Brandon Randolph danced on the big screen late in the game with Arizona enough ahead to think about an Elite Eight appearance.
Sean Miller chummed it up with Arizona president Robert C. Robbins.
They were there … to cheer on the Arizona women’s team to advance to the WNIT Elite Eight amid 6,307 fans in McKale, a party scene with, yes, a well-attended Zona Zoo student section. A sight to behold — college-aged students (as many males as females) — dancing at their seats late in the Wildcats’ 68-60 win over Idaho on Thursday night.
Yes this is for a women's hoops game in late March pic.twitter.com/q992Koayv3
The party at McKale starts again 2 p.m. Sunday when Arizona (21-12) hosts Wyoming (25-8).
The swollen lip in which sophomore guard Aari McDonald faced the media with after the win over Idaho never hurt so good.
Aari McDonald is fearless — with her agressive style of play and facing the media with a busted lip (she wanted to play with a bloody mouth right after the play). pic.twitter.com/h3jtHL9XCr
McDonald had 18 points to increase her school-record season total to 827 (which ranks fourth in Pac-12 history). She also had 11 assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot.
Her busted lip occurred from an accidental collision with an Idaho player, resulting in a bloody mouth.
“It hurt a lot, honestly,” McDonald said. “I thought she knocked my teeth out but luckily it’s just a swollen lip, she cut me in the inside so I’m fine. It could have been worse.”
Pac-12 women’s hoops season scoring leaders
On a night like Thursday, nothing could have been better for Adia Barnes’ effort to make women’s basketball relevant in Tucson.
“I’m happy. I’m excited that our team is playing good basketball. I’m excited that we’re fun to watch,” said the third-year coach, who has returned to her alma mater in grand style after having the best career of a women’s player at Arizona.
“I’m happy and grateful for all the fans. I’m grateful for all the support from the city.”
The 6,307 in attendance is the largest crowd in the WNIT this season. Combined with Arizona’s other two games in the WNIT — against Idaho State (3,265 attendance) and Pacific (3,534) — the Wildcats have drawn 13,106 this postseason.
TOP 10 WNIT CROWDS THIS POSTSEASON
|Idaho at Arizona||6307||Third||Arizona won 68-60|
|TCU at Arkansas||5287||Third||Arkansas lost 82-78|
|Pepperdine at Wyoming||5134||Third||Wyoming won 61-60|
|UAB at Arkansas||3939||Second||Arkansas won 100-52|
|Houston at Arkansas||3689||First||Arkansas won 88-80|
|Pacific at Arizona||3534||Second||Arizona won 64-48|
|South Alabama at Wyoming||3405||Second||Wyoming won 78-71|
|Idaho State at Arizona||3265||First||Arizona won 66-56|
|Denver at New Mexico||2875||First||New Mexico lost 83-75|
|Virginia Tech at James Madison||2872||Third||James Madison won 70-66|
In an NCAA tournament second round game, No. 1 seed Baylor (33-1) beat Cal the other day in front of 5,367 fans — about 1,000 fewer than what watched the game at McKale on Thursday night.
Barnes told the McKale crowd that she wants 7,000 fans for Sunday’s game against Wyoming. If the Wildcats (21-13) achieve that total, it would surpass the 6,694 that watched No. 1 seed Notre Dame (32-3) defeat Michigan State in an NCAA tournament second round game earlier this week.
“It’s amazing to walk out there and see the whole lower bowl full,” Barnes said of McKale’s atmosphere. “It’s better than some (NCAA) tournament teams are getting right now. I’m excited. I love it.”
She loves it even more because her team will not have to travel to Laramie, Wyo., on Friday to face Wyoming for a quick turnaround game Saturday. In her press conference Wednesday, Barnes was concerned that Arizona would play at Wyoming if both teams won in Round 3.
She said Arizona is hosting the game because athletic director Dave Heeke made an offer the WNIT “could not refuse or resist. I like that — an offer you can’t say no to.”
“It was going to be leave tomorrow and play on Saturday, so that quick turnaround, and you have to go to Denver and bus (129 miles to Laramie),” Barnes said. “And that’s a really hard place to play so I like this hard place to play (McKale) and I like it with our crowd.”
Barnes said she did not know the amount of Heeke’s offer to the WNIT.
“If it’s something you can’t refuse, it’s a lot of money,” she said with a wide smile. “That shows that they’re supporting and they believe in us and what we’re doing and they’re putting money into it.
“So they are investing in us and I think that’s a big thing. Now the city is … and that’s a great thing. It’s great momentum and I want us to feed off of that.”
What made Barnes even more happy was the balance Arizona showed with McDonald making only 1 of 9 shots from 3-point range against Idaho.
Thank you to everyone who came out tonight! Mckale was on 🔥🔥🔥
Three other players scored in double figures — Cate Reese with 14 (12 of which came in the first half), Sam Thomas with 13 points and Tee Tee Starks with 11.
Thomas had a personal-best six steals and blocked two shots.
