Wildcats win by 10 in opening round of WNIT
Much like the first game of the Pac-12 Tournament, Arizona women’s basketball came out and made a statement to the rest of the field in the first round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
That statement was: when the Wildcats are playing their best basketball, they are a very tough team to beat.
This was the case on Thursday night, when the ‘Cats, hosting their first postseason game since 2001, beat Idaho State 66-56.
The Wildcats opened up their regular season against Idaho State, beating them 71-46. In the first game, both redshirt sophomore Aari McDonald and freshman Cate Reese had double-doubles, with 22 points and 10 rebounds for the former and 21 and 10 for the latter.
Reese finished with an almost identical stat line as her first game against Idaho State, posting a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double. McDonald, who started off the game slowly, finished with a relatively quiet night by her standards, scoring 15 points, adding five rebounds and five assists.
“Cate had an awesome game tonight,” head coach Adia Barnes said. “She was a point away from her career high, and she really kept us going when Aari wasn’t playing her game. I think Aari was forcing a little bit, and I think she was just trying to make the game come to her and just looked a little bit tired.”
Much like that season opener, the ‘Cats dominated the Bengals from start to finish in the rematch, with the exception of a shaky third quarter.
“We didn’t have our A-game for sure. It was ugly,” Barnes said. “I think, besides the first five minutes of the game, we did not play well.”
In the first quarter, the Wildcats came out with a fire underneath them, jumping out to a quick 9-2 lead, before some sloppy possessions both offensively and defensively put the Bengals back in the game. A 9-0 run to end the quarter would put Arizona up 18-7 after 20 minutes.
Going into halftime, the ‘Cats led 38-20. Reese finished a dominant first half with 14 points and seven rebounds on 5-6 shooting, including a pair of converted and-ones. Reese came out playing the dominant post game that was expected from the McDonald’s All-American all season.
Things got a bit dicey for Arizona in the third quarter. A 13-0 run from the Bengals cut the Wildcat lead down to seven. Although they didn’t score a field goal for almost five minutes, the ‘Cats made the line, converted their free throws and found themselves up 10 entering the fourth.
In the fourth, the Wildcats would put the game away, thanks in part to a 7-0 run late in the quarter that extended their lead to 15. They would go on to win by double digits.
The announced attendance in McKale Center for the game was 3,265. For their next game, coach Barnes is shooting for more.
“I’m hoping for 5,000 fans,” she said with a smile.
With the win, the Wildcats will now play Pacific University, who advanced after beating Fresno State on Wednesday night. The game will be Sunday, March 24, at 3 p.m.
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