One of the best players, men or women, to play the game, Ann Meyers Drysdale, went to Twitter to comment on how much she appreciated Arizona coach Adia Barnes and guard Aari McDonald after their convincing Sweet 16 win over Texas A&M on Saturday.
— Ann Meyers Drysdale (@AnnMeyers) March 28, 2021
The comment by the legend comes a year after McDonald earned a prestigious offensive award with her name on it — the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award, given to the top shooting guard in the country by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
McDonald had a season-high 31 points in the 74-59 win over Texas A&M in the Sweet 16 game at the Alamodome in San Antonio. She was just as dominant defensively helping to keep Jordan Nixon to three points after she had a career-high 35 and the buzzer-beating shot in the overtime win over Iowa State on Wednesday.
McDonald also had two steals to put her alone at No. 5 on Arizona’s career list with 230. She has amassed that total in only 90 games over three years with the Wildcats after transferring to Arizona from Washington in 2017. Barnes is at No. 4 with 256 steals over her four-year career that encompassed 121 games.
Dee-Dee Wheeler has the record of 304 steals in 124 games, an average of 2.5 a game. Based on her rate, if she played 124 games, McDonald would tally 317.
Arizona’s legendary guard Steve Kerr tweeted this reaction:
BEAR DOWN!!!!! @ArizonaWBB LET’S GOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!
— Steve Kerr (@SteveKerr) March 28, 2021
Damon Stoudamire knows what it takes to get to a Final Four:
And another one!
— Damon Stoudamire (@Iambiggie503) March 28, 2021
Pac-12 Networks analyst Matt Muehlebach can take his unbiased cap off for this one:
— matt muehlebach (@mattmuehlebach) March 28, 2021
Mike Candrea knows a winner when he sees one:
Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea knows a thing or two about winning in the postseason & he says Adia Barnes’ women’s basketball team is “destined” right now after its Sweet 16 win tonight.
He’s also counting on Jedd Fisch to make things happen for the football team as well. pic.twitter.com/9cmaF8EMxR
— Matt Moreno (@MattGOAZCATS) March 28, 2021
Legendary head coach Joan Bonvicini:
— Joan Bonvicini (@CoachBonvicini) March 28, 2021
Arizona’s first Sweet 16 team of 1997-98 take pride in Elite Eight achievement
Members of Arizona’s previous Sweet 16 of 1997-98 also commented with pride about the Wildcats achieving their first Elite Eight appearance in program history.
Lisa Griffith, a starting guard with the 1997-98 team, had this reaction of Barnes, her former teammate, coaching Arizona to the historic win over Texas A&M:
— lisa griffith (@coachgriff3) March 28, 2021
Mikko Giordano, a forward with the Wildcats 23 years ago, mentioned, “Glad we could start something and leave some kind of legacy. And so glad that this year’s team has surpassed us and made U of A history.”
Cha-Ron Walker-Harris, another forward on that team, tweeted this reaction:
— Cha-Ron (@Cha33Cha) March 28, 2021
Much like Kerr and Sean Elliott deserved a piece of the men’s NCAA title in 1996-97, the women’s team in 1997-98 and others that helped Joan Bonvicini establish the program in the 1990’s and early 2000’s should receive credit as well.
Rounding out Arizona’s 1997-98 Sweet 16 team “Where are they now?” series. Impressive what members of the historic team are doing now with some in the medicine field and others successful businesswomen and coaches. Bonvicini’s staff then also achievers. https://t.co/SR36JRHQaj
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) March 27, 2021
McDonald approaching 2,000 career points
McDonald’s 31 points gives her 1,960 in her career. She is certainly capable of scoring 40 points to reach 2,000 points at Arizona in the Elite Eight game with Indiana on Monday. Achieving that mark in a potential Final Four game is more feasible.
She is only six points shy of matching Wheeler’s 1,966 points to rank No. 3 in Arizona history. Barnes (2,237 points) and Davellyn Whyte (2,059) are the only Wildcats to reach 2,000 points in a career.
Arizona Career Scoring Leaders
McDonald has 2,233 points in her career overall including 28 games with Washington in 2016-17. She is only four points from matching Barnes’ career total.
McDonald mentioned her performance against Texas A&M was the “biggest game” in her career.
“I think the Texas game was a big one,” McDonald said about her 44-point performance at Texas on Nov. 17, 2019. “I might say this (game against Texas A&M) might be No. 1. This game meant a lot. A lot was at stake.”
Arizona and Indiana storylines include Bendu Yeaney a former Hoosier
The Arizona-Indiana Elite Eight game Monday features two programs rich in men’s hoops tradition, including the Wildcats over the last 40 years with Lute Olson and Sean Miller.
The women’s programs are establishing themselves nationally with both making it to the Elite Eight for their first time in their program’s history.
“It means a lot because we haven’t been there and I think that it’s special,” Barnes said. “Both programs are really good on the men’s side and I know Arizona, the women’s side, they’ve been kind of sleeping for a long time. We kind of just woke them up the last couple of years.”
The Hoosiers and the Wildcats are also the last two WNIT champions — Indiana in 2017-18 and Arizona in 2018-19.
Bendu Yeaney played for the Hoosiers in the NCAA tournament when the Wildcats went on that run through the WNIT. She scored a season-high 17 points in the first round win over Texas and produced 10 points in the second round loss to Oregon.
“This is another game,” Yeaney said. “I know that’s my old school and I might have some old teammates on there but we’re just gonna take it as another game. We’re trying to fight for a Final Four spot so that’s all it is.”
It will be only the third meeting between the programs with the last matchup at Arizona on Dec. 12, 1999, with the Wildcats prevailing 87-70.
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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.