No. 12 Arizona’s quick start proved to be too much, trouncing Washington State by a final score of 72-57. This game extends their home winning streak to five games against conference opponents, marking their longest streak since the 2004-05 season.
It was complete team domination. Arizona came out the gates unconscious from the field opening the game up, shooting 69% from the field and connecting on four from deep in the first quarter, going up 26-13.
The game was led by a hot start from Aari McDonald, as she torched the Cougars for 10 in the quarter, nailing two from distance.
“I fed her with the first three and usually, when she hits the first one, three more are coming back-to-back,” Sam Thomas said. “It’s really nice to have that energy from her. I just try and follow in her footsteps.”
“It starts with pregame," McDonald added. "Coach Barnes emphasized that Washington State isn’t a team you want to sleep on and you can’t let them in the game.”
Washington State was never able to recover after the route in the first, even though they managed to keep pace with the 'Cats the remaining three quarters. Borislava Hristova had a team-high 18 points for the Cougars.
Head coach Adia Barnes was worried about the contest coming in and still feels there is room for improvement.
“I was worried about this game because No. 45 and No. 11 are very good players and hard to match up with,” Barnes said. “I thought the first half … was bad defense. It wasn’t our type of defense. Second half was a little bit better. I thought we defended the three-point line well and usually we don’t defend it that well.”
Their defensive presence was felt throughout the remainder of the contest, as they finished the game with 11 steals, forcing the Cougars to shoot just 43% from the field and holding them to just one triple.
Continuing to be the defensive anchor for the 'Cats all season, Sam Thomas displayed once again why she should be considered for the Pac-12 defensive player of the year, finishing the game with 4 takeaways. She also showcased her talents on the offensive side, finishing with 18 points, drilling 3 from deep and setting a season-high in assists with 6.
“Sam was really aggressive on offense, she always plays great defense,” Barnes said when she praised the forward’s play. "In the past, she’d pass up a lot of shots. She was looking to be aggressive and that’s what I loved. That’s what we need, 'cause we are our best when she does that.”
With her 10 points in the first, the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award finalist McDonald pushed her double-digit scoring streak to 62 games, the longest active streak in the nation. She finished with a game-high 21 points, 4 assists and team-high 6 boards.
This win gives Arizona its 10th win in Pac-12 play this season, the most since the 2011 season. This also is the first time they have swept the Washington schools since that same year.
“Every game is important down the stretch, so we have to come out with energy," McDonald said. "We can’t sleep on any opponent that we’re facing.”
With just four games left in the regular season, Arizona will hit the road to play the Rocky Mountain schools on a brief two-game trip.
“It’s not going to be an easy trip, so I’m going to see what we’re made of,” Barnes said. “We feel confident about the next four games, so we need to try and win some to give ourselves a good situation for the Pac-12 tournament.”
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