The Arizona Wildcats’ women’s basketball team made history recording its school-record 11th straight victory, holding on to beat Colorado 69-67 behind Aari McDonald’s 32 points and eight steals in the CU Events Center in Boulder, Colo., on Friday night.
The winning streak, which started Nov. 16 with a win over Seattle at McKale Center, has Arizona at 12-1 overall record and 2-0 in the Pac-12. The Wildcats’ lone loss is a 2-point setback (66-64) against Loyola-Marymount on Nov. 13 at McKale.
Coach Adia Barnes’ team is 5-0 away from McKale, 3-0 in true road games.
The 11-game winning streak surpasses the 10-game runs by the 1996-97 and 2003-04 teams.
“You have to weather the storm on the road,” Barnes said in the postgame show on 1400-AM. “It’s a game of runs. They were going to come out at us. They have great players. They’re coached really well.
“I’m just glad we kept our composure … We didn’t give up.”
Arizona dominated the first half leading 40-31 behind 15 points and seven steals from McDonald but Colorado (10-3, 0-2) rallied in the third quarter to take a 54-51 lead going into the fourth period.
The Buffaloes, who won the rebounding battle 39-20 in the game, were fueled by guard Alexis Robinson in the third quarter as she made three 3-pointers.
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Arizona ran into foul trouble and became careless with the ball after halftime.
“We were doing alright and then the third quarter happened,” Barnes said. “They kicked our butts in the third quarter.”
The Wildcats had only three turnovers in the first half compared to 13 for Colorado. But they committed seven turnovers in the third quarter.
Arizona outscored Colorado 10-2 in points off turnovers in the first half and the Buffaloes turned the tide in the second half in that category outscoring the Wildcats 15-7.
Arizona’s Dominique McBryde had her fourth foul and Cate Reese was called for her third in the third quarter. Colorado made 12 of 15 from the free-throw line in the second half while Arizona was 3 of 6.
McBryde on the bench because of fouls affected Arizona’s execution on both sides of the court.
“I can tell you right now that Dominique McBryde and Sam Thomas are two of the most underrated players in this league,” Barnes said. “They’re solid. It’s not about the scoring. It’s about all the little things they do.
“They’re both very smart basketball players. It’s hard to not have them on the floor. They make a difference. They navigate things and tell their teammates where to go.”
McBryde finished with six points anf four rebounds in 27 minutes. Thomas had 11 points, including one of the biggest baskets in the game in the waning seconds.
Thomas’ layup with 36 seconds left after Colorado nearly stole the ball on the inbound pass put the Wildcats up 69-67.
Colorado missed three shots toward the end, failing to capitalize on offensive rebounds.
Robinson and Kennedy Leonard each missed a 3-pointer and Peanut Tuitele missed a shot in the lane at the buzzer.
McDonald put Arizona in position to win by scoring on three consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter. Her steal, layup and subsequent free throw off a foul capped a three-point play that put the Wildcats up 67-65 with 1:51 left.
AND ONEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE @AariMcdonald
She's up to 32. pic.twitter.com/2DpNkZJsJL
“She’s a competitor and she put the team on her back,” Barnes said of McDonald, who entered the game as the fifth-leading scorer in the nation at 24.2 points a game. “That’s why she is one of the best guards in the country. … Teams can’t guard her. They scheme against her but it’s very hard.
“She’s so unselfish. She finds ways to get everybody the ball. She’s a great teammate, a great player. She is going to continue getting better and she is with us for three more years.”
Barnes then said with a laugh, “We need a couple more Aaris.”
After Kennedy made two free throws to tie the game with 1:38 left, Thomas made her strong move to the basket off the inbound pass following a timeout.
Lucia Alonso had 12 points for the Wildcats, all on 3-pointers, making 4 of 9 from that range.
“We’re learning … I don’t know how good we are yet,” Barnes said. “To come on the road and win after a big high (beating then-No. 17 ASU at McKale Center on Sunday). … This is a really good, solid win for us. We did it in different ways.
“We’re learning how to win in adversity.”