It had been a decade since the Arizona Wildcats last swept the Oregon Ducks. So long ago that neither Arizona head coach Adia Barnes nor Oregon head coach Kelly Graves were on the sidelines for their respective teams.
The Wildcats ended that streak emphatically Monday by defeating the Ducks 79-59 in Eugene after routing them 57-41 earlier this season in Tucson. To make it even sweeter, both games aired on the ESPN family of networks.
“This is a big-time stage,” Barnes said. “To win in the manner that we did...I’m proud of the way we played.”
Just getting on the floor after spending over two weeks without playing a game was a big deal. The Wildcats missed three games due to COVID-19 protocols in their own program, then had their Friday night game against Oregon State postponed due to protocols within the Beavers’ program.
“It felt amazing,” Arizona senior Sam Thomas said. “We’ve been waiting for a while. First, we’re waiting at our home just practicing at McKale, doing what we can do. And then we’re finally excited on the plane ready to go play Oregon State. And then we had to wait like another four days in our hotel. We’re just sitting there watching everybody else in the Pac play. It was really tough. But we’re so happy that we got to play today and on ESPN2.”
Aari McDonald struggled to score in the first half Monday while Oregon focused on trying to shut her down. Cate Reese stepped up to become the story of the game, matching her season high with 25 points.
Despite Oregon having a big size advantage, Reese dominated by stretching the defense. Outside shots, inside shots, it didn’t matter.
A little bulletin board material helped.
“They said I couldn’t shoot,” Reese said. “I took that personal.”
She certainly proved them wrong. Reese went 11-for-14 and hit all three 3-pointers that she took. She added six rebounds, two assists and a block.
Unlike in some earlier games, it wasn’t just a first-half explosion for Reese. She went into halftime with 14 points. At the end of the third quarter, she had 23 points in 23 minutes of play.
McDonald extended her double-digit scoring streak with 13 points, six rebounds and four assists.
In a balanced offensive game, Arizona also got double digits from Thomas (14 points) and Trinity Baptiste (13 points).
Arizona did it by outshooting and outrebounding Oregon. They looked nothing like a team that hadn’t played a game in over two weeks.
The Wildcats shot 51 percent from the floor and 60 percent from outside while holding the Ducks to 32 percent from the floor and 20 percent from 3-point distance.
On the boards, Arizona grabbed 42 rebounds compared to Oregon’s 37 despite the Ducks starting front court of 6-foot-5 Nyara Sabally and 6-foot-7 Sedona Prince.
“You really just have to box them out,” Thomas said. “There’s no other way. A lot of times we’ll just try to jump with them, and that’s never gonna work against someone 6-7, 6-5. So we worked on boxing out. We haven’t been a great boxing or rebounding team, so that’s definitely one of our focuses.”
They did it by committee with four players having at least six rebounds. Baptiste led with seven, while McDonald, Reese and Helena Pueyo each grabbed six.
“At halftime, the coaches just told us that we weren’t being as aggressive,” Reese said. “We weren’t getting those 50-50 balls. I know I had grabbed two rebounds, and they took them out of my hand. So they just said we need to get those balls, we need to be stronger with the ball.”
In the first game between the two teams, it was about Oregon turnovers. The Ducks turned it over 23 times in Tucson, leading to 26 Wildcat points. While they took better care of the ball this time with only six giveaways, the results were the same.
With the win, the Wildcats remain tied for first place in the loss column with Stanford at 12-2 overall and 10-2 in Pac-12 play.
“Not playing for two weeks then coming down the road to Oregon, that was a little terrifying but I thought we played really well,” Barnes said. “To keep that focus, be able to come here and win in the manner we did on ESPN for the second time, I’m proud of our players because these are those big stage games. They kind of show you where you’re at, tell you a lot about your team, and we’re getting better at the right time, so I’m proud of us.”
Sam Thomas and Cate Reese
Hear what roommates Sam Thomas and Cate Reese said after Arizona Women's Basketball's big win at OregonPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Monday, February 8, 2021