Wildcats give No.8 Oregon a run, but fall as Ducks clinch Pac-12 Title in McKale
The Arizona women's basketball team put up a fight late in the fourth quarter against No. 8 Oregon but Lexi Bando's back-to-back threes were too much in a 74-61 win in McKale Center as the Ducks secured the Pac-12 regular season title. The loss wraps up the regular season for Arizona at 6-23, 2-16.
Arizona was led by Sam Thomas offensively with 17 points but the combination of Bando and Pac-12 Player of the Year favorite Sabrina Ionescu was too much for the Wildcats to overcome. Throw in the dominant performance down low by Ruthy Hebard and the trio combine for 55 points, 17 rebounds and 9 assists.
"They're just so solid, they have so many weapons, they have such a complete team," Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said.
Barnes said that her team has struggled this season due to the lack of depth and lack of experience. The team features only two seniors, JaLea Bennett and Kat Wright, in an otherwise young lineup.
With the prospects of the season coming to an end next week barring a miracle run in the Pac-12 Tournament, Barnes needed only glimpse across the sideline at the model for improvement with Oregon. The Ducks were 4-27 in 2012-13 before handing the reigns over to current head coach Kelly Graves. Graves subsequently turned the Ducks into a perennial 20-win program, a path the Wildcats are trying to resemble.
"It's a similar process of growth," Barnes said. "...He (Graves) did a phenomenal job recruiting, brought that big class that I think surprised America...I do see that it's possible and for us we're going to have more weapons next year."
The Wildcats were down by as much as 19 in the 3rd quarter before storming back with a combination of Wright 3-point shots, Bennett slashes to the basket and Destiny Graham post play. Arizona cut the lead to five before Bando put the game away with her long-range shooting.
Still, it was as good a fight as Arizona has put up against a top-ranked opponent, which is something Barnes said she was very happy with despite the loss.
Arizona will head to the Pac-12 Tournament March 1-4. A loss will end their season, winning the tournament is the only way the Wildcats can make it to any other postseason play. It has yet to be determined when they will play due to the play of other games and seeding yet to be determined.
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