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FOUR-EVER Head COACH ADIA BARNES, ALL-AMERICAN AARI MCDONALD and the Arizona wildcats show the nation there’s a new Women’s basketball powerhouse out west


This special edition made possible thanks to support for the Daily Wildcat from:

Posters of UA Seniors aari Mcdonald, Sam Thomas &Trinity Babtiste

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2 • The Daily Wildcat

Arizona Women’s Basketball Final Four ● Wednesday, April 7, 2021


Coach Adia Barnes helps take the Arizona women’s basketball program to the top BY JAKE FAIGUS @jake_faigus


n April 4, 2016, Arizona hired head coach Adia Barnes to lead its women’s basketball program. The program had been in a stalemate ever since Joan Bonvicini stopped coaching the team. Barnes, a player under Bonvicini, came in with a herculean task in front of her. The biggest women’s sport at the University of Arizona had historically been softball, but Barnes wanted to put the woman’s basketball program on the map. Barnes had been a member of the University of Washington’s coaching staff from 2011 to 2016 and was on staff when that program broke through and went to a Final Four. While she was at Washington, a player named Aari McDonald committed there as well. During Barnes’ first two years at Arizona, it was a struggle. The program

only won 20 total games, with only six in her second season. There were still flashes, though, that Barnes was building something. By her second year, she had secured a good mix of recruits and transfers, like McDonald and Sam Thomas, but McDonald had to sit out that year. Barnes’ third year was when a lot of things finally started to come together. Before the season even started, Barnes and her staff secured the first McDonald’s All-American in Arizona’s history, Cate Reese. The team started out hot, getting to 12-1, before stumbling a bit and finishing 17-12. They won their first game in the Pac-12 tournament before losing to Oregon. Arizona was then invited to the WNIT and rattled off six straight wins to win the WNIT championship. The team was led by a few players but mainly McDonald. She asserted herself all season, and that WNIT run was no different. The Tucson community sensed the accomplishment that was in front of them and sold out McKale Center for the championship game. Expectations were high in Barnes’ fourth year. Although McDonald was an All-Pac-12 selection the year before, she really came onto the

VOLUME 114 • ISSUE 145 • Wednesday, April 7, 2021 Editor-in-Chief Sam Burdette editor@dailywildcat.com

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scene even more this year. She was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the year and was named as a second-team All-American. The biggest team highlights from that year were a season sweep of Arizona State and a huge upset victory over Stanford. The team was destined to be an NCAA Tournament and could have been as high as a four-seed, but the COVID-19 pandemic hit and halted sports at the time. Their season ended suddenly, and they were left wondering about the next season. McDonald and Thomas decided to return and opened up the possibilities of a magical year. It was the fulfillment of Barnes’ groundwork. McDonald burst onto the national scene, and with that, brought Arizona with her. She was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year again and also won Pac-12 Player of the Year overall. After a late-year slip-up, Barnes has Arizona playing their best basketball of the season so far. Led by their tenacious defense and McDonald’s leadership, they have pulled off the unthinkable and got to the program’s first Final Four. Barnes has carefully laid the foundation for a program that will be a force to be reckoned with as long as she is there. This echoes and mirrors


News Reporters Kristijan Barnjak Ian Tisdale Briana Aguilar Hillary Schiff Annie Gao Sydney Jones Noah Cullen

Science Reporters Udbhav Venkataraman Andres Diaz Vivian Alonso Briana Aguilar Arts & Life Reporters Diana Ramos Gloria Gómez Gabriella Cobian Allison Fagan Abbie Kosoc

Tia Stephens Katiana Coste Bellah Nelson

Sports Reporters Johnnie Mitchell Jake Faigus Ryan Wohl CJ Lala Devin Homer Seth Litwin Patrick Carr Jordan White Sean Fagan Bryan Savic Enterprise Reporters Dmitri Rudakewich Grant Hoover Vic Verbalaitis

what Lute Olson did in his first five seasons with the men’s program. He got them in the Final Four in his fifth year as well. There is also the mirror of McDonald being as transcendent of a player as Sean Elliot was. Barnes has put the program on the map, and by all accounts, they are going to stay relevant based on the recruiting that she has pulled off already and the incoming recruits that she has convinced to sign. This is insanely important because Arizona now has the two most notable women’s sports on the map. These women are going to forever be immortalized in Arizona Athletics lore because they did something for the first time. I would also expect both Barnes’ and McDonald’s jerseys to join Shawntinice Polk’s in the rafters of McKale Center. It seems like it’s overdue for Barnes who was considered the best player in Arizona women’s basketball history before McDonald, and McDonald herself deserves that honor because of what she has accomplished for the program. The one-two punch of Barnes and McDonald is a force to be reckoned with and will be remembered for years to come.

