Arizona’s first appearance of the 2020-21 postseason will be Thursday against Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
Washington State, the No. 7 seed in the tournament, defeated No. 10 Utah 57-48 in a first round game Wednesday.
The game between the 11th-ranked Wildcats (15-4) and Cougars (12-10) will start at 6 p.m. It will be televised live on Pac-12 Network and broadcast live on KTUC 1400-AM with Arizona grad Derrick Palmer calling the action.
Arizona, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, lost to Washington State during the regular season when the Cougars outlasted the Wildcats 71-69 in overtime at Pullman, Wash., on Jan. 10.
Freshman guard Charlisse Leger-Walker made the shot that sent the game into overtime and won the game-winning shot at the buzzer in overtime.
Leger-Walker had 17 points and five assists in that game. Her sister Krystal, a fifth-year senior, added 14 points and nine assists.
Krystal spoke with the Pac-12 Network after the Cougars’ win over Utah on Wednesday about matching up with Arizona and All-American guard Aari McDonald once again.
“Arizona is tough, and Aari, she’s always a challenge, and luckily enough, I always end up with that matchup, so it should be fun,” she said facetiously. “We’re looking forward to it. We’re confident that we can go in and have a good game, give our best effort, and on the right day, anyone can win.
“We’re going with that mentality that we’re going to come out and give our best shot and whatever happens happens.”
- Arizona press conference with coach Adia Barnes.
- Barnes is once again a Naismith Coach of the Year semifinalist.
When Arizona avenged the loss to Washington State at McKale Center on Feb. 12, All-Pac-12 selection Cate Reese had 17 points and six rebounds.
McDonald finished with 14 points but shot 5 of 21 from the field.
Fellow senior Sam Thomas had five steals. Arizona had 15 steals as a team.
The Cougars have a NET ranking 43 and are 2-6 against teams No. 1-25 in the NET rankings. Those two wins are against Arizona and UCLA.
Washington State last advanced to the NCAA tournament in 1991.
“We always see ourselves as the underdogs and we like that,” Krystal said. “We feel like there’s less pressure. We can go in and have nothing to lose. We play better when we go in and give our best shot and not be scared.
“We’re definitely going in with that underdog mentality. We’re going out hard swinging and hopefully our shots fall and some of theirs don’t.”
- Arizona’s No. 2 seed is its best seeding since 2004.
- McDonald was named Pac-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. She is the first person to be Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year since Stanford’s Chiney Oguwmike. McDonald is the only player in Pac-12 history to lead the league in scoring and steals three-straight seasons. She was also named a Lieberman Award Finalist and a Naismith Player of the Year semifinalist this week. She has scored in double-figures in 85 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation. She is the NCAA career scoring leader among active players with 2,128 pounds and is fourth in Arizona history with 1,855 points. She is also 20th in Pac-12 history.
- Arizona was ranked No. 7 in the NCAA selection committee’s most recent poll, making them a 2-seed.
- Arizona won 13 conference games for the first time since the 2003-04 season when Arizona shared the Pac-10 title with Stanford with a 14-4 record.
- Arizona is the only school in the Pac-12 with three 1,000-point scorers on the roster — McDonald, Reese and Thomas.
- Thomas was named Pac-12 All-Defense for the second year in a row and was All-Pac-12 this year. She is shooting 53 percent from 3-point range in her last eight games. Thomas is the career leader in blocks among all active Pac-12 players with 160. No other player has 100 blocks. Thomas is only six blocked shots shy of matching Ify Ibekwe (2008-10) with 166 blocks for No. 2 in program history. The late Shawntinice Polk (2003-05) has the school record at 222. Thomas is the only player in the Pac-12 to average at least two steals and one block per game. After missing her first 10 3-point attempts to start the season, Thomas is shooting 45 percent from deep.
- Reese earned her second All-Pac-12 selection while Trinity Baptiste was named honorable mention. Lauren Ware was named Honorable Mention Pac-12 All-Freshman. Arizona has had someone on the All-Freshman team four years in a row now.
Arizona Career Scoring Leaders
Arizona Career Blocked Shot Leaders
Arizona Career 3-point Field Goals Made Leaders
Arizona Career Starts Leaders
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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.