Arizona hardly broke a sweat against an overwhelmed California team Sunday which means Adia Barnes and her staff got through to the Wildcats to not sweat a lopsided loss to No. 1 Stanford on Friday.
The mindset instead was to take it out against the winless Golden Bears, who upset the Wildcats last March at McKale Center.
The sixth-ranked Wildcats routed Cal 69-33 at McKale after establishing control from the start against the turnover-prone Golden Bears, who are now 0-9 overall and 0-6 in the Pac-12. Cal had extreme difficulty against Arizona’s press, committing 31 turnovers, which led to 26 points for the Wildcats.
“Our defense was phenomenal,” Barnes said. “That sense of urgency wasn’t there but it took us getting slapped in the face (against Stanford) to do it.”
The 33 points are the fewest allowed by Arizona in a Pac-12 game, topping the 39 ASU scored on Dec. 30, 2018, when the Wildcats won 51-39 at McKale Center.
Barnes mentioned that she was “brutally honest” with her players in Saturday’s practice after the 81-54 loss to the Cardinal.
“Our true character shows that when things are tough, and things were tough (against Stanford) and they were tough this whole weekend — tough conversations yesterday — we can bounce back and play team basketball. We played Arizona basketball (against Cal),” Barnes said.
Arizona (8-1, 6-1) took a 19-2 lead before nine minutes elapsed and cruised from there.
Only nine games into the regular season — which is still less than the amount of games played in a non-conference schedule — Arizona needed a game like this to work out the kinks and build their confidence and momentum.
It was the perfect tonic for what happened to Stanford, a loss that Barnes said did not force her players to hang their heads.
“We just made too many mistakes that we can’t afford to be making against the No. 1-ranked team in the nation,” Cate Reese said about the loss to Stanford. “We’re gonna get better and I think we showed that today. It was definitely a bounce-back win and it shows our character.”
All-American guard Aari McDonald became a facilitator more than a scorer, tallying six assists with only four points by halftime when Arizona led 39-10. Her double-digit scoring streak was in serious jeopardy but she extended it to 75 games with a strong move to the basket with 6:35 left in the fourth quarter that gave her 10 points.
McDonald finished with 12 points, eight assists and six steals.
She moved closer to Ify Ibekwe as the program’s No. 4 career scoring leader. She is at 1,651 points. Ibekwe had 1,653 from 2007-11.
Arizona Career Scoring LeadersTop five scorers in Arizona history:
“I thought Aari played a phenomenal game,” Barnes said. “It’s not all about only scoring 30 points. She led us. She enabled us to score 30 points.”
The Wildcats, who had balanced scoring most of the game, were led by the frontcourt tandem of Trinity Baptiste and Reese. They combined for 31 points on 15-of-18 shooting from the field after putting together only five points while making 2 of 7 shots against the Cardinal’s talented and deep post players.
Baptiste, a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech, scored a season-high 17 points shooting 8 of 9 from the field.
“I really just wanted to come in and do my job,” said Baptiste, who went the previous six games without reaching double figures in points and had only two against Stanford. “I wanted to start off the game well and do my job for my teammates. It was a tough, tough loss (against the Cardinal) and we know we’re better than that.
“I just wanted to do whatever it takes to win. That’s all I’m here to do is help my teammates win.”
Reese had 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting. She finished with three rebounds.
She has 16 career double-doubles, ranking sixth in Arizona history, but has yet to produce that type of output since the opener against NAU on Nov. 29 with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
When asked about her development to this point, Reese mentioned her biggest area of opportunity is her defense. She had a blocked shot that increased her total to four for the season. She also has four steals to this point.
She entered the season with 49 blocked shots and 64 steals in her first two years.
“I would say I just I’m working on my defense,” Reese said. “I think that I’m continuing to get better. There’s definitely more stuff I need to work on, just popping back and be able to guard a guard on a switch or on help.
“I think that’s something I struggle with sometimes. I think I’m getting better. I just need to continue to work on it and just be ready for the second half of the Pac-12 season. Just help out my teammates as much as I can.”
The Wildcats shot 50.8 percent from the field against Cal but were 1 of 11 from 3-point range. Helena Pueyo, who finished with five points in 18 minutes, made the only 3-pointer and was 1 of 3 from beyond the arc.
Paramount to Barnes, especially after Arizona was outrebounded 51-32 by Stanford, was the inside play. Arizona lost on the boards to Cal 31-30 but the Wildcats outscored the Golden Bears 50-22 in the paint behind the play of Reese and Baptiste.
“The gameplan was to get the ball inside and that was a challenge because Cal’s really good in the paint,” Barnes said, eluding to the Golden Bears featuring freshman forward Dalayah Daniels, who entered the game averaging 13.0 points and 7.4 rebounds a game.
“They have really good athletes. They start for post players. So we wanted to win the battle of the paint. I thought Trinity and Kate responded well with efficiency. They just had a real sense of urgency.”
Defensive ace Sam Thomas finished with four steals and a blocked shot. She is now all alone at No. 4 on the Arizona career blocks chart with 148, passing Elizabeth Pickney (147 from 1999-2002).
Arizona freshman guard Derin Erdogan of Turkey did not suit up for the game. She did not play Friday against Stanford. She has played 35 minutes in five games this season for the Wildcats. Arizona’s trainers were working on her back at the bench area during the game.
Barnes confirmed after the game that Erdogan has a back injury and that she is being cautious playing her. Erdogan is practicing and she did take part in some of the pregame drills.
Daniels had 12 points and seven rebounds to lead Cal, but she also had six turnovers.
The Wildcats are scheduled to play next at Washington on Friday night.
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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.