Women’s Basketball Final Four Commemorative Edition

Photographers/ Multimedia Reporters Megan Ewing Chloe Hislop Nathaniel Stenchover Caitlin Claypool Emily Ellis

Opinion Writers Selena Kuikahi Geri Espinosa Andrea Moreno Lauren Borelli Aidan Rhodes Payton Toomey Sean Fagan Copy Editors Brynne Feinberg Hannah Martuscello Frances Drye

Anais Martinez Sohi Kang Design Chief Pascal Albright

KAMP Student Radio General Manager Brody Dryden gm@KAMP.arizona.edu

Business Development Gracie Munson Johnny Tackitt Ian Green Advertising Design Katie Yung UATV 3 General Manager Joseph Rogers gm@UATV.arizona.edu

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editorials represent the official opinion of the Daily Wildcat opinions board, which is determined at opinions board meetings. Opinion columns, guest commentary, cartoons, online comments and letters to the editors do not represent the opinion of the publication, but that of the author.

CORRECTIONS: Corrections or complaints concerning Daily Wildcat content should be directed to the editor-in-chief. For further information on the Daily Wildcat’s approved grievance policy, readers may contact Brett Fera, director of Arizona Student Media, in the Sherman R. Miller 3rd Newsroom at the University Services Building. NEWS TIPS: (520) 621-3193 The Daily Wildcat is always interested in story ideas and tips from readers. If you see something deserving of coverage, contact the newsroom at storyideas@dailywildcat.com or call 621-3193.

ON THE COVER: (Photo by Justin Tafoya / Courtesy NCAA)

Arizona head coach Adia Barnes and senior guiard Aari McDonald celebrate after the Wildcats’ defeated Texas A&M in the Sweet 16 of the 2021 NCAA Women’s Baskteball Tournament March 27, 2021 in San Antonio. The victory secured the program’s first-ever Elite Eight appearance. Arizona would eventually go on to the Final Four and play in the national championship game.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021 ● Arizona Women’s Basketball Final Four


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4 • The Daily Wildcat

Arizona Women’s Basketball | Final Four ● Wednesday, April 7, 2021


How they got there: A complete recap of the 2020-21 Arizona women’s basketball season BY DEVIN HOMER @DevinHomer

The Arizona women’s basketball team has had a season for the ages. The Wildcats opened up the year ranked No. 7 in the nation, the highest preseason ranking in school history. They were predicted to finish second in the Pac-12 with eight players returning from the previous season and adding six newcomers. The Wildcats opened up the season against NAU, which should have been a pretty easy game before conference play. Arizona did not play in 266 days and that showed, as they only led by six points at half-time. Once the half was over, Arizona opened it up to a double-digit lead in the third quarter, and they won the game 76-63. In the second game of the season, the Wildcats had a big matchup against No. 9 UCLA. This game was a dog fight; both teams went back and forth, but Arizona won their second game of the season 68-65 and went to 1-0 in Pac-12 play. After their big victory over a top-10 opponent, Arizona had to play its rival Arizona State. They quickly turned their rival game into a rout as they steamrolled ASU 65-37 behind their star Aari McDonald. After the game, Arizona won the next three and improved its record to 7-0 and 5-0 in the Pac-12. Arizona then faced their toughest competition of the season so far, as they faced the No. 1 team in the country Stanford. Stanford came out and showed exactly why they were No. 1 in the country, who held a 24-point lead over the Wildcats going into the half and continued it in the second half, handing Arizona its first loss of the season, 81-54. Arizona took this game personally and went back to work. The Wildcats bounced back and beat Cal big, 69-33. The problem was, their momentum died after this one game as they went to Pullman, Washington and faced Washington State. This game ended up going into overtime and Charlisse Leger-Walker hit a layup at the buzzer as time expired, giving Arizona its second loss of the season. The only consistent player was McDonald, who had 23 points and seven assists. The problem with this game was Arizona only had nine assists. Their record was then 8-2 and 6-2 in Pac-12 play. A couple of Arizona stars hit huge milestones on the same night as McDonald


