The Arizona women's basketball team finished off a season sweep of the Oregon Ducks on Monday night. It was the first time Arizona had swept Oregon in a decade and so long that neither school’s current coaches were with the school at the time.
The Wildcats put on a dominant performance in Eugene, Oregon to end the streak against the Ducks 79-59. They had previously won emphatically in Tucson 57-41. The best part about it all was that both games were nationally televised on ESPN, so the good exposure just kept coming.
“This is a big-time stage,” head coach Adia Barnes said. “To win in the manner that we did … I’m proud of the way we played.”
It was a big deal for the Wildcats to just get back to playing after they had been on hiatus for two weeks, having a number of games postponed during that span. They also had their Friday night game postponed due to COVID-19 issues in Oregon State’s program.
“It felt amazing,” Arizona senior Sam Thomas said. “We’ve been waiting for a while. First, we’re waiting at our home just practicing at McKale, doing what we can do. And then we’re finally excited on the plane ready to go play Oregon State. And then we had to wait, like, another four days in our hotel. We’re just sitting there watching everybody else in the Pac play. It was really tough but we’re so happy that we got to play today and on ESPN2.”
With Aari McDonald getting off to a slow start, the key for Arizona was Cate Reese. Oregon came into the game with a bigger size advantage than Arizona overall, but Reese still dominated with a variety of shots to stretch the defense and keep them guessing.
Reese came out determined to prove Oregon’s game plan about her wrong.
“They said I couldn’t shoot,” Reese said. “I took that personal.”
Reese went on to make a statement in the game by going 11-for-14 and hitting all three 3-pointers that she took. She added six rebounds, two assists and a block. Reese ended the night with 25 points, tying her season-high. She got hot from the field early and kept Arizona ahead the whole game. Unlike how some of her previous games had gone, Reese was consistent all game and didn't just explode in the first half. At halftime, she had 14 points, and then after three quarters she had 23 points in 23 minutes of game time.
McDonald still got into double-digits with 13 points, six rebounds and four assists. Thomas and Trinity Baptiste also got into double digits with 14 points and 13 points respectively, rounding out a balanced offensive attack from Arizona.
Arizona’s performance was one that showed zero rust, and you might have never guessed that they hadn’t played in two weeks.
The Wildcats shot 51% from the floor and 60% from 3-point distance while holding the Ducks to 32% from the floor and 20% from 3-point distance.
On the boards, Arizona grabbed 42 rebounds compared to Oregon’s 37 despite the Ducks having a starting front court of 6-foot-5 Nyara Sabally and 6-foot-7 Sedona Prince.
“You really just have to box them out,” Thomas said. “There’s no other way. A lot of times we’ll just try to jump with them, and that’s never gonna work against someone 6-foot-7, 6-foot-5, so we worked on boxing out. We haven’t been a great boxing or rebounding team, so that’s definitely one of our focuses.”
The rebounding effort was team-wide with Baptiste leading with seven, and McDonald, Reese and Helena Pueyo all grabbing six.
“At halftime, the coaches just told us that we weren’t being as aggressive,” Reese said. “We weren’t getting those 50-50 balls. I know I had grabbed two rebounds, and they took them out of my hand. So they just said we need to get those balls. We need to be stronger with the ball.”
A major difference for Oregon this time was the difference in turnovers. The Ducks turned the ball over 23 times which lead to 26 points for the Wildcats when they played the first time. Oregon only had six turnovers this time, but the result still didn’t change much.
With the win, the Wildcats remain tied for first place in the loss column with Stanford at 12-2 overall and 10-2 in Pac-12 play.
“Not playing for two weeks then coming down the road to Oregon, that was a little terrifying, but I thought we played really well,” Barnes said. “I thought we controlled the game, especially the first couple minutes. I thought we came out and jumped on them kind of slow in the second quarter, but then we had a really good third quarter. It was a great team effort.”
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