Arizona Women's Basketball

No. 21 Arizona Survives Tumultuous Start to Overcome Washington, Wildcats at 4-1 in Pac-12 Road Games


Arizona looked like it had withdrawals from a frustrating evening the night before when the Wildcats had to wait almost two hours for dinner at a Seattle establishment.

That might have figured into the Wildcats’ slow start against Washington this afternoon. Whatever the reason, Arizona did not look at all like the team that has been ranked for eight consecutive weeks.

After trailing by 19 points after the first quarter, the 21st-ranked Wildcats outscored Washington 41-19 over the second and third quarters to take a lead and control of the game in a 66-58 win at Seattle.

Aari McDonald (Arizona Athletics photo)

“I’m just proud of our fight; we could have gave up … we didn’t. We stuck together,” Barnes said during her postgame radio show on KTUC 1400-AM.

“We have a great culture. We have good kids who have heart. I hope they are a reflection of me. I hope they are gritty. I hope they are determined, that they’re confident. We didn’t give up. That’s not what we do.”

Aari McDonald played the full 40 minutes and led Arizona with 25 points and nine rebounds but the Wildcats were lifted by a balanced effort after the first quarter.

Sam Thomas had 12 points and six rebounds and Cate Reese finished with 10 points and six rebounds despite a heavily-bandaged right hand after she fell in the second quarter.

“She’s tough. She’s a gamer … I know what she is going to bring,” Barnes said of Reese.

Helena Pueyo also had 10 points in her second game back from an ankle injury.

“I thought players like Helena stepped up. I thought Lucia (Alonso) gave us good minutes,” Barnes said. “I thought everybody did a good job of finding their way.”

Thomas had seven points, four rebounds, two steals and three blocked shots in the second half. She finished with six rebounds, four blocked shots and four steals.

“Sam is one of our best defenders,” Barnes said. “She always has the toughest assignments. She does all the little things that are so valuable but don’t always show up on the stat sheet.”

The Wildcats (15-3, 4-3 Pac-12) achieved their first Pac-12 road sweep since 2010-11, when they swept the Washington schools. They are 4-1 on the road to start conference play — their best start in program history in that regard. They have achieved their first four conference wins on the road for the first time.

The Wildcats trailed 30-11 with 8:15 left in the second quarter when they finally got in gear.

Arizona’s defense came into play, limiting Washington (10-7, 2-4) to only 7 of 27 shooting from the field in the second and third quarters. The Huskies also had 14 turnovers in that stretch.

Leading scorer Amber Malgoza had 18 points in the first half making 8 of 10 shots from the field, including 2 of 3 from beyond the arc. Beset by foul trouble — she picked up her third early in the third quarter — Malgoza had only six points in the second half.

She was assessed her fourth foul with 6:39 left in the fourth quarter and was reinserted with 3:06 left in regulation and Arizona leading 59-54.

Melgoza made a jumper with 2:45 left cut the lead to 59-56. The Huskies went scoreless the rest of the way and Amari Carter made three free throws in the last minute to cement the win.

Arizona looked dismal at the start, trailing Washington 27-8 at the end of the first quarter. The Wildcats had nine turnovers and no assists in the quarter and they made only 3 of 14 from the field.

Sam Thomas (Arizona Athletics photo)

“We started off awful; we had no intensity,” Barnes said. “We kept handing them the ball. … We had to calm down.”

The Wildcats rallied to cut the lead to seven points in the second quarter and trailed 38-29 at halftime. Six Arizona players scored in the quarter and they shot 53.3 percent from the field with only three turnovers.

Washington made only 27.8 percent of its shots in the second quarter, 12.5 percent from 3-point range.

McDonald had 15 points and five rebounds at halftime but she had no assists. Arizona had 12 turnovers and two assists at the break while Washington had nine assists and eight turnovers.

Arizona had only five turnovers from midway through the second quarter on and finished with 16 in the game while Washington had 21.

“This is a very hard trip. It always is,” said Barnes, who is now 2-1 against Washington at Seattle since leaving her assistant position there to become the head coach at her alma mater in 2016. “Going to Pullman is a long trip, you travel seven hours. And coming here (to Seattle) is very hard. It was important for us to sweep this weekend … It’s our goal to go to the (NCAA) tournament this year. It’s important that I didn’t talk about it (with the team) but I knew that.”

Arizona next hosts ASU on Friday night at 6 p.m. in a game Barnes has mentioned on social media that she wants at least 10,000 in attendance. The Wildcats will be going for the regular season sweep of the 18th-ranked Sun Devils.


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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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