ARIZONA’S SAM THOMAS FROM LEFT, Helena Pueyo, Trinity Baptiste, Bendu Yeaney and Aari McDonald celebrate on the court during the Wildcats’ 66-53 win over Indiana in the Elite Eight of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. The victory propelled the Arizona women’s baskebtall program to the first Final Four appearance in program history.

scored her 2,000 career points and Cate Reese scored her 1,000 career points in a game against Utah where they won 66-54. Arizona showed dominance over Oregon on ESPN in their season series. In their first matchup, Arizona won the game 57-41. In the second game, Arizona showed they had Oregon’s number and won by 20 points and improved their record to 12-2 and 10-2 in the Pac-12. Arizona was riding a four-game winning streak at that time as they looked to have redemption against Washington State. Arizona had a lot more focus in this game as they showed they were the better team and defeated Washington State, 60-51. The win streak had grown to seven and they faced No. 4 Stanford again. They needed to prove to everyone that they can take the next step as a team. Arizona still fell to Stanford but looked a lot better than they did in their first matchup. McDonald scored 20 points as their record was now 15-3 and 13-3 in the Pac-12. After this game, they looked to complete the sweep against Arizona State and end the regular season on a high note. The Wildcats did not look as dominant like they did in their previous matchup. The game went into

overtime and Arizona State made the right plays to knock off the No. 9 ranked Wildcats 66-64. This game ended the regular season for the Wildcats as their record was 15-4 and 13-4 in the Pac-12. Arizona finished second in the Pac-12 and had a first-round bye. In the second round of the Pac-12 tournament, Arizona faced Washington State. Earlier in the year, Arizona had split the season series against the Cougars, but both of these programs have gotten better since their previous two matchups. The Wildcats showed their growth and dominated Washington State 60-44 and looked to replicate the same game plan for their next matchup against UCLA. This game ended up being a defensive matchup as Arizona seemed like they could not get anything going, scoring under 50 points for the second time of the season. They ended up losing the game by nine points. Arizona was well represented in the Pac-12 awards, as McDonald won the Pac-12 Player of the Year and the Pac-12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year. McDonald, Reese and Sam Thomas were a part of the All-Pac-12 team. McDonald and Thomas were a part of the All-Defensive Pac-12 team. Trinity Baptiste

was a part of the All-Pac-12 honorable mention, and Lauren Ware was awarded the Pac-12 All-Freshman honorable mention. On March 15, the team piled into McKale Center, waiting for their name to be called to see their seeding in the NCAA Tournament. They ended up being the No. 3 seed in the Mercado Region and were set to face No. 14 Stony Brook. On March 18, head coach Adia Barnes signed a contract extension that would keep her with the team through the 2026 season. Arizona opened up the first round of the NCAA Tournament with a dominant showing over Stony Brook, 79-44. The Wildcats looked like they could not miss with nine players on the Wildcats’ roster registering points in the game. They were led by their secondteam All-American McDonald who scored 20 points. They then faced BYU in the Round of 32 which would be a game all about defense. Arizona went into the fourth quarter with a tie game but the Wildcats were able to make the right plays and advance to their first Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1998. They then had to face a tough Texas A&M team, who had a record of 25-2 in the regular season. Arizona looked dominant again as they opened up a double-digit lead in the second half behind, riding on the shoulders of McDonald, who scored 31 points and hit six of the Wildcats’ 13 three-pointers. Arizona then faced uncharted territory as it appeared in its first Elite Eight in program history against Indiana. McDonald looked unstoppable again in this game as she scored her tournament-high 33 points and hit five three-pointers and defeated Indiana, 66-53 to advance to their first-ever Final Four where they faced UConn on Friday, April 2. The Wildcats continued their historic run with a 69-59 win over UConn to advance to the program’s first ever championship game! Arizona led practically the whole game, defeating the Huskies 69-59 on the back of 26 points from McDonald. Arizona faced a familiar foe in Stanford in the championship game for an all-Pac-12 National Championship game. Despite what was one of the team’s worst shooting performances all season, shooting just 6-22 from three and shooting 28.8% overall, the Wildcats still battled all game and stayed in it up until the end when they lost in a heartbreaker 54-53. The Wildcats had a chance to win it on the final possession, but the Stanford defense forced McDonald to shoot a tough shot that could not find the net.

