And then there were four: Wildcats overpower Wyoming en route to WNIT Final Four

Beau Leone | The Daily Wildcat

Aari McDonald (2) successfully drives to the lane after the Wildcats force a turnover and get ahead on the fast break. 

Playing in front of its largest crowd since 2016, Arizona women’s basketball advanced to the Final Four of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament after besting Wyoming 67-45 Sunday afternoon in their most dominant performance of the tournament, and perhaps their most dominant effort of the season.

The ‘Cats will now play Texas Christian in the WNIT semifinals, marking the first time since 1996 the team will play in a postseason semifinal game.

“We’re hungry. We look like we have a ‘We’re not gonna lose’ mentality,” head coach Adia Barnes said. “That’s the feeling I have from them. We’re playing some good basketball.”

Aari McDonald finished with 25 points, six rebounds and four assists. Cate Reese continued her strong postseason run by putting up 13 points and nine rebounds. The freshman displayed her intensity throughout the day, which was most evident after she scored while getting fouled, jumping up off the ground and flexing to her teammates.

Cate Reese (25) creates some space as she gets a nice look during the first half of play vs Wyoming on Sunday afternoon. 

“Wyoming is a great team, they have great players, but we knew that one of their weaknesses was defense, guarding us one on one,” McDonald said. “So we took advantage of that from the get-go.”

Defensively, the Wildcats held the Cowgirls to 31 percent shooting, including 2-12 from 3-point range. The Wildcats shot 47 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3.

“I think we just played some really good defense,” Barnes said. “We knew who to key in on, we were aggressive. They were having to play their offense way beyond the three point line, that’s what we intended to do.”

          RELATED: Four takeaways from Arizona’s Sweet 16 WNIT win over Idaho

The Wildcats came out on fire in the first quarter, seeming to feed off the crowd, as they jumped out to a quick 11-0 lead. Wyoming didn't score their first basket until about four minutes in, with the ‘Cats playing energized on both ends of the floor.

The second quarter was a stark contrast from the back and forth pace of the first quarter, with both teams engaging in a defensive battle, which went in Arizona’s favor. After a 7-0 run, combined with the ‘Cats holding Wyoming without a made field goal for over eight minutes, UA headed into the halftime locker room with a 26-15 lead.

In the third quarter, the Wildcats jumped out to a 20-point lead and seemed as though they were ready to put the game away. From that point, the Cowgirls would go on a 10-0 run, cutting the ‘Cats' lead in half. Arizona would slow the game down from there and, after some good defensive possessions, went into the final frame with a 42-29 lead.

The Wildcats put the finishing touches on the game in the fourth, extending their lead to as much as 26 and outscoring Wyoming 25-16 before ending with a 22-point win.

Arizona Women's Basketball draws a crowd of 7,717 on Sunday afternoon for the Elite 8 game vs Wyoming in Tucson, Arizona. 

The official attendance for the game was 7,717, which was 700 short of the record attendance for a women’s basketball game of 8,442. Barnes said they hope to break that record on Wednesday night, looking for 10,000.

“We’re getting greedy now,” she said with a laugh.

The Wildcats will host TCU on Wednesday, April 3, at 6:30 p.m.

Follow Noah Auclair on Twitter

Share this article