Instead of wallowing over a lopsided loss to No. 1 Stanford on Friday, expect No. 6 Arizona to treat today’s game against Cal at McKale Center as a must-win situation.
The tipoff is at noon, Tucson time, and the game will be televised by the Pac-12 Network and broadcast by KTUC (1400-AM) with Derrick Palmer calling the action.
The Wildcats (7-1, 5-1 Pac-12) must try to keep pace with No. 8 Oregon (8-0, 6-0) and Stanford (8-0, 5-0) in the conference standings by staying one game behind in the loss column. They can’t afford to slip up against winless Cal (0-8, 0-5).
A game at upstart Washington State (5-1, 3-1) also looms next weekend. The Cougars look like they will challenge to stay near the top of the standings with the Wildcats. But first things first.
About 10 months ago at McKale Center, a struggling Cal team upset Arizona, which was less than 48 hours from beating No. 4 Stanford. The Wildcats avenged the loss by defeating the Golden Bears in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament in March, but the embarrassment still lingers from the unexpected setback against Cal.
“I reminded them in the locker room,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said after the Wildcats’ loss to Stanford.
The Golden Bears are coming off a competitive loss at ASU on Friday, leading the majority of the game. In the waning moments, the Golden Bears had possession of the ball while trailing by one point. With 7.8 seconds remaining, Cal ran one final play, but was unable to score and it lost 56-53.
“To me some of the scariest teams to play are teams that haven’t won games,” Barnes said. “They have nothing to lose, either. So, we have to come back with a different mindset, a different mentality, and we have to beat another good team. The Pac-12 is tough.”
Keep an eye on freshman forward Dalayah Daniels, who scored 20 points against the Sun Devils with making 6 of 8 shots from the field. Sophomore guard Leilani McIntosh tied her career-high with 15 points and set a career-best in steals with six, all in the first half. Another freshman forward, Ugonne (Michelle) Onyiah added 10 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots.
Cal dominated ASU in the paint, outscoring the Sun Devils 28-12, and it won the defensive rebounding battle, 20-18. The Golden Bears also tallied a season-high 12 steals.
Rebounding is of particular concern for Barnes after Stanford dominated the Wildcats Friday, with the Cardinal gaining a 51-32 edge in their 81-54 drubbing of Arizona.
Daniels leads Cal averaging 13.0 points and 7.4 rebounds a game. The Seattle native has a team-best five games with double-digit points and she has reached that mark in each of the last three games with two double-doubles during that time. She is the only freshman in the Pac-12 with three double-doubles and has the second-most overall.
All-American guard Aari McDonald will look to get back on track after making only 3 of 18 shots from the field against Stanford finishing with only 12 points. She is averaging the second-most points per game in the Pac-12 with 19.1, trailing only Washington State guard Charlisse Leger-Walker (19.5 points a game).
McDonald has scored in double figures in 74 straight games, which is the longest active streak in the nation and encompasses her entire Arizona career from 2018-19. Her 19 made threes are ranked second in the conference and she is the NCAA’s career scoring leader among active players with 1,912 points dating to her freshman season at Washington in 2016-17.
Her 1,639 points with the Wildcats ranks fifth in program history, trailing No. 4 Ify Ibekwe, who had 1,653 points from 2007-11.
McDonald has scored only 23 points in her last two games against Idaho (because the Wildcats routed the Vandals) and Stanford.
Arizona Career Blocked Shot Leaders
Arizona Career 3-point Field Goals Made Leaders
Junior forward Cate Reese is the only other Wildcat averaging double-digit points this season (12.5) and she leads the team shooting 50 percent from the field. Reese’s performance against Stanford was indicative of how Arizona played as a whole. She had only three points (on 1 of 4 shooting from the field) with five rebounds in 17 minutes.
Senior forward Sam Thomas is ranked fifth in the conference with 11 blocks so far this season. Thomas is tied for fourth in Arizona history in career blocked shots (147) and is sixth in made threes (142). She is the career leader in blocks among active Pac-12 players. No other Pac-12 player has 100 blocks.
Thomas is nine points shy of 1,000 career points. She is at 991 points over 106 games averaging 9.3 points a game. She is also closing in on 500 rebounds (475), 200 assists (180) and 200 steals (171) in her career.
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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.