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Arizona women’s basketball season review: Cate Reese

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 10 Women’s Oregon State at Arizona

The Arizona Wildcats never got to complete their historic 2019-20 season. After setting one record after another and securing what was sure to be a chance to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the team saw its drive for a special ending to the year stopped in its tracks when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sports world in mid-March.

While we’ll never know what this team could have accomplished in the NCAA Tournament, a full regular season and conference tournament worth of competition is more than enough to assess each individual player’s performance.

Cate Reese

  • Year: Sophomore
  • Height: 6-foot-2
  • Position: Power forward
  • 2019-20 statistics: 29.2 MPG, 13.6 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.6 BPG, 1.1 SPG, 49.1 FG%, 35.3 3FG%, 80.2 FT%, 31 GP, 31 GS

Season breakdown

Reese was great when she arrived on campus as a freshman in the summer of 2018. She was even better as a sophomore. She improved her per-game averages in almost every statistical category with only negligible decreases in assists per game and field goal percentage.

Reese started the season on the Katrina McClain Award watch list. The award is one of the five positional awards given by the Naismith Hall of Fame honoring the best player at each position. The Katrina McClain Award is presented to the best power forward.

As the list was trimmed over the season her name remained at each step along the way. When the 10 semifinalists were named, Reese was still there, joining Florida State’s redshirt sophomore Kiah Gillespie and fellow true sophomore Naz Hillmon of Michigan.

She wrapped up her year with a selection the All-Pac-12 teams of both the coaches and the media. She also landed on the 2020 Pac-12 Winter Academic Honor Roll.

Best stretch of play

Reese had several big double-doubles early in the season, but that’s to be expected considering the lack of real competition in Arizona’s non-conference schedule. It wasn’t impressive for someone of Reese’s capability.

What was impressive was how she started Pac-12 play. When the Wildcats went to Desert Financial Arena to open the conference season, they were walking onto a court that had not seen an Arizona win since 2000. Those days ended on Dec. 29.

It didn’t look like things were going to go in their favor. The Wildcats struggled with fouls. Most worrisome, Aari McDonald struggled with fouls and would eventually foul out.

Reese was there to pick up her team. She scored 17 on 6-for-14 shooting. She hit one of her two 3-point shots and she made good on four of five foul shots. She grabbed 10 boards. She also had a block and a steal while only picking up two fouls in an oddly-officiated game.

It wasn’t the end of her demonstration of dominance, either. She scored in double figures for seven straight games. She wouldn’t be held under 10 points until the Wildcats hosted the Sun Devils on Jan. 24.

She went 40 for 85 over those games, a solid 47 percent from the field. She grabbed 7.1 RPG and had three double-doubles.

Reese also had another superb run to close out the season despite the face that her team went 1-2. Over the final three games, she hit 25 of her 41 shots including going 13 for 15 in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal game. She scored 30 points that night in the revenge game against California.

In the first game against Cal, she had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. She also had a steal and an assist. The challenge that night was taking care of the ball. She turned it over five times in the senior day loss to the Golden Bears.

When the team faced Oregon in the semifinals of the tournament, Reese was extremely efficient. She hit 6 of 11 shots to score 13 points.

Worst stretch of play

It’s rare for Reese to go on an extended period of subpar play. The closest she got was a four-game stretch late in the season, including a five-point outing at Colorado in which she went 1 for 11 from the field. It makes senses though when you consider she spent the nights before two of those games in the emergency room after her blood sugar spiked to an unsafe level. (She is a Type I diabetic.)

It started with Washington State in McKale Center on Feb. 16. Reese grabbed seven rebounds. The problems were on offense, where she only had seven points on 35 percent shooting—both well below her season averages.

Quotable

Adia Barnes after Reese had 23 points in a win over Tennessee State: “Cate’s been phenomenal. We don’t win the last couple games without Cate. She’s been efficient, she’s played strong, finishing with her right and left (hand). She’s asserting herself from the beginning of the game. She is someone that we can throw the ball to inside where we’ll know score. She couldn’t do this a year ago. You saw a glimpse of this in the WNIT but you didn’t see it consistently. Now she’s consistently doing that.

“And not only scoring, she’s playing good defense. Her defense has improved tremendously. She’s guarding guards a lot, and she’s doing it well. Last year, she could not do that. And then she’s also passing the ball better. She’s finding high-low passes to some Semaj (Smith) inside. And those are things that you can see that she’s worked on her game, and she’s improved because she didn’t do those things last year.”

What’s next?

Reese will be back as part of the starting frontcourt for the Wildcats. For the first time in her career, she will be the most experienced member of that group. With no more Dominique McBryde to rely on, it will be time for Reese to step into the leadership role.