DailyWildcat.com • 5

Wednesday, April 7, 2021 ● Arizona Women’s Basketball Final Four

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6 • The Daily Wildcat

Arizona Women’s Basketball Final Four ● Wednesday, April 7, 2021


From the archive: Adia Barnes named Arizona women’s basketball head coach Editor’s Note: The Daily Wildcat first ran this story on April 5, 2016 — the day of Adia Barnes’ introductory press conference after she was hired to take over the women’s basketball program at her alma mater. BY RYAN KELAPIRE @DailyWildcat

After a month long search, the UA officially introduced Adia Barnes as its new women’s basketball head coach on Tuesday afternoon. “We spent the last month working on finding who are next leader for our women’s basketball program,” Byrne said. “We believe and we know that we have found the leader for our program that’s going to allow us to win a lot of ballgames and have a great experience for our student-athletes along the way.” Barnes, a UA alumna, was a fouryear starter for the Wildcats from 1994-1998, and is the program’s all-time leading scorer, after scoring 2,237 points in. That figure also puts her ninth on the Pac-12’s alltime scoring list. She was a threetime All-Pac-10 player too. As a senior, Barnes helped lead the program to its only Sweet Sixteen in 1998, and was the conference’s player of the year. In short, Barnes is arguably the best player in program history, but that’s not why she got the job. “What she meant to us a studentathlete – as one of the best women’s basketball players we’ve had in the history of our program – that’s not why we hired her,” Byrne said. “We hired her because she’s a great coach, we hired her because she’s a great and skilled developer, she’s wonderful in recruiting. We talked to the student-athletes that played for her, they loved her and the experience. She cared about them academically, athletically, and socially.” Since 2011, Barnes has been


on Washington’s coaching staff, serving as a player development expert and the program’s recruiting coordinator. Before her arrival, the Huskies were a bottom-feeder in the Pac12, but they’ve won 20-plus games in each of the last four seasons, including a Final Four appearance this season. “Every program goes through peaks and valleys, and I think when [I got] to Washington, that’s what it was like – we weren’t good,” Barnes said. “And we got better, and a lot of it’s a change. Maybe players respond different to different people, so I saw it at Washington – I was a part of it.” Byrne added, “One of things that stuck out to me is as where they took over Washington and where it is today, going to a Final Four, that said a lot.”

The Wildcats haven’t had a winning season since 2010-11, putting Barnes in a similar spot to when she arrived in Washington. And she’s confident she can turnaround Arizona in a similar fashion. “That’s what’s really promising about [Arizona],”she said. “Now I need to know where we need to be as a program, how the bar is set, and I know it’s possible,” she said. “Because in five years we did it [at Washington].” It doesn’t hurt that she was part of a similar turnaround when she was a player at Arizona. “We I first came here, we were not good,” Barnes said. “But then we became a Sweet Sixteen program by the time I graduated. So I’ve seen that, I’ve been a part of that. A lot of my coaching philosophy stems from first-hand

experience, because I’ve been there and done that, and I’ve changed. When I was a freshman, I was not so pleasant, but when I left, I was a leader, and it’s that transformation that’s very important to me as a coach.” The Wildcats won just 11 games in Barnes’ freshman year in 199495. But, in her final three seasons, they won 20-plus games in each and every one. However, there’s no question that Barnes has a lot of work to do to create a similar turnaround. After all, the Wildcats finished 13-19 this season, and 3-15 in the Pac12, placing them second-to-last in the conference standings. Not to mention, their roster is barren compared to the other programs in the stacked Pac-12 Conference. At the same time, though, she believes Arizona offers everything

she needs to take the program where she envisions it. “It’s a clean slate,” Barnes said. “I think that we have every resource here available to be successful. Tell me another Pac-12 school that has better facilities, so that’s easy with our job to recruit. So there’s everything here for success, now it’s just a matter of putting it in play and adding a couple of pieces, but we have the foundation here.” Barnes’ job certainly won’t be easy, but she couldn’t be happier to have it. She’s now in a position that she has always wanted to be in. “I knew long-term I did see myself one day leading this program,” she said. “I was always here, and nowhere else. This is a dream job to me.” “I’m excited for this opportunity, and I’m excited to be home here in Tucson.”

