(Tucson, AZ) Coming into the game, the big question was “who was going to stop future WNBA player Kristine Anigwe in the post. Dominique McBryde drew the assignment to begin, but she would get help all game long.
California had won 22 of the last 23 games against the Cats.
The first few minutes both teams went toe to toe. Aari McDonald with eight points and Sam Thomas scoring five to provide the offensive spark and the Cats led 14-9 at the media break at 4:11 of the first quarter. Anigwe had only one bucket as McBryde fronted her on defense.
Coming out of the time out until the end of the quarter Arizona had a scoring spurt and led 19-13 to end the first quarter. Zona also outrebounded the Bears 9-7 on the boards.
Cal got the ball to Anigwe early in the second quarter by passing over the top when the Cats fronted her defensively and went on a 5-0 run.
McDonald lit up the Bears with drives in the lane making the shots and converting the free throws. Cate Reese got her game going while Anigwe was out due to a collision with Tee Tee Starks.
Arizona’s defense was some of the best yet this season stymying Cal’s offensive flow. Arizona at one point had a fourteen point lead. The Wildcats headed into the locker room with a somewhat surprising 33-22 lead over the 24th ranked Bears.
Arizona shot 46.4% from the field compared to Cal’s 29.2%. The Cats held their own on the boards with 15 rebounds to the Bear’s 19.
Anigwe led Cal’s scoring with eight points in the half, she averages 23 points a game. McDonald had fourteen points to pace the Wildcats.
Neither team scored until the 6:31 of the third quarter when McDonald hit a three pointer and Reese followed with a basket on the next offensive possession.
Reese came up strong with a key block on Anigwe at the 4:19 mark but couldn’t convert on the other end, but the statement was made for the young freshman.
Cats lead 38-29 at the third quarter media time out.
The Bears went on a 7-0 run out of the time put to pull within two at 38-36, but with just under a minute left in the quarter, McDonald dialed up a three from the top of the key to extend the lead back to five to lead 41-36 with one quarter to go.
Arizona only managed eight points in the third quarter and was out scored 14-8 by the Bears.
At the start of the final quarter, Cal came out and immediately started to go down low to Anigwe who scored four quick points.
Once again as she’s done all season, McDonald took control of the Cat offense and hit consecutive three point baskets. Still Zona had a tenuous lead at 48-45 midway through the quarter.
It was McDonald/Anigwe, Anigwe/McDonald down the stretch, but at the 4:19 media timeout McBryde drove right in the lane and scored falling down with a trip to the free throw line. Out of the timeout, she rolled in the free throw to put the Cats up by four 53-49.
With a chance to tie, Anigwe threw up an air ball from the top of the key to give the ball back to Arizona. The Cats didn’t convert and Cal also threw the ball away.
California finally tied the score at 53 at the 1:18 mark. McDonald was fouled on the drive and made both free throws. Zona 55-53 as the Bears called a timeout.
Cal’s shot attempt was was off and they were forced to foul McDonald off her rebound. Both teams were not in the bonus so the ball was taken out of the side. Precious seconds ticked off.
On the next inbound play for Arizona, McDonald was fouled immediately and once again sank both of her free throws to make it a two possession game 57-53 with 33 seconds left.
Lucia Alonso tied up the ball on the rebound and the possession arrow was in Arizona’s favor.
The Wildcats strategy was get the ball to McDonald to shoot free throws. She missed the first and converted the second for a 58-53 lead.
Not wanting to foul, the Cats let Cal drive the baseline to score with just 10.9 seconds left.
With McDonald back at the line, she hit both free throws as the Cats won 60-55.
Mcdonald had 22 second half points with 16 coming in the final period. This was the third consecutive game that McDonald has scored 30 or more points.
Anigwe was held to 19, four points below her average. Reece Caldwell pitched in with 13 for the Bears.
Missed free throws played a factor as California went 10-15 while the Cats were 13-15.
Arizona was in control in the entire game. The Bears only lead for 1:36 in the game and that was in the first half.
Arizona (13-2) now sets its sights for Stanford ranked #6 for a noon time tip-off on Sunday.
The hard work put in throughout the non conference and PAC-12 is producing positive results maybe sooner than expected. Brick by brick, the house is taking shape.