“I was tired, I’ll tell you that, very tired,” she said with a laugh. “I was trying to do what I needed to do for my team. I knew they had 3-point shooters, so I tried to be everywhere to stop them from penetrating and kicking out.”
The resiliency of McDonald, Thomas and the Wildcats was never more apparent after Idaho cut their lead to 41-39 with 2:47 left in the third quarter. Could you imagine if Arizona fell flat, losing to Idaho, in front of such a large crowd after all the marketing and promotional work put it into getting the students involved? That could have set the program back.
Instead, Arizona responded strongly with a 16-0 run to pull away to a 57-39 lead with 6:07 left. McDonald scored half of her team’s points in that stretch, including a pivotal basket on a tip-in at the buzzer at the end of the third quarter.
The Aari-zona Wildcats are on to potentially more fun Sunday.
“It’s amazing,” Thomas said. “We’re drawing a great crowd. Everyone’s stepping their game up. We’re all growing.
“We’re hoping to keep going and continue this journey.”
2019 WNIT RESULTS AND SCHEDULES
Access full bracket at this link.
|Idaho State at Arizona||3265||Arizona won 66-56|
|Denver at New Mexico||2875||New Mexico lost 83-75|
|Northern Colorado at Wyoming||2685||Wyoming won 68-60|
|South Alabama at Lamar||1829||Lamar lost 73-71|
|Pepperdine at Cal Baptist||833||Cal Baptist lost 91-79|
|Pacific at Fresno State||599||Fresno State lost 77-72|
|Hawaii at St. Mary's||444||St. Mary's won 67-43|
|Idaho at Loyola Marymount||315||LMU lost 79-64|
|Pacific at Arizona||3534||Arizona won 64-48|
|South Alabama at Wyoming||3405||Wyoming won 78-71|
|Denver at Idaho||1230||Idaho won 88-66|
|Pepperdine at St. Mary's||325||Pepperdine won 65-61|
|Idaho at Arizona||6307||Arizona won 68-60|
|Pepperdine at Wyoming||5134||Wyoming won 61-60|
Wyoming at Arizona, 2 p.m.
|Houston at Arkansas||3689||Arkansas won 88-80|
|Northern Iowa at Minnesota||2549||Minnesota won 91-75|
|UAB at Troy||2451||Troy lost 93-89|
|Youngstown State at Cincinnati||1951||Cincinnati won 76-62|
|Kent State at Green Bay||1269||Green Bay lost 64-59|
|Stephen F. Austin at UT Arlington||1159||UTA won 60-54|
|Prairie View at TCU||987||TCU won 72-41|
|Northeastern at Butler||437||Butler won 89-82|
|UAB at Arkansas||3939||Arkansas won 100-52|
|Minnesota at Cincinnati||1945||Cincinnati won 72-65|
|UT Arlington at TCU||1531||TCU won 71-54|
|Kent State at Butler||747||Butler won 70-52|
|TCU at Arkansas||5287||Arkansas lost 82-78|
|Butler at Cincinnati||2450||Cincinnati won 72-65|
Cincinnati at TCU, 11 a.m.
Opposite of Arizona
|IUPUI at Middle Tennessee||1492||Middle Tennessee won 59-47|
|Seton Hall at Toledo||1289||Toledo won 71-65|
|Morehead State at Ohio State||1114||Ohio State lost 71-61|
|Rider at West Virginia||1032||West Virginia won 83-43|
|High Point at Ohio||567||Ohio won 81-74|
|Old Dominion at Villanova||521||Villanova won 86-81 (OT)|
|Western Kentucky at Miami (Ohio)||338||Western Kentucky won 67-63|
|Dayton at Northwestern||325||Northwestern won 74-51|
|Northwestern at Toledo||1879||Toledo lost 54-47|
|Villanova at West Virginia||1388||West Virginia won 64-57|
|Morehead State at Western Kentucky||1206||Western Kentucky won 68-65|
|Middle Tennessee at Ohio||867||Ohio won 59-57|
|Western Kentucky at Ohio||1491||Ohio won 68-60|
|Northwestern at West Virginia||1314||West Virginia lost 56-54|
Ohio at Northwestern, 4 p.m.
Opposite of Arizona
|Stetson at South Florida||1357||South Florida won 84-50|
|North Carolina A&T at James Madison||1120||James Madison won 48-37|
|American at Penn||817||Penn won 64-45|
|Furman at Virginia Tech||681||Virginia Tech won 92-65|
|Charlotte at VCU||383||VCU won 65-52|
|Hartford at Providence||368||Providence won 71-54|
|Sacred Heart at Georgetown||345||Georgetown won 90-59|
|Drexel at Harvard||266||Harvard won 69-56|
|South Florida at James Madison||1120||James Madison won 48-37|
|VCU at Virginia Tech||781||Virginia Tech won 82-72|
|Penn at Providence||511||Providence won 64-54|
|Georgetown at Harvard||322||Harvard lost 70-65|
|Georgetown at Providence||NL||Providence lost 53-46|
|Virginia Tech at James Madison||2872||James Madison won 70-66|
Georgetown at James Madison, 11 a.m.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.