8 • The Daily Wildcat

Arizona Women’s Basketball Final Four ● Wednesday, April 7, 2021


Sam Thomas is the glue that keeps Arizona women’s basketball together BY JORDAN WHITE @Jordan_white13


very Batman needs their Robin. Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen. Shaquille O’Neal had Kobe Bryant and Penny Hardaway. Tom Brady has Rob Gronkowski. There are countless dynamic duos throughout history. For the Arizona women’s basketball team, the dynamic duo is Aari McDonald and Sam Thomas. When Thomas first got to the University of Arizona, it seemed as though she would be Batman and not Robin. In the 2017 class, Thomas was the highest-rated recruit for the Wildcats. Thomas immediately took command of the helm, becoming the team captain of the squad in the blink of an eye. That season, Thomas earned Pac-12 All-Freshman honors while leading all Pac-12 freshmen in rebounding, steals, blocks and minutes. She also finished second among freshmen in scoring. Although Thomas had a great season, the same can not be said for the team. They won just six games in the 2017-18 season and the program’s future looked bleak. In the 201819 season, however, this program’s abysmal reputation was altered by a shining light. A star was born in transfer Aari McDonald. Arizona head coach Adia Barnes, once McDonald’s head coach at the University of Washington, had convinced McDonald that a reunion in Tucson would be in their best interest. Boy was she right. McDonald would go on to lead the Wildcats in points and assists that season while also leading the team to 18 more wins. At the same time, McDonald began taking the attention away from Thomas. McDonald had become Batman, and Thomas had become Robin. Thomas was still the team captain and one of the most important players on the team. But now, the spotlight was not shining as brightly on her. But this didn’t deter her. She saw McDonald blossoming into a star not as something to be jealous of, but as a symbol of hope to lead the program into a brighter future. Knowing she can rely on McDonald to

stuff the stat sheet every game, Thomas began to find her new role on the team. Like anyone that truly knows basketball, she knew that impacting a game is not all about points and statistics. It is also about basketball I.Q. and leadership. Both of which she is able to bestow upon the rest of the team. Thomas is the glue that holds the team together. Much like Draymond Green on the Golden State Warriors. All basketball fans know Steph Curry is by far the best player on the team. However, Green is the one that brings the energy and grit to the court. He is the heart and soul of the team. This is what Thomas brings to the Wildcats. It is because of this that she was named team captain for the entirety of her career at the University of Arizona. In this current season, the team has needed Thomas’ leadership more than ever. Being a student-athlete is a grueling task. With the added pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic, many student-athletes nationwide opted out of playing. There was too much uncertainty. Will the season even happen? How many games will be played? Will there be fans? There was also the issue of whether the players would be able to see their families and friends without the risk of catching the virus. For many, these uncertainties were too much to handle, but not for the Wildcats. Through the leadership of Thomas and Barnes, as well as the phenomenal play of McDonald and the rest of the team, the Wildcats achieved a record of 20-5 this season while also going 13-4 in Pac-12 play. Thomas also achieved Pac-12 All-Defense honors as well as All-Pac-12 honorable mention. But it didn’t end there. The Wildcats found themselves in the program’s first-ever Final Four appearance against the all-time powerhouse University of Connecticut Huskies and the first-ever freshman to be named AP Player of the Year in Paige Bueckers. We all know now what happened next. From six wins to a real opportunity at winning a national championship, this is something the team should be astoundingly proud of. And Thomas has been their leader through it all. She may not be the best player on the team but you can guarantee that, without Thomas, this team would not be where it is right now.


UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA WOMEN’S basketball forward Sam Thomas and the Wildcats compete against Eastern New Mexico on Oct. 27, 2019. Arizona won the game 85-38.

10 • The Daily Wildcat

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Arizona Women’s Basketball Final Four ● Wednesday, April 7, 2021

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Arizona Women’s Basketball Final Four ● Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Wednesday, April 7, 2021 • Arizona Women’s Baskebtall Final Four

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2021 Final Four 1

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National semifInal


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THE ARIZONA WILDCATS NEVER TRAILED against historical power Connecticut in the national semifinal, Friday, April 2, 2021 in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Two days later, the game went quite differently as Arizona trailed by eight at the end of the first quarter, only to claw its way back to have a chance at a gameand championship-winning shot as time expired. The 2021 Final Four was the first in program history for the Wildcats, coached by Adia Barnes in her fifth season at the helm of her alma mater.

