The Arizona women’s basketball team was out to prove why they continue to climb the rankings Monday night as they used a complete team effort to dismantle the visiting Monmouth Hawks 86-34 at the McKale Center.
Despite only leading by four after the first quarter, Arizona never trailed in the game, picking up steam as the game progressed. The Wildcats broke away in the second quarter, outscoring the Hawks 27-3 thanks to an offense that shot 65 percent and a defensive effort that held Monmouth to just 26% shooting for the quarter and 23% for the game.
“I thought the first quarter was awful,” Arizona Head Coach Adia Barnes said. “We didn’t play well at all, we were very stagnant. The second, third and fourth quarter we were better against the zone.”
It was smooth sailing the rest of the way as five Wildcats scored in double figures on the night while shooting 53% from the field as a team. Arizona was led by 19 points and three steals from Aari McDonald and a double-double from Cate Reese, who finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Helena Pueyo and Semaj Smith finished with 15 points while Sam Thomas pitched in with 10.
Arizona’s defense made it impossible for the Hawks to even cross the halfcourt line much of the night, as they pressed full-court throughout the game. Monmouth committed 24 turnovers and shot just 23% from the field as a result of the tenacious defense, marking the sixth game this season Arizona has held an opponent to under 30% from the field.
“During halftime we said we were going to hold them to 30 points instead of 40," Smith said.
The win moves No. 20 Arizona to 8-0 on the season — the first time the 'Cats have been in the top 20 since the 2003 season, a year when they went on to make the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats last appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 2005.
The team was a player down heading into Monday’s contest as they were without forward Sevval Gul, as she was resting a concussion she suffered earlier in the week.
They may also be without their starting forward Dominique McBryde for their next contest against University of Texas at El Paso (6-1), as she exited the game during the huge run in the second quarter with what looked like an ankle injury.
“You don't realize how much you miss Dominique until she’s not on the floor,” Barnes said. "She does so many things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. She’s like the point guard from the post position.”
Smith added, “We knew we had to pick up the intensity when she went out. We tried not to dwell on it, because we’d get distracted.”
McBryde returned to the sideline on crutches following halftime, making it uncertain whether or not she’ll be available for the Arizona in their next game.
“Nothing is broken, just sprained,” Barnes said. "The good thing is we have a long week so I’m optimistic that they can play Friday but in limited minutes because I’m looking at the big picture a few weeks from now.”
The one-game road trip to El Paso, Texas, is set to tipoff at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7.
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