Arizona Women's Basketball

Arizona Wildcats’ Party On to WNIT Elite Eight Sunday at McKale Against Wyoming

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.

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.

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

Year Player Team Games Points Avg
2016-17 Kelsey Plum Washington 35 1109 31.7
2013-14 Chiney Ogwumike Stanford 37 967 26.1
2015-16 Kelsey Plum Washington 37 960 25.9
2018-19 Aari McDonald Arizona 34 827 24.4
2011-12 Nnemkadi Ogwumike Stanford 36 809 22.5
2012-13 Chiney Ogwumike Stanford 36 805 22.4

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

Game Attd Round Result
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.

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

AllSportsTucson.com

Access full bracket at this link.

Arizona’s Quad

FIRST ROUND

Game Attendance Result
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

SECOND ROUND

Game Attendance Result
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

THIRD ROUND

Game Attendance Result
Idaho at Arizona 6307 Arizona won 68-60
Pepperdine at Wyoming 5134 Wyoming won 61-60

QUARTERFINAL

Sunday

Wyoming at Arizona, 2 p.m.

Quad 2

FIRST ROUND

Game Attendance Result
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

SECOND ROUND

Game Attendance Result
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

THIRD ROUND

Game Attendance Result
TCU at Arkansas 5287 Arkansas lost 82-78
Butler at Cincinnati 2450 Cincinnati won 72-65

QUARTERFINAL

Sunday

Cincinnati at TCU, 11 a.m.

Quad 3
Opposite of Arizona

Game Attendance Result
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

SECOND ROUND

Game Attendance Result
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

THIRD ROUND

Game Attendance Result
Western Kentucky at Ohio 1491 Ohio won 68-60
Northwestern at West Virginia 1314 West Virginia lost 56-54

QUARTERFINAL

Saturday

Ohio at Northwestern, 4 p.m.

Quad 4
Opposite of Arizona

Game Attendance Result
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

SECOND ROUND

Game Attendance Result
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

THIRD ROUND

Game Attendance Result
Georgetown at Providence NL Providence lost 53-46
Virginia Tech at James Madison 2872 James Madison won 70-66

QUARTERFINAL

Sunday

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.

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