(Tucson, AZ) It’s Territorial Cup time in the Old Pueblo and the opening of PAC-12 Conference play, and the fans came out in force. The announced attendance was 5,006.
The Cats came out hot and went on a 7-0 run to start the game. Aari McDonald sent a statement that, “We’re ready to Rock!”
At the media break the Cats had a an 11-6 lead on the 17th ranked Devils. Arizona hadn’t missed a shot from the field going 4-4.
Out of the timeout and at the 2:37 mark in the first quarter, ASU had tied the score at 11-11.
The Devils wanted to play physical, the Cats wanted to run.
Arizona ended the quarter on a reverse lay up from McDonald and she stole the ball on the inbounds pass and scored on a ten foot jumper at the buzzer, a four point swing. Cats up 17-13 at the break.
Zona matched ASU in toughness down in the paint even though they were giving up size on the front line. A tie up jump ball call down low at the 8:27 mark sent an early message that the Cats weren’t going to go away.
Neither team had scored in the second quarter until the 5:27 mark on a drive by Dominique McBryde to extend Arizona’s lead to 19-13.
At the second media time out, the Devils still hadn’t scored and in fact Mcdonald’s 13 points had equaled ASU’s total team score.
After some “chippy” play, Sam Thomas and Starks scored three consecutive baskets to put Arizona up 27-18. ASU followed with two free throws to close out the half, Arizona 27 ASU 20.
Arizona State had a 18-15 edge on the boards, but Zona had a 14-8 advantage in the paint scoring. The Cats were perfect from the charity stripe going 7-7. The Sun Devils had the lone three pointer in the first half.
The story of the first half was Arizona came out unintimidated and kicked the #17th ranked Devils right in the teeth.
Arizona State drew first blood to start the second half off an errant McDonald pass and took it in for a layup.
Noticeably, freshman and McDonald’s All American Cate Reese was not a factor in the game into the third quarter. She had only attempted two shots, making one.
Halfway through the third quarter both teams had scored five points apiece and the score at the media time out was a 32-25 Arizona lead.
The Cats using a little Phil Jackson “Triangle Offense” shot the ball down low to senior Destiny Graham for an easy layup. ASU immediately called time out down eleven points.
Courtney Ekmark hit a much needed three pointer out of the timeout to pull the Devils within eight points at 36-28.
Near the end of the third quarter, ASU’s point guard Reilli Richardson had Reese one on one and tried to use her speed on a drive when Reese had a smothering block as if to say, “not in my house today!”
The Cats maintained their lead 36-28 heading into the final stretch.
Early into the fourth quarter Arizona clamped down on defense causing a Sun Devil turnover and converting in transistion. The Wildcat’s defense tallied 17 ASU turnovers.
At the last media timeout Zona had a 40-31 lead thanks to McDonad’s drive in the middle as the shot clock ran out to score.
After a shot that hit the side of the backboard, McBryde cleaned up the rebound and scored off the glass on a six foot runner.
Devils point guard Richardson hit her first three at the 3:25 mark, but McDonald answered with her own three and her 24th point of the contest. After an obvious foul that wasn’t called on the Devils, McBryde sticks it in off a jump hook and the stare down was classic.
With just over a minute left all ASU had was to jack up the three pointers in vein and Zona came out with a 51-39 win.
The Cat’s big effort came off their suffocating defense that held ASU to 23% shooting and a mere 17% from beyond the arc.
The victory to start conference play and a “statement win” is another building block in place in Coach Barnes’s plan to bring back Arizona Women’s Basketball back from the dead.
Southern Arizona basketball fans should really experience this year’s team and get on the fun train to the success of the program.