Women's basketball picks up key win over Utah, keeps postseason hopes alive
Forward Sam Thomas (14) listens to what head coach Adia Barnes said during a brief timeout in play at the McKale Center.
Arizona women’s basketball stayed in the NCAA Tournament picture Friday night, beating the University of Utah 66-55 in McKale Center to improve to 16-8 on the season.
After suffering losses in three of their last four games, getting back in the friendly confines of Tucson helped the Wildcats succeed.
“I think it’s just the confidence back at home after getting embarrassed in Pullman – really playing bad defense,” head coach Adia Barnes said. “We had a long week, and we worked, and we worked on defense, because I know that some of it may not pay off now, but it will pay off in March, and our goal is to play in the postseason.”
In the fourth quarter, redshirt junior Dominique McBryde had nine points, helping to keep the Wildcats in front.
Redshirt sophomore Aari McDonald finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds, good for her fourth double-double on the season.
Sophomore Sam Thomas finished with 14 points, adding four blocks, two steals and two rebounds. She also shot a big 3, making it a nine-point game with about a minute left. She now has scored 14 or more points in four of the last five contests.
“I was hoping it goes in, because I knew if I missed it we were gonna have to get back on D or we were in trouble,” Thomas said with a laugh when describing her late-game 3. “So I’m just glad it went in, and that really brought up the intensity on the defense, too.”
Going into halftime, UA lead 27-22 thanks to a dominant second quarter on both sides of the ball. The ‘Cats held the Utes to just five points in the quarter and in the last three minutes of the half held them scoreless.
McDonald had herself a big first half with 15 points and six rebounds, the nation’s second-leading scorer was well on her way to a double-double.
In the third quarter, it seemed as though momentum could be shifting. The Utes went on a 7-0 run, bringing them to within one. After that, the Wildcats seemed to settle in, and finished the quarter strong, heading into the fourth with a four-point lead and eventually closed the door on the Utes.
Defensively, Arizona held the Utes to 30 percent shooting both from the field and from the three point line. They held senior Megan Huff, who had a 16 point, 13 rebound double-double the last time the teams played, to six points on 1-13 shooting.
The Wildcats will finish up their weekend on Sunday, Feb. 17, when they take on the University of Colorado at noon in McKale Center.
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