No. 18 Arizona extended its nation-leading winning streak to 19 games dating to last season, including a school-record 13 -0 start this season, with tonight’s 65-57 win at USC.
The Wildcats are also 2-0 in the Pac-12 for only the sixth time in program history. Next up: A game at No. 10 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Sunday. The Bruins (13-0, 2-0) outlasted ASU 68-66 tonight at home.
“It’s great because if we can get some wins on the road … we knew the first three (Pac-12 games) were on the road and the first five games are monsters,” coach Adia Barnes said in the postgame radio show on KTUC 1400-AM. “Three on the road and two at home (Oregon State and Oregon next week) against two of the best teams in the country … we know people are going to have a very hard time … I think we’ll average 8 or 9 (thousand at McKale) in the conference.
“We have our sixth man in Tucson. It’s going to be hard to play us at home.”
Aari McDonald had 24 points and six rebounds and Cate Reese registered her 12th career double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds against the Trojans.
Samaj Smith had a productive game with eight points and 12 rebounds. Helena Pueyo had 11 key points, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range and two free throws with 47 seconds left in the fourth quarter,
Arizona made 16 of 17 shots from the line, including two by McDonald with 29 seconds left to ward off the Trojans (8-5, 0-2). McDonald played the last five minutes through obvious cramping in her left calf.
“What that tells me is how tough she is and how resilient she is,” Barnes said. “Most players wouldn’t be able to do that. That’s why she is an All-American.”
USC had three players score in double-figures, led by Moorehead State graduate transfer guard Aliyah Jeune with 17 points. Freshman guard Endyia Rogers had 14 points and seven rebounds and Angel Jackson added 16 points.
USC post player Alissa Pili, a freshman who had 28 points at UCLA on Sunday, was held to seven points.
Arizona Double-Double Career LeadersTop career double-double performers for Arizona.
Through 13 games, no opponent has reached 60 points against the Wildcats. The Trojans’ 57 points is the most against Arizona since Texas scored 58 on Nov. 17.
The Wildcats had a sluggish first half but still managed to lead 33-32 at halftime behind McDonald’s 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field. Reese added seven points and six rebounds.
“We weren’t locked in from the beginning; I don’t know why,” Barnes said. “We were a step slow letting them do what they wanted to do. We needed to be more aggressive.
“I thought we did a real good job adjusting in the second half. … They always had a response. That’s how the Pac-12 is.”
Score, pass, dribble, finish. What can’t @AariMcdonald do? 💪
The Wildcats, entering the game leading the nation holding opponents to 29.9 percent shooting from the field, allowed USC to shoot 39.7 percent. The Wildcats also lead the nation keeping opponents to 44.4 points a game.
Arizona’s 19 turnovers — including a season-high eight by McDonald — led to 13 points for the Trojans.
Arizona gained separation with a 13-0 run starting in the second quarter to take a 50-42 lead on a Pueyo 3-pointer with 7:15 left in the third quarter.
2️⃣ road games
USC rallied to cut the lead to 46-45 with 3:57 left in the quarter when Jeune made a layup — her 12th point of the quarter.
The Wildcats surged to their biggest lead — 54-45 with 9:01 left in regulation — when McDonald made a jumper. USC again fought back with six consecutive points capped by Jeune’s layup with 6:37 remaining.
“I think any time you can go on the road in the Pac-12 and get a sweep, it’s amazing,” Barnes said. “If you can go on the road and get a split at least and then take care of business at home … we’ll put ourselves in a good position.
“We’re undefeated at 2-0 in the league. I’ll take that. I don’t know much longer I can say that.”
With the way Arizona is showing balance with McDonald and Reese leading the way and players such as Pueyo and Smith contributing the way they did tonight, Barnes might have another opportunity to say that after Sunday.
“I expect (Smith) to do in every game what she did today because she is very capable,” Barnes said of Smith, who also had two blocked shots and a steal. “She has asserted herself at the post. She’s doing a good job of passing. She played good defense. I thought she did really well tonight.”
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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.