The wait to beat a top 10 team was so long for Arizona that when the Wildcats last pulled off that type of upset — against No. 7 Stanford at McKale Center on Feb. 5, 2004 — Aari McDonald was 6 years old and in the first grade.
Arizona coach Adia Barnes was 27 and about to play for the WNBA champion Seattle Storm that 2004 season.
The 16th-ranked Wildcats killed a lot of demons tonight with their 92-66 victory over No. 8 UCLA in front of 7,407 fans at McKale Center. McDonald finished with 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field, Sam Thomas contributed 20 points while making all four of her 3-point attempts and Cate Reese had 13 points and nine rebounds.
How can you not like these players and this team? Personality to the highest degree. pic.twitter.com/cKdAeGqSHm
The streaks Barnes, McDonald and Co. stopped at McKale Center:
— 52 straight losses overall to top 10 teams.
— 24 consecutive defeats against top 10 teams at McKale.
— 13 consecutive losses to UCLA (dating to the 2011-12 season). The Wildcats came close last season with a triple-overtime loss at McKale Center and they suffered their worst loss of this season with a 70-58 defeat at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 5.
Arizona’s record now against top 10 teams is 5-123 overall and 5-63 at McKale.
Arizona (17-3, 6-3) won behind its 3-point shooting (with a season-high 11) and its strong start, specifically the contribution of McDonald and Thomas in the first half. The two of them combined for 31 points in the half — almost matching UCLA’s point total of 32 at the half.
McDonald and Thomas combined to shoot 9 of 13 from the field, including 6 of 8 from 3-point range, in the first half. They finished making 14 of 20 from the field and 7 of 10 from 3-point range.
Arizona, as a team, shot 54.7 percent (45.8 percent from 3-point range) while limiting UCLA (18-2, 7-2) to only 34.4 percent (11.8 percent from beyond the arc).
The Wildcats committed only one turnover in the first half and 10 in the game. McDonald had only two turnovers after committing 18 in the previous three games.
The Wildcats held a double-digit lead throughout the second half with the Bruins getting no closer than 11 points. After future WNBA player Michaela Onyenwere made a layup to cut the lead to 47-36 with 9:26 left in regulation, Arizona pulled away with an 11-1 run with four different players scoring, McDonald the most with four.
Onyenwere finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman guard Charisma Osborne (14 points) was the only other double-figure scorer for the Bruins. Osborne took an unofficial recruiting visit to Arizona last year, and Barnes said she, “really wanted her.”
UCLA starting guard Japrece Dean went 0-of-11 from the field after struggling from the field in the first game at Pauley Pavilion. She was 3 of 13 there.
This was the Bruins’ most difficult road test since a 68-58 win on Dec. 22 over Indiana, which is ranked No. 15 with a 17-5 record. UCLA also won at Virginia and Georgia. Virginia is 8-13 and Georgia is 12-9.
The Bruins limited opponents to shoot only 28.9 percent from 3-point range before tonight. Arizona’s shooting from beyond the arc and the way the Wildcats battled on the boards, keeping it close with UCLA slightly with more (37-31), was in stark contrast to the loss earlier this month at Pauley Pavilion.
In that game, Arizona was 7 of 24 from beyond the arc and the Wildcats were outrebounded 47-33.
Arizona next hosts USC on Sunday at noon. The Wildcats will try to sweep the L.A. schools at McKale Center for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
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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.