Their warmup shirts said “Our Time.”
Sophomore All-Pac-12 forward Cate Reese played like it was her time from the start.
Reese’s career-high 30 points and Arizona’s dominance inside helped the Wildcats achieve one of their most significant wins in program history.
Other than avenging last Sunday’s 55-54 loss to the Golden Bears at McKale Center, Arizona’s 86-73 win behind Reese and 44-18 advantage in the paint means the No. 4 Wildcats (24-6) will advance to the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament for the first time since 2010-11.
Arizona will play the winner of No. 1 Oregon and No. 8 Utah tomorrow in the semifinals at 7 p.m. at the Mandalay Bay Events Center at Las Vegas.
The Wildcats’ 24 wins matches last year’s 24-9 record and is one shy of matching the school record of 25 set in 1999-2000 when the Wildcats finished 25-7.
The Wildcats’ win also strengthens their bid to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament on March 20-23. They should not fall from their No. 14 ranking by the NCAA tournament selection committee, which translate to a No. 4 seed and probable host come March Madness.
Another loss to the Golden Bears (12-19) would have been devastating as far as that is concerned. Cal is No. 130 in the RPI.
Arizona’s precision on offense against the Golden Bears today was much different than what the Wildcats experienced on Sunday during Senior Day.
Adia Barnes’ team shot 54.7 percent from the field and amassed 24 assists with 12 turnovers today. In the loss Sunday, the Wildcats made only 36 percent of their shots after starting 1-of-10 in the first quarter. They had 15 turnovers with only 11 assists.
Helena Pueyo led the Wildcats with a career-high eight assists today.
Arizona established a healthy lead from the beginning and never trailed. The Wildcats outscored Cal 18-9 in the second quarter to lead 41-27 at halftime.
Arizona has now won 27 straight games when it takes a double-digit lead.
Beautiful basketball. pic.twitter.com/VuRtti9WPM
The third quarter could have been trouble with Aari McDonald, Dominique McBryde and Sam Thomas each assessed with two fouls and having to go to the bench. Arizona outscored Cal 21-17 in the quarter, however, to build a 62-44 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Reese had 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field in the third quarter to keep the Wildcats well ahead. She finished shooting 13 of 15 from the field with six rebounds.
McDonald finished with 13 points, extending her double-digit scoring streak to 65 games, the entire length of her Arizona career. McDonald passed Ashley Whisonant (1,451 points from 2005-08) for No. 7 on the Arizona career scoring list with 1,452 points.
Amari Carter had 10 points and three steals. McBryde finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. Thomas had eight points.
McDonald, McBryde and Thomas each finished with four assists.
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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.