She screamed at the top of her lungs after nailing two 3-pointers and she let loose, bellowing toward her teammates, after she was fouled while making a basket.
Cate Reese did not hold back, which is common for her, only this time the nation saw her emotional will to win on a grand stage.
“We love it when Cate gets intense,” Sam Thomas said. “We love the pictures that everyone takes of her too when she’s intense. When Cate’s hitting, we know it’s going to go that way and when she’s hot, she stays hot.”
Texas A&M coach Gary Blair, whose team plays UA in Sweet 16, complimentary of Adia Barnes’ rebuilding job saying it’s best “we’ve seen in last 5 to 6 to 7 years” & praised Cate Reese, former recruiting target from Cypress whose parents are A&M alums. https://t.co/pizlHmWHVT
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) March 25, 2021
Reese finished with 12 points and five rebounds in Arizona’s 52-46 win over BYU in an NCAA tournament second round game at San Antonio on Wednesday. In the Sweet 16 on Saturday at 5 p.m., she will go against No. 2 seed Texas A&M, which recruited her out of Cypress, Texas, and where her parents earned their degrees.
She has produced 28 points and 11 rebounds in the games against Stony Brook and BYU after averaging 7.4 points and 3.6 rebounds in her five games before March Madness.
“I guess someone told me I couldn’t shoot. No, I’m just kidding,” Reese said with a laugh, harkening back to when she had 25 points at Oregon on Feb. 8 after some of the Ducks reportedly questioned her shooting ability.
She said of her spirited outbursts against BYU, “I felt good in warmups and I felt myself kind of being aggressive and intense. I knew it was kind of going to be a good game for us. … It’s just exciting. I just get really into the game.”
From six wins to the Sweet 16
Only three years removed from a 6-24 season at Arizona in her freshman season, Thomas is in the Sweet 16. The Wildcats finished 2-14 in the Pac-12 that year and were routed by ASU in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament, ending the season on a seven-game losing streak.
“It’s honestly crazy just to be in the Sweet 16,” Thomas said. “My goal was to just make the tournament in college. When I was coming in as a freshman, that’s all I wanted to do.
“We won only six games. It was kind of tough. Obviously, last year we could have gone but COVID and everything (prevented that), but now this year, we did not just make it to the tournament, but we’re winning. We’re in the Sweet 16. There are only 16 teams left and we’re one of them. It’s just a great feeling.”
A winning locker room. Nothing like it. pic.twitter.com/Z1aEeazHYR
— Arizona Women’s Basketball (@ArizonaWBB) March 25, 2021
Thomas had two blocks and three steals after tying a career-high six steals against Stony Brook in the first round win Monday. She has 164 blocked shots in her career, two shy of tying Iffy Ibekwe for second on the Arizona’s career chart. The late Shawntinice Polk had an untouchable 222 blocked shots.
Not in this game
In the last two games, Arizona has nearly blanked players who were coming off career performances.
Stony Brook’s Anastasia Warren went from scoring 31 points in the America East championship to having no points while missing six shots in Arizona’s 79-44 win in the first round.
Adia Barnes said going to the Sweet Sixteen with Aari McDonald, Sam Thomas and Cate Reese means a lot because they believed in Arizona when no one else did.
“Those players came here and believed in the vision, so it’s rewarding to stand there and celebrate with them.” pic.twitter.com/rRQaK2XIhs
— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) March 25, 2021
BYU’s Paisley Harding, who had 28 points in BYU’s win over Rutgers in the first round, was limited to two points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first half and missed two shots in the second half. She played only 22 minutes after taking a hard fall in the first half that may have caused a head injury.
Next up is Texas A&M sophomore Jordan Nixon, who finished with a career-high 35 points including the game-winning shot in overtime in the Aggies’ 84-82 win over Iowa State Wednesday.
The Aggies are in the Sweet 16 for the third straight tournament. They are 10 years removed from a national title.
Arizona will seek to advance to its first Elite Eight in school history.
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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.