Arizona Women's Basketball

Barnes achieves 100th career win on night of McDonald’s Ring of Honor celebration


Arizona returned to playing a game Friday night after a three-week layoff due to two COVID-19 postponements and a cancellation, and while the Wildcats had some rough stretches with Shaina Pellington out of the starting lineup, they did not look altogether rusty.

The fourth-ranked Wildcats (11-0, 1-0 Pac-12) had to be on top of their game on this night as much as possible with Adia Barnes going for career win No. 100 on a night capped by a Ring of Honor presentation of Arizona’s three-time All-American Aari McDonald following the game.

Arizona, which uncharacteristically had 15 turnovers, weathered Washington State rallies in the second and fourth quarters to pull out the 60-52 victory in front of 7,378 fans.

McDonald, who led Arizona to its first national championship game appearance in April, told the crowd of the honor, “Thank you for all the love for our team. We know it took a while to rebuild but we thank you guys so much. I’m forever in debt of Tucson and the fans. Thank you.”

Adia Barnes speaks to the McKale Center crowd during Aari McDonald’s Ring of Honor ceremony (Arizona Athletics photo)

Barnes reflected on winning only six games her second season (2017-18), the year McDonald had to sit after arriving from Washington because of NCAA transfer rules. Thinking back to those days make it seem surreal that she can reach 100 wins only four years later. She was 20-40 after her first two years and is 80-26 since.

“I knew we’d be good but did I think that Year Five we would be in the national championship? Absolutely not,” Barnes said. “Aari can talk about the culture change. I thought it would take more time. I thought we’d be good because of players like her.”

Barnes looked at McDonald next to her during the postgame press conference and smiled.

McDonald mentioned that Barnes is “creating history herself” by winning her 100th game in only her 166th game as coach at her alma mater. She is the fastest to reach that mark in women’s basketball at the school. Joan Bonvicini reached win No. 100 in 181 games.

Barnes is only 16 games off Lute Olson’s pace. He earned his 100th win in his fifth season when Arizona reached the Final Four first time in 1987-88. He was 100-50 after, ironically, a victory over Washington State at McKale Center on March 3, 1988.

In terms of historic achievements, sooner or later (perhaps very soon), a women’s basketball jersey will be retired at McKale Center other than the late, great Shawntinice Polk. It should not be too long that Arizona fans see McDonald’s No. 2 up there.

“She means a lot to this program; without her, we wouldn’t be where we are,” Barnes said of McDonald. “If she meets the criteria (for jersey retirement), which I think she would, I’ll push for that. She could have a statue. There’s just a lot of stuff I would push for her because she deserves it. She came here and she put Arizona on the map.

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Pellington was not in the starting lineup and did not attend the game for an undisclosed reason.

Barnes said afterward that Pellington is “just out” and noted that the program will have to prepare for a time when players might fall under COVID-19 protocol, although she did not state specifically that Pellington was not in attendance for that reason.

“She’s just out; she’s gonna be out for a couple more days, but possibly back on Sunday (at USC),” Barnes said.

She later added, “Unfortunately, (COVID-19 protocol) is our new reality, and we’re probably going to go into most weekends without a player. That’s just what it is. But we’re a good team, so people have to be prepared when the opportunity comes.”

Helena Pueyo, who led Arizona in assists and steals heading into the game, started in Pellington’s place. In only the second start of her career, the three-year player finished with 12 points and two assists and no turnovers in 36 minutes.

“I saw her handle the ball with poise,” Barnes said. “She found out last second yesterday (Thursday). ‘Hey, you’re going to be the starting point guard.’ It’s an adjustment and it’s hard.

“It’s a team (Washington State) that they kind of full-court press you and put a little pressure. So it’s not an easy game. It’s not like they sat in the half court. I asked her to do a lot. I thought she did a great job of stepping up to the plate with zero turnovers as a point guard.”

Lauren Ware was also not in uniform but sat on the bench. Ware, who suffered a dislocated left knee against North Dakota State on Dec. 9, walked under her power without the use of crutches. When she can return is undetermined.

Arizona withstood Washington State’s charge that included a 12-4 run culminating on Charlisse Leger-Walker’s 3-pointer with 48 seconds left to cut the lead to 54-52.

It was Leger-Walker’s first 3-pointer after seven failed attempts.

Leger-Walker finished with only seven points, 10 points shy of her scoring average. She was 3 of 13 from the field, 1 of 8 from 3-point range, with five turnovers.

Arizona switched defenders on her, including Pueyo, who is a couple of inches taller at 6-foot, but Sam Thomas took on most of the defensive responsibility and shut her down.

“Sam is always put on probably one of the best players out of the guards,” Cate Reese said. “I mean, that’s just what she’s known for. She’s a defensive stopper, and I think that that’s nothing new for her again.

“She’s even better than she was in the previous years. I think she’s just extremely confident and she prides herself on her defense.”

After Leger-Walker’s 3-pointer with 48 seconds left, Arizona was setting up its halfcourt offense when Washington State coach Kamie Ethridge was whistled for a technical foul after Thomas was fouled.

Thomas went to the line for four shots with 41.7 seconds left. She made three of the four free throws to put the Wildcats ahead 57-52.

Reese followed with a jump shot with 26 seconds left to seal the win putting Arizona up by three possessions. She finished with 20 points and seven rebounds while cracking Arizona’s top 10 scoring list.

She now has 1,306 points in her career.

“It’s a great honor,” Reese said. “I didn’t even know I was close to that, so it’s kind of nice to see that. I’m sure my parents are extremely happy about it. I mean it’s great. I came to Arizona to be an impact player to leave a legacy and I think that I’m doing that.”

Thomas had eight points, six rebounds and a career-high eight assists. She eclipsed her previous recored of seven assists set at Utah State when she was a freshman in 2017-18.

Arizona took a 13-5 lead into the second quarter after limiting the Cougars to 2-of-12 shooting from the field, including 0 of 3 from 3-point range, in the first quarter.

The Cougars (9-5, 1-2) also committed seven turnovers.

The teams reversed roles in the second quarter.

Arizona made 4 of 12 shots from the field and committed four turnovers that led to 10 points for the Cougars.

Washington State made 7 of 12 shots in the second quarter, led by Johanna Teder’s eight points on 3 of 4 shooting, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range.

Reese had nine points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field in the first half. Her teammates were a combined 5 of 15.

Arizona outscored Washington State 23-7 in the third quarter behind Pueyo’s two 3-pointers and Thomas’ five points and three assists. Copeland also had four defensive rebounds in the quarter.

The Cougars held Arizona to 28.6 percent shooting from the field in the fourth quarter in their late rally.

Washington State post player Bella Murekatate, who had 11 points and four rebounds, fouled out with 56 seconds left, right before the sequence when Ethridge was assessed her technical foul.

Arizona next plays at USC on Sunday in a rescheduled game originally slated for New Year’s Eve but the game was forced to be postponed because of COVID-19 protocol within the Trojans’ program.

Arizona Career Scoring Leaders

 PlayerYearsGamesPoints
1.Adia Barnes1994-981212,237
2.Davellyn Whyte2009-131262,059
3.Aari McDonald2018-21932,041
4.Dee-Dee Wheeler2001-051241,966
5.Ify Ibekwe2007-111161,653
6.Elizabeth Pickney1999-021211,620
7.Shawntinice Polk2003-05941,467
8.Ashley Whisonant2005-081221.451
9.Cate Reese2018-221071,335
10.Timi Brown1987-911141,315

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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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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