Arizona Women's Basketball

NOTES: Alyssa Brown’s return to Tucson with UNLV “means so much she’s coming home”

Tucson and Las Vegas are only a 6 1/2-hour drive or one-hour flight apart, which means many involved with the UNLV program will be at McKale Center on Saturday when Arizona hosts the Rebels in a first round game of the NCAA tournament.

One family and school will just drive across town to see one of their own.

Sahuaro great Alyssa Brown is a freshman forward with the Rebels.

“I’m so excited for her and the whole team,” said Brown’s mom Lisa Moore, a former Tucson High standout whose father Gene Moore played at Arizona under Bruce Larson and Fred Snowden.

“It means so much that she’s coming home and my mom, her grandma, can watch the team play in person. She has watched all the games on TV. I know she’s played at McKale all through high school (during the MLK Classic) but now is a even bigger stage, a bigger dance another step in her journey.”

Sahuaro graduate Alyssa Brown (standing) reacts to UNLV’s selection to play Arizona at McKale Center on Saturday. Khayla Rooks, daughter of Arizona great Sean Rooks, is at the left of this photo (UNLV photo)

Brown was a four-year starter for coach Steve Botkin at Sahuaro, where she tallied 2,680 career points from 2017-21. That is second in the state’s history behind 2,913 scored by Julie Brase at Catalina Foothills from 1994-98.

“I’m really excited for Alyssa,” Botkin said. “The first time UNLV has been to the tournament since 2002 and won 26 games this year is amazing all in itself. It will be fun for Alyssa to come back to Tucson and play at McKale, where her grandfather played.”

Botkin added that he will be in attendance. Many of Brown’s Sahuaro teammates and friends are also expected to be at McKale.

Arizona, the No. 4 seed, is 20-7 while UNLV, the No. 13 seed, is 26-6 and champions of the Mountain West regular reason and conference tournament.

No. 5 North Carolina (23-6) will play No. 12 Stephen F. Austin (20-4) in the other first-round game Saturday.

Tipoff times have yet to be announced.

Adia Barnes comments on UNLV, Cate Reese, hosting at McKale and No. 1 overall seed South Carolina in the Greensboro bracket

On UNLV coach Lindy La Rocque and Sam Thomas‘ sister Jade with UNLV …

On selling out McKale …

On Cate Reese …

On South Carolina and Dawn Staley …

Adia Barnes played the first time Arizona hosted the NCAA tournament in 1997-98

Arizona has hosted the NCAA tournament first and second rounds before — when Barnes was a senior in 1997-98.

The Wildcats, coached by Joan Bonvicini, advanced to the Sweet 16 after Barnes scored 30 points and had 10 rebounds in a 94-77 win over Virginia on March 15, 1998. A crowd of 4,693 attended the second round game at McKale Center. At that time, it was a record crowd at McKale.

Barnes said Sunday she does not remember that game, although she recalls going against Virginia standout DeMya Walker.

“DeMya Walker, we’re still friends; she’s coaching right now in AAU,” said Barnes, who thought that game against Virginia was on the road.

Arizona beat Santa Clara in the first-round game. The Wildcats eventually lost to UConn in the Sweet 16 at Dayton, Ohio.

La Rocque puts UNLV’s appearance in the NCAA tournament in perspective for her players

UNLV has not played in the NCAA tournament since 2002, before some of the Rebels were born.

La Rocque made it a point to get the players focused on the magnitude of March Madness.

“I had to kind of remind him at the end of practice today that there’s a lot of people that have played basketball a lot of years and have never played in the NCAA tournament,” La Rocque said. “And so to cherish this and really soak it in. It was really good to see their smiles and see that I think now it may be set in a little bit of how special it is.”

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! 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, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, 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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