The Alamodome I San Antonio, Texas I April 2 & 4, 2021


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Wednesday, April 7, 2021 ● Arizona Women’s Basketball Final Four




Trinity Baptiste



forward 6’0” senior

Madison Connor


guard 5’11” freshman

Tampa, Florida

Derin Erdogan

guard 5’6” freshman

Chandler, Arizona

Istanbul, Turkey


Adia Barnes

head coach fifth season

4 22

Marta Garcia


forward 6’3” freshman

Shaina Pellington


forward 6’0” senior Las Vegas, Nevada


Lauren Ware

forward 6’5” freshman Bismarck, N. Dakota

Cate Reese

forward 6’2” junior

Palma de Mallorca, Spain



Cypress, Texas


Bendu Yeaney

guard 5’10” junior Portland, Oregon

Mara Mote

guard 5’11” soph.

Fresno, California

guard 6’0” soph.

Pickering, Ontario, Canada

Sam Thomas

Helena Pueyo

Aari McDonald guard 5’6” senior

Queensland, Australia

guard 5’8” RS junior



guard 5’10” soph.

Sevilla, Spain


Tara Manumaleuga

Salvo Coppa

Tamisha Augustin

Jackie Nared Hairston

Jessika Carrington

assistant coach second season

director of operations fourth season

Ryan Lee

Briana Felix

assistant coach fifth season

Cesis, Latvia


Semaj Smith

center 6’6” junior Long Beach, California

video coordinator fourth season

asst. coach & recruiting coord. second season

assistant coordinator fourth season

Wednesday, April 7, 2021 ● Arizona Women’s Basketball Final Four

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S T A R G N CO Wednesday, April 7, 2021 ● Arizona Women’s Basketball Final Four

Arizona Women’s Basketball!!


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Arizona Women’s Basketball Final Four ● Wednesday, April 7, 2021

20 • The Daily Wildcat


Our staff ’s favorite moments from Arizona’s evolution into a contender WNIT championship

Elite Eight win vs. Indiana




My most memorable moment from this turnaround of the Arizona women’s basketball program was the women’s NIT championship win over Northwestern a couple of seasons ago. The crowd in McKale Center that night was electric and it really felt like the true turnaround of this program, leading to the success they have had both this season and even last season prior to the cancellation of the NCAA women’s tournament. Aari McDonald, Sam Thomas and Cate Reese, who are arguably the three most important players on this year’s team, were involved in that game and I believe the continuity of the team that we have seen the last few years has played a huge part in how successful the team was this year. There were a couple of new players who have recently joined the team, but for the most part, the core that led this year’s team have all played together in this program under Adia Barnes the last couple of seasons prior to this run. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future as most, if not all of these core players will be departing, but it is safe to say that this run will help the program in the future when it comes to recruiting and bringing in new players who can help keep this program trending in the right direction.

Sweet Sixteen win over Texas A&M BY JORDAN WHITE

@Jordan_white13 Of all the memorable events that have taken place this season for the women’s basketball team, my favorite was the win in the Sweet Sixteen against the Texas A&M Aggies. The Aggies were the higher seed and favorite for most to win the game. But McDonald and the rest of the team could have cared less than what the media and fans though. They went out there and absolutely demolished the Aggies. They won 74-59 behind McDonald’s 31 points. She alone scored more than half the points the entire Aggies team scored. This was a statement win for the Wildcats and one that showed the rest of the tournament that they mean business. This team is scary because they have nothing to lose at all. Being the only team that is not a one seed in the Final Four, they are going to make waves and show the rest of the country that rankings do not matter. Just ask Texas A&M.

@DevinHomer My favorite moment of the season was their Elite Eight victory over Indiana. This was their first trip to the Elite Eight in program history and they faced a team that already knocked off the No. 1 seed in their region. This game had an intensity to it that I haven’t seen in a long time. Trinity Baptiste would go down and score on the low block and would get back on defense and start clapping in the face of Indiana’s players and Indiana would go back down and score and would stare her down. Also, the complete game that McDonald had, scoring her tournament-high 33 points and racking up 11 rebounds. The thought of a 5-foot-6 point guard to out rebound both teams is insane to think about. The heart she plays with, to go and sacrifice her body to secure rebounds is amazing to watch as a fan of the game. Then, with seconds to play in the game, the raw emotion from the players sent chills throughout my body. To see how far they have come from, from their first victory against NAU where they looked shaky, to completing a goal that they only dreamed of.


Aari McDonald drives on Texas A&M during the Wildcats’ Sweet Sixteen win March 27, 2021, in the the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.

