Arizona Women's Basketball

Capsulized preview: No. 11 BYU vs. No. 3 Arizona Wildcats


Arizona will play in its sixth NCAA tournament second round game Wednesday when the third-seeded Wildcats face No. 11 BYU in the Mercado Region at San Antonio.

The Wildcats (17-5) have managed only one win in their previous five second round games, a convincing 94-77 win over Virginia at McKale Center on March 15, 1998.

The game against the Cougars (19-5) will tip off at 4 p.m. on ESPNU with Tiffany Greene and Steffi Sorenson calling the action. KTUC (1400-AM) will also broadcast the game live with Arizona grad Derrick Palmer doing the play-by-play.

Arizona handled No. 14 Stony Brook 79-44 on Monday in its first NCAA tournament game in 16 years while BYU upset No. 6 Rutgers 69-66 after rallying from a 12-point deficit in the third quarter.

The Wildcats’ defense, which ranks 16th nationally allowing only 55.5 points a game, will be crucial in derailing BYU’s efficient offense. The Cougars rank 19th with 16.5 assists per game and 37th with a field goal percentage of 44.9.

“Really good guard play,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes noted of Shaylee Gonzales and Paisley Harding, who combine to average 32.2 points and 7.1 assists per game.

“They move the ball well, they spread the ball well. They shoot the 3 well. Their offense is potent but their defense is one of the best in the country.”

Barnes went so far as to say BYU reminds her of one of the tough Pac-12 teams the Wildcats have encountered this season. The Pac-12 advanced five teams to the Round of 32.

BYU coach Jeff Judkins acknowledged that Arizona and All-American guard Aari McDonald are “hungry” in the tournament after denied a chance to play in last year’s March Madness because of COVID-19.

“Two years ago they won the WNIT and last year they would have gone to the NCAA Tournament and would have done very well,” Judkins said. “This year, a lot of them are seniors. … They’re ready to go as a team. They play in I think the hardest conference in the country, the Pac-12, and took second in it.

“I mean, they’re a very, very good team.”

Judkins is leery of Arizona’s defense, comparing it to the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty with Michael Jordan because of how the Wildcats are efficient with their help-side defense denying lanes and open looks.

Aari McDonald has a hungry look in the NCAA Tournament (Arizona Athletics photo)

Arizona Career Scoring Leaders

 PlayerYearsGamesPoints
1.Adia Barnes1994-981212,237
2.Davellyn Whyte2009-131262,059
3.Aari McDonald2018-21922,019
4.Dee-Dee Wheeler2001-051241,966
5.Ify Ibekwe2007-111161,653

Judkins also took note of how Arizoa junior forward Cate Reese “does not get enough credit for what she does.”

Reese had 16 points in the win over Stony Brook. She consistently has been Arizona’s top practice player all year wearing the gold jersey nine times (Lauren Ware is next with four). The gold jersey signifies the “Go Beyond” award presented weekly to the best player in practice.

“She’s a very, very good player,” Judkins said. “She can shoot it, she can drive it. She’s a great rebounder.”

No. 3 Arizona Wildcats

17-5 overall, 13-4 Pac-12

NET ranking: No. 15

Big Wins: Dec. 4 No. 8 UCLA (68-65), Jan. 14 No. 10 Oregon (57-41), Jan. 17 No. 36 Oregon State (67-51), Feb. 8 at No. 10 Oregon (79-59)

Bad Loss: Feb. 28 at No. 95 Arizona State (66-64 OT)

Coach: Adia Barnes (85-65, fifth season)

Probable Starters:

  • G Aari McDonald, Sr., 19.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.5 apg, 2.7 spg
  • G Bendu Yeaney, Jr., 4.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.4 apg
  • F Sam Thomas, Sr., 7.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.6 apg, 2.2 spg, 1.2 bpg
  • F Trinity Baptiste, Sr., 8.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg
  • F Cate Reese, Jr., 11.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg 

Key Role Players:

  • G Helena Pueyo, Soph., 3.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.7 spg
  • F Lauren Ware, Fr., 4.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg
  • G Shaina Pellington, Jr., 5.7 ppg 
  • G Madi Conner, Fr., 1.0 ppg

By the Numbers:

  • Scoring Offense: 67.1 (128th in nation)
  • Scoring Defense: 55.5 (16)
  • Field-Goal Percentage: 41.5 (110)
  • Field-Goal Defense: 36.4 (29)
  • Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.9 (173)  
  • Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.9 (92)
  • Free-Throw Percentage: 70.9 (150)
  • Rebound Margin: -0.2 (169)
  • Assists Per Game: 12.0 (219)
  • Turnovers Per Game: 12.9 (34)

NCAA tournament appearance: Eighth

Furthest NCAA tournament run: Sweet 16 in 1997-98

No. 11 BYU Cougars

19-5, 13-3 West Coast Conference

NET ranking: No. 50

Big Wins: March 22 No. 12 Rutgers (69-66), Nov. 27 No. 61 LSU (67-51), Feb. 18 No. 16 Gonzaga (61-56)

Bad Losses: Nov. 28 No. 85 Washington (77-48), Jan. 4 at No. 122 San Diego (58-56), Feb. 27 at No. 112 San Francisco (86-72)

Coach: Jeff Judkins (430-199, 20th season)

Probable Starters:

  • G Maria Albiero, Sr., 6.0 ppg, 3.2 apg
  • G Paisley Harding, Sr., 15.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.3 apg
  • G Shaylee Gonzales, Soph., 17.0 ppg, 3.8 apg, 5.6 rpg, 2.5 spg
  • F Lauren Gustin, Soph., 11.5 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 2.0 apg
  • C Sara Hamson, Sr., 5.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.5 bpg 

Key Role Players:

  • G Tegan Graham, Sr., 8.1 ppg, 2.1 apg
  • G Kaylee Smiler, Soph., 3.1 ppg, 1.1 apg 

By the Numbers:

  • Scoring Offense: 69.3 (103rd in nation)
  • Scoring Defense: 59.5 (55)
  • Field-Goal Percentage: 44.6 (37)
  • Field-Goal Defense: 35.9 (22)
  • Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.0 (87)
  • Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.7 (74)
  • Free-Throw Percentage: 74.2 (61)
  • Rebound Margin: 3.7 (74)
  • Assists Per Game: 16.5 (19)
  • Turnovers Per Game: 14.6 (102) 

NCAA tournament appearance: 14th

Furthest NCAA tournament run: Sweet 16 in 2000-01 and 2013-14

History against Arizona: 8-5, last meeting on Nov. 13, 2013, when the Cougars beat Arizona 64-56 in Provo, Utah.


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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.

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