Oregon, with Sabrina Ionescu and its depth, is just too much.
The third-ranked Ducks prevailed over No. 13 Arizona 88-70 tonight in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals despite 34 points from Aari McDonald on 14 of 25 shooting from the field.
The Wildcats (24-7) can now set their sights on their first NCAA tournament appearance in 15 years and the probability of hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament from March 20-23.
Oregon coach Kelly Graves to the @Pac12Network about Arizona:
“They’re a team that’s going to host in the NCAA tournament. I wouldn’t be surprised if they get as far as the Elite Eight and who knows beyond that? They’re really good. Give them a lot of credit today.”
McDonald can look to so much more after her fiancée proposed to her just minutes after the game. She said yes, adding to the hysteria of March Madness.
Oregon had Ionescu (31 points, nine rebounds and seven assists), Erin Boley (18 points) and Ruthy Hebard (14 points and 11 rebounds).
The Ducks (30-2) dominated inside, outrebounding Arizona 39-22, and they were too much outside, making 15-of-31 from 3-point range.
Priceless moment: She said yes! @AariMcdonald showing her ring on the @Pac12Network after her fiancée Devon proposed to her after tonight’s game against Oregon at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. pic.twitter.com/kDHoISCgjp
Cate Reese is the only Arizona player to score in double figures with 13 points. She also had five rebounds.
McDonald said she was not upset about tonight’s loss after her marriage proposal. Arizona as a team has to move ahead entirely. Adia Barnes said the engagement even caught her by surprise and told the Pac-12 Network, “it takes the sting off the loss” to Oregon.
“My teammates they are playing great right now,” McDonald told the Pac-12 Network after the game. “All we can do is regroup, rest a little bit and it’s on to the dance.”
Arizona trailed 43-33 at halftime after the Wildcats fell behind by as many as 16 points.
McDonald scored the last five points of the half on consecutive possessions, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer that gave her 16 points.
That allowed her to pass the late Shawntinice Polk on the Arizona career scoring chart with 1,468 points. That placed McDonald at No. 6 ahead of Polk, who had 1,467. McDonald is now at 1,486.
Arizona Career Scoring LeadersList of the top scorers in Arizona history. Note: Aari McDonald played one year at Washington before transferring to Arizona. Her overall career scoring total is 1,793.
|No. Player||Years||GP||FGM (3FG)||FTM||Pts|
|1. Adia Barnes||1995-98||121||881 (3)||472||2,237|
|2. Davellyn Whyte||2009-13||126||668 (274)||449||2,059|
|3. Dee-Dee Wheeler||2002-05||124||762 (186)||256||1,966|
|4. Ify Ibekwe||2008-11||116||628 (35)||362||1,653|
|5. Elizabeth Pickney||1999-02||121||570 (8)||472||1,620|
|6. Aari McDonald||2018-20||66||507 (103)||335||1,486|
|7. Shawntinice Polk||2003-05||94||604 (0)||259||1,467|
|8. Ashley Whisonant||2005-08||122||537(50)||327||1,451|
|9. Timi Brown||1987-91||114||531 (16)||237||1,315|
|10. Dana Patterson||1985-88||112||541 (0)||221||1,299|
Adia Barnes was critical of Arizona’s defensive rebounding in the first half, which allowed Oregon too many second chances. The Ducks had 10 points on putbacks in the first half.
After Arizona remained close going into the fourth quarter, Oregon pulled away with 21 points in the fourth quarter on 7-of-12 shooting.
“The back-breaking things were the 50-50 balls and offensive rebounds for Oregon,” Barnes told the Pac-12 Network after. “They were killing us on the boards. They had 14 offensive rebounds. We lost 22 to 39. And you can’t win games like that.
“And then when we went zone, they hit 3’s. When we went man, they isolated us inside. They’re just a really good team with so many weapons. So you kind of have to pick your poison. It was such as a tough game.”
Barnes said Arizona will relax and recuperate from now until Selection Monday on March 16. It will then be known for certain Arizona will host and what teams will be coming to Tucson.
“We are going to rest mentally and physically,” Barnes said. “It’s a necessity, to rest and get healthy. There are things we need to work on because we just saw tonight what the No. 2 team in the country that should win a championship looks like, and we’re not there yet.
“They’re a better team right now. Can we get better? Yes, we’re returning our best players (next year). So we will be better, but they’re just a really good team. They have a lot of weapons and for us to be the best, we’re going to have to play against the best. I think this is a good preparation and a good test for the tournament. So we’re going to press to get better.”
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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.