Arizona’s magic ride starting from last season continued today at a place the Wildcats have not won at since 2000, before some of the Wildcats were born.
The Wildcats beat ASU 58-53 at Tempe further signaling the shift of power to Tucson since Adia Barnes started coaching at her alma mater in 2016-17. They have won 18 straight games dating to last season’s six-game run to the WNIT title.
Arizona, ranked No. 18 in the AP Top 25, built on its school-record start by improving to 12-0 and will certainly be in the rankings for the sixth week when the rankings come out tomorrow. That is the longest stretch since the Wildcats were in the rankings for 15 weeks in the 2002-03 season.
Bring on 2020 😼
— Arizona Athletics (@AZATHLETICS) December 29, 2019
Arizona, one of only nine teams still unbeaten, will likely have its highest ranking since it was No. 14 in the 1999-2000 season.
The Wildcats also begin 1-0 in the Pac-12, a league in which every win will be cherished this season and they did so without regular starting forward Dominique McBryde (still out with a left ankle injury). The conference has the highest RPI in the nation with five ranked teams, including Arizona.
The difference against ASU was the Wildcats’ defense limiting the Sun Devils (10-3) to only 30.3 percent shooting from the field, which included 2 of 18 from 3-point range.
The Wildcats came out on top despite ASU taking 11 more field goals attempts (66 to 55). Arizona’s shooting in the second half was slightly better with the Wildcats at 38.5 percent and the Sun Devils cold at 22.2 percent. Arizona also outscored ASU by nine points from the 3-point line and free throw line in the second half.
Aari McDonald led Arizona with 20 points although she struggled afield making 7 of 16, including 2 of 7 from beyond the arc.
Cate Reese, a sophomore, achieved her 11th career double-double, tying her at eighth on the Arizona charts with Elizabeth Pinckney (1999-2002). Reese finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds against the Sun Devils.
Sam Thomas had nine rebounds and five of her eight points came from the free throw line, including four in the last 36 seconds after ASU cut the lead to 54-53 with 1:06 remaining.
The Sun Devils’ possessions in the last minute:
— Missed 3-pointer on a block by Thomas, one of five blocks by Arizona in the game, two by Thomas.
— Two missed free throws with 15 seconds left and Arizona leading 57-53.
— Two more missed 3-pointers.
— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) December 29, 2019
Arizona’s difficult trek through the conference continues next week with the Wildcats playing at USC (8-4) on Friday and UCLA on Sunday. The 10th-ranked Bruins are one of the nine unbeatens in the nation at 12-0. They beat USC 83-59 today at Pauley Pavilion.
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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.