The only thing better for a University of Arizona sports Sunday afternoon in February would be the Wildcats’ baseball team playing later off campus so it could have been a trifecta of coverage in one day — women’s basketball, softball and baseball.
Reporting on the women’s hoops and softball games on campus was worth the while with Adia Barnes’ team tipping off at noon and first pitch for Mike Candrea’s team at 1:30 p.m.
The Wildcats won both the games — the women’s basketball team took care of Colorado 63-51 at McKale Center and the softball team blanked Cal State Fullerton 6-0 at the newly-renovated Hillenbrand Stadium.
Arizona’s baseball team, by the way, dispensed of UMass Lowell 20-5 at Hi Corbett Field.
So a winning day all around in Tucson.
Here’s a recap of my day covering the games at McKale and Hillenbrand:
Arriving at McKale Center, had to park on the upper level of the parking garage to the west of the arena for the decent crowd of 2,321 and others who walked over to Hillenbrand.
Gabby Giffords a special pregame guest in the locker room for Barnes’ team:
Thanks @ArizonaWBB for welcoming me to meet the team in the locker room before the game. Such a strong group of women
Arizona established itself early against Colorado without sophomore sensation Aari McDonald having to take over the scoring load.
An oddity: Aari McDonald has yet to make a field goal with 1:04 left 1Q and Arizona is leading 17-12. Adia Barnes' team has obviously become more balanced in the second half of the season with McDonald leading the way.
Arizona is leading Colorado 18-12 after the first quarter. Aari McDonald has four points, all from the free throw line, and she has attempted only one field goal. Freshman Cate Reese leads the Wildcats with five points.
Giffords is introduced to the McKale Center crowd as part of the school’s Rise to Win Champion of Change. She received a standing ovation.
Arizona freshman forward Cate Reese establishes herself from the start, taking control of the game inside. Reese matched up with McDonald in the next couple of seasons will be a sight to behold.
Twice now Aari McDonald has sacrificed her body stripping the ball loose from Colorado and giving Arizona the ball. Tee Tee Starks just took advantage of McDonald's hustle by drilling a 3-pointer. Arizona leads Colorado 32-25 with 50 seconds left 2Q.
Arizona leads Colorado 34-25 at halftime with freshman Cate Reese producing nine points and four rebounds, including a putback with about 20 seconds left in 2Q. Aari McDonald w/8 points. Arizona looking for first season sweep over Pac-12 opponent since 2010-11.
Arizona’s defense responded early in the second half, once again setting the tone as the Wildcats did in early in the first half.
Yes, the fans stand until the opponents score for the first time in a half in women's hoops as well. Colorado still scoreless with 7:28 left 3Q. Arizona opens the half on 7-0 run, leads 41-25. pic.twitter.com/Xk4fDcskcE
Colorado finally scores in the second half with 6:38 left but Arizona's Dominique McBryde answers with a 3-pointer and the Wildcats are up 44-27 with 6:04 left in the third quarter.
That kind of day for Barnes’ Wildcats — center Samaj Smith nails a 3-pointer from the corner. After the game, I asked McDonald if she has trained Smith on her perimeter shooting. Reese said with a laugh that Smith’s favorite shot is from that corner.
Smith playing one of her better games, five points and five rebounds. Just yanked a rebound ferociously to the delight of the crowd. https://t.co/H3lqus2D8G
Shooters touch from Semaj as she knocks one down from downtown! pic.twitter.com/GANWD7sWbO
The Wildcats complete their first weekend sweep in conference play since Colorado and Utah joined the Pac-12 in 2011-12. Sweeping the Buffaloes this season marked only the third time the Wildcats achieved that feat since 2011-12. The other times it happened was in 2012-13 over Utah and 2016-17 against Washington State.
