The last time No. 7 Arizona played a game was 266 days ago in a 88-70 loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament. The Wildcats finally were able to open their season with a 76-63 win over NAU on Sunday at McKale Center.
As excepted, there was a little rust due to the lack of practice time leading up to the game and with some new key players on the floor for coach Adia Barnes.
The time off seemed to affect everyone on the court, including star guard Aari McDonald, who started off the game going 1-for-8 from the field. She found her rhythm as the game went along. McDonald would finish with 18 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists while shooting 6-of-17 from the field.
Arizona was led by junior forward Cate Reese, who picked her team up by finishing with 21 points and 11 rebounds and was 9-of-13 from the field. Out of her 11 rebounds, three were offensive rebounds, giving her team second-chance opportunities.
Here’s what McDonald and Reese had to say about getting to play for the first time in a long time and how they thought the team performed on the court:
Arizona struggled in some key categories against the Lumberjacks. Still, the glaring issue came on the glass where the Wildcats could only outrebound NAU by two, 48-46, and lost the battle on the offensive boards, 16-15.
The team will have to find a way to improve on its first game fast as Pac-12 opponent No. 9 UCLA is next on the schedule Friday at McKale.
The game against NAU was Arizona’s only scheduled non-conference game before 22 straight games against Pac-12 opponents.
Here’s what Barnes had to say about her team’s first game and how it can improve moving forward with a top-ten contest right around the corner (the Bruins are ranked No. 9):
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Troy Hutchison hails from Tucson and is a lifelong Arizona Wildcats follower. He has been involved in sports journalism over the last two years while taking communications courses at Pima Community College.