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Arizona tops USC 78-77 in nail-biter at McKale Center

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Shaina Pellington drives to the basket after a crossover to shake a USC defender on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020 in Tucson, Arizona in the McKale Center. (Courtesy of Mike Christy/Arizona Athletics)

The Wildcats needed all of their game on Sunday, Dec. 6 to escape with a victory over the USC Trojans. The Wildcats were led by their star player, Aari McDonald with 30 points on 12-20 shooting, while also adding four rebounds and two assists in 39 minutes. 

Even though she battled foul trouble, Cate Reese still did her part and poured in 25 points on 8-14 shooting. 

“She was in foul trouble a lot today,” head coach Adia Barnes said. “So, I mean, she probably would have had 37 (points) otherwise.” 

Besides McDonald and Reese, the starters for Arizona were relatively quiet. Which is surprising because Arizona has one of the best starting fives in the entire country.

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The biggest surprise for Arizona was actually on the bench. Freshman Lauren Ware scored 12 points on 5-9 shooting and also got 12 rebounds to record her first double-double of her career.

Both were career-highs for Ware’s short college career so far. She also played 27 minutes, which was a career-high as well for her.

“Last year, we couldn’t go down the bench like this and have somebody come off the bench get a double-double,” McDonald said.

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The officials tried to take the spotlight from both teams during the afternoon with a flurry of whistles being called all afternoon. For Arizona, Reese, Helena Pueyo and Trinity Baptiste all ended up with four fouls, while Sam Thomas ended up with three. 

Arizona dealt with foul trouble for the second straight game against the LA schools. In the UCLA game, both of Arizona’s best players in McDonald and Reese got into early foul trouble and had to sit for most of the first half. 

The fouls were even worse for the Trojans in this game as Angel Jackson, Desiree Caldwell, Jordan Sanders, and Madison Campbell all had four fouls, while Amaya Oliver and Kyra White had three fouls. 

It’s also worth noting that USC had only seven players available for the game. Five players were out due to a variety of injuries, including last year’s Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Alissa Pili.

Adia Barnes also got candid in the postgame press conference about the current state of her team.

“We’re not as good as everybody thinks we are right now,” Barnes said. “Just to be honest, I think that we have a lot of talent, but we need to get better. Our offense is not flowing. Defensively, that was not Arizona defense. We’re not disciplined right now.”

Barnes did sound optimistic her team will be able to turn it around but she made it clear that there is still work to be done with the progression of this team.

Coach Barnes will get to see her team continue to improve as the Arizona Wildcats get a shot at the Arizona State Sun Devils in their next game on Dec. 12 when they come to Tucson before the holiday break.


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (2/28)
25 0 0.0%
Total (8/4)
194,467 4,105 2.1%
Includes tests since August 4, 2020
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated February 28, 2021