Trinity Baptiste vs. Stony Brook One thing I value in life more than anything is hard work. I believe that you should work as hard as you can at everything you do, and you should love working hard. That is a quality perfectly exhibited in forward Baptiste. My favorite moment of the entire women’s basketball season was the team’s press conference before they played Stony Brook. I interviewed Baptiste and asked her what it meant to play in the NCAA tournament. Baptiste was excited because it is her senior year, and this will be her last shot at ever winning a title.


She was also thrilled because going to the tournament meant that she would finally not have a spring break. What she meant was that every year her team would miss out on going to the tournament, so she would be stuck at home. Baptiste was tired of sitting around every spring. While other teams from all around the country were playing for history, Baptiste talked about how she would be at home watching on her couch. Eventually, she decided that enough was enough. Baptiste wanted to be playing and working hard at winning a title. She

@SeanSoCal said she would work out harder and harder every year that she did not make the playoffs in hopes of making it one day. This spoke such volumes to me because many athletes do not have that mindset anymore. Most play for the fame, fortune and glory. Baptiste plays for the love of the game. Her passion and desire to become a champion really showed during that press conference. It also showed me that this team had the potential to go far because they have the right attitude.

DailyWildcat.com • 21

Wednesday, April 7, 2021 • Arizona Women’s Basketball Final Four


Elite Eight win vs. Indiana BY SETH LITWIN

@seth_litwin Over the past couple years, this team has had a bunch of important wins to get them to where they are now, but none more important than their Elite Eight win against Indiana. At that point it was the biggest game in program history but yet people doubted them and they seemed written off. Even throughout this whole tournament Arizona has been this dark horse team that nobody expected to be this good despite being a great team all year. When it was known they would play Indiana in the Elite Eight, there was definitely some Big-10 bias in the national media and by the broadcasters during the game. Arizona took control of that game from the opening tip and star player McDonald proved why she is one of the best players in the country. The chip on this team’s shoulder grew everyday and I couldn’t wait to see how they would perform against the big bad bully on the playground, the UConn Huskies.

Elite Eight win vs. Indiana BY BRYAN SAVIC

@bryan_savic My favorite moment of the 2020-2021 season came literally this past Monday when Arizona defeated Indiana in convincing fashion in the Elite Eight. McDonald registered her second consecutive 30-point game in dominating fashion to propel her team to a milestone victory. I was holding my breath for the entire fourth quarter because both teams couldn’t create any separation in the first three quarters of play. It was great to see them go on a big run which saw them take a 10-point lead with approximately three minutes left in the game. That is when it happened, with 2:35 remaining, McDonald went down and immediately grabbed her ankle. My heartbeat came to a screeching halt. Fearing the worse, I couldn’t help but think in the back of my mind that losing McDonald this deep into the tournament would have been bad luck a devastating blow for the team. Thankfully, the basketball gods were in San Antonio, Texas on Monday night and helped McDonald get back on her feet and finish the game strong. I completely lost it with a minute left, when she converted that wild 50/50 play for an and-one that more than sealed the Wildcats Final Four berth. I was in complete hysteria as I kept hearing Dick Vitale’s voice in my head for some reason. Arizona’s Elite Eight win over Indiana will be a day that I will never forget. To be a part of something this special is hard to put into words. This especially considering that no one had Arizona making it this far into the tournament. It makes the feeling and magnitude of this moment all that sweeter. No matter what happens over the weekend, the players and coaches have made the University of Arizona, Tucson and their loved ones proud.

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Arizona celebrates its victory over Indiana in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament on March 29, 2021 at the Alamodone in San Antonio, Texas.

Elite Eight win vs. Indiana BY JAKE FAIGUS

@jake_faigus My absolute favorite moment was the win against Indiana. There have been amazing moments leading up to this game, but the most recent one is my favorite. It’s my favorite because it was a culmination of everything that Barnes, her staff and her players were all working and striving towards. Barnes was hired in 2016 to rebuild a program that had hit rock bottom at the time. Since Barnes is an alum, she understands the significance of this moment and what it took for everyone to get to this point. The game had everything that has made Arizona great

under Barnes. The team played their hearts out, played great defense and also had a player that will never be duplicated in school history in McDonald. McDonald has been a defining player for Arizona and Barnes’ tenure, and her best game came when everything was on the line. Barnes can use this game as a recruiting tool now, and the program will be better for it. The game against Indiana signified a changing moment for the program. It sounded the alarm across the country that Arizona women’s college basketball is here, and it’s here to stay.

22 • The Daily Wildcat

Arizona Women’s Basketball Final Four ● Wednesday