Women's Basketball: McDonald scores 36 as Arizona knocks off No. 24 Cal 60-55
American writer Mark Twain once said the coldest winter he ever experienced was a summer in the Bay Area.
Friday in McKale Center, the Cal women’s basketball team faced Aari McDonald and an Arizona team with an unforgiving defense that, at times, resembled the brutal winds and endlessly damp skies that are known to hang over the city by the bay year round.
Arizona knocked off Cal 60-55 to topple its second top-25 team this season, moving to 3-1 in Pac-12 play. But the Wildcats didn’t just hang around or steal a victory, they set the tone from the opening tip, all thanks to their talismanic leader and seemingly endless scorer McDonald.
She ended the night with 36 points for her third-straight 30-point performance, not only adding to her conference player of the year hopes, but also vaulting her into the national player of the year discussion after contributing 23 points in the second half of the game.
“She’s incredible,” said head coach Adia Barnes. “She’s a gamer and a competitor, and she’s still got a lot of things that she needs to work on. You’ll see a different player as a junior and a senior.”
Barnes added that she was thankful that she would "still have [McDonald] for three years.”
Cal started slow but quickly found its rhythm as it started to feed its star Kristine Anigwe, who ended the night with 19 points and 20 rebounds while being double-teamed and trapped in the post throughout the contest.
“She’s just dominant," Barnes said about the 6-foot-4 post. “It’s funny because I say we did a good job on her and then I check the stat sheet and she has 19 and 20. That’s just how good she is.”
Barnes said she believed if the team had singled Anigwe instead of double-teamed her, "she would have had 40."
“A bit of a handful” is what junior post Dominique McBryde called Anigwe with a chuckle.
“It was a team effort, and we had to everyone help out,” McBryde said.
Anigwe and McDonald took hold of their respective teams down the stretch, as they traded buckets throughout the fourth quarter as Cal continuously threatened to overcome the lead that Arizona held for 35 minutes of the game.
“We had to get stops,” McDonald said after the game. “We had to stop Anigwe and force stop-score-stops like we go over in practice.”
The Wildcats at one point had a 14-point lead and looked primed to pull away from the Berkeley-based school, but the experienced Bears clawed back in third quarter, holding Arizona to 3 of 17 shooting in the period as they methodically chipped away at the double-digit lead.
The fourth quarter was much of the same, as Arizona continued to struggle scoring, finishing the second half shooting 17 percent from the floor. McDonald once again took over, trading important buckets with Anigwe during the final few minutes as both teams looked to gain an all-important conference victory.
Arizona was able to knock its free throws down down the stretch, as McBryde’s and-one all but sealed the victory for the Wildcats.
Arizona cannot celebrate for long, as top-10 ranked Stanford comes into the McKale Center on Sunday, a true measuring-stick game that will show what kind of team Arizona can be heading into the heart of Pac-12 play.
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