The Arizona Wildcats return home to play California on Friday night, which will give them five days to watch film and work out the problems they encountered in an 80-64 loss at Utah this afternoon.
The loss for the Wildcats (12-2, 2-1 Pac-12) against the Utes (13-1, 2-1) ends a school-record 11-game winning streak.
Utah shot 54.9 percent from the field, including 73.1 percent in the first half, while Arizona’s offense was stagnant for the first three quarters. The Wildcats made 39.1 percent of their shots in the game, including a 5-of-16 performance from 3-point range.
It is Arizona’s first loss in 54 days. The Wildcats’ last loss was Nov. 13, a 66-64 setback to Loyola Marymount at McKale Center.
“I think it is a learning lesson for us,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes told KTUC (1400-AM) in the postgame show. “I think we will play a lot harder from the get-go next game. I do love the way our players fought. They were tired. A lot of them were sick. It’s not an excuse at all.
“But I thought they tried and they didn’t give up. That’s the main thing to me because we’re going to play better. Teams aren’t going to shoot 74 percent in the first half but they did and I have to give credit. Hats off to them. They outplayed us. They deserve it. They stomped us. But we’re going to bounce back and play better next week.”
Arizona sophomore guard Aari McDonald, the fourth-leading scorer in the nation, scored 34 points but it took her 30 shots to get that much. She finished 13 of 30 from the field. McDonald, a transfer from Washington, also had a career-high 11 rebounds.
Can't stop @AariMcdonald. 😤💪
Sophomore forward Sam Thomas and junior forward Dominique McBryde were the only other Arizona players who scored in double figures with 10 points each.
Utah had four players score in double figures, led by Kiana Moore’s career-high 19 points. Megan Huff (16 points and 13 rebounds) and Dre’Una Edwards (11 points and 12 rebounds) had double-doubles for the Utes.
Arizona trailed by as many as 29 points in the fourth quarter but an 8-0 run cut the lead to 76-59 with 3:24 left in regulation.
A 3-pointer by McDonald cut the lead to 80-64 with 2:02 left but the 27-15 scoring margin for Arizona in the fourth quarter (in which the Wildcats shot 58.8 percent from the field) was not enough.
Utah's Kiana Moore swipes at Aari McDonald but McDonald called for the foul. Adia Barnes would probably be more irate if the game was closer. To her credit, Barnes exudes image of professionalism and confidence.
“I feel like we were competing but we weren’t competing well,” Barnes said. “I felt like we fought in the second half like how it has to be in the first half. If we fought that way in the first half, even with them shooting hot, we would have still been in the game.
“It’s a long game. But we had to make some stops and make some scores. A lot of our presses weren’t working. It’s just stuff of how we don’t play defense. That was kind of what was going on today.”
Arizona entered the games at Colorado and Utah allowing only 49 points a game following the 51-39 upset of then-No. 17 ASU at McKale last Sunday. The Wildcats beat the Buffaloes 69-67 on Thursday before allowing the Utes to reach 80 points today.
“(Utah) exploited us in a lot of areas and we showed that if you come out soft from the beginning, you will lose in this league and they will be up by 20 in the first half,” Barnes said. “Obviously it’s not a good thing to get a loss, but it’s a good thing because we bounced back after our last loss, which seems like a while ago.
“That’s a good thing. We just have to regroup.”