and we could have been in a very, very good situation, and this made us take a step back,” Barnes said. “And that’s the reality of it.”

Postgame videos