Adia Barnes and Arizona getting it done, beat Colorado 63-51 behind Cate Reese's 17 points and 9 rebounds. Aari McDonald and Dominque McBryde 13 points each. UA sweeps season series over Buffaloes. Sweep Utah/Colorado for first weekend conference sweep since 2010-11. pic.twitter.com/fdcnUKcLfS
Some postgame press conference highlights:
Adia Barnes on Arizona (17-8) making the postseason (No. 73 NCAA RPI rating): "We're a step closer. We're knocking on the door." Wildcats face a tough stretch in next two weeks at the Bay area schools and at McKale in two weeks against the Oregon schools. pic.twitter.com/RrRWBqKn0X
Adia Barnes talks about the value if the all-out hustle of Aari McDonald and Tee Tee Starks for the Wildcats. pic.twitter.com/jmG60dml0l
Arizona's Aari McDonald and Cate Reese talk about being potentially the pioneers laying the foundation for Adia Barnes' program with the Wildcats. pic.twitter.com/186gRbFyOJ
Now shifting over to Hillenbrand, Arizona was ahead already 2-0 in the third inning and starter Taylor McQuillin had not allowed Fullerton a hit yet. And by then, second baseman Reyna Carranco had two of her team-high three RBIs.
Press box view of the renovated Hillenbrand Stadium. Arizona leads Cal State Fullerton 2-0 in the bottom of the third inning. pic.twitter.com/LP5K3DF68n
Reyna Carranco picks up right where she left off last night with two more RBI! She has eight in her last four at-bats!
Her infield single gives the Cats a 2-0 lead in the second! pic.twitter.com/3nQsl4olD7
UA scores twice in the fourth to take a 4-0 lead over CS Fullerton. McQuillin took a no-hitter into the fourth before allowing two hits. Has 2 Ks. Carranco 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs for the Wildcats, who are looking to go 3-2 in the Hillenbrand Invitational. Mike Candrea's team 5-4.
Arizona gains more separation from Fullerton with Alyssa Polamino-Cardoza belting her fifth home run of the season already, with a two-run shot in the fifth. Candrea has Palomino-Cardoza at the top of the lineup to increase the chance for production at the very top.
Wait for it … Arizona's Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza rounds third base after belting her fifth home run of the season, a two-run shot that gave the Wildcats a 6-0 lead over CS Fullerton in the bottom of the fifth. pic.twitter.com/MFkfJqXX6e
McQuillin closes out the complete-game victory performance. She allowed only three hits in the seven innings with four strikeouts and no walks to improve to 2-3.
Arizona pitcher Taylor McQuillin with the complete-game shutout, a 6-0 win over CS Fullerton. Wildcats 3-2 in Hillenbrand Invitational and 6-4 overall. pic.twitter.com/pMbGKYIjyv
Some postgame interview highlights:
For Arizona to have a successful season, it first comes down to pitching. Leadoff slugger Alyssa Palomino talks about Taylor McQuillin being Arizona's rock star in that regard. pic.twitter.com/PoE1sIZkbK
Arizona second baseman Reyna Carranco led the Wildcats with three RBIs in today's win over CS Fullerton. She talks about the greatest takeaway from the five games in the Hillenbrand Invitational in which Arizona "struggled" with a 3-2 record. pic.twitter.com/BjD30grS23
Taylor McQuillin comments on her complete-game shutout over CS Fullerton. She allowed only three hits with four strikeouts and no walks. pic.twitter.com/ZRE88pB52f
Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea on the newly-renovated Hillenbrand Stadium (which is quite not done yet because "graphics" have yet to be installed): "A softball program of this type deserves a place like this." Says it's best in Pac-12, one of top 5 in the country. pic.twitter.com/HEAoRtGzHR
Full Candrea interview … He commented about his team playing uncharacteristically especially on defense to start the season with a 6-4 start. He also talked about Arizona’s difficult schedule to start the season — the Wildcats play six games in the Mary Nutter Classic at Palm Springs, Calif., facing the likes of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and the Japan national team (in an exhibition). … Other topics — the development of McQuillin to now in her career, playing at the new Hillibrand and his lineup …
I get in my car and head home. Can’t wait to do this again with hopefully a baseball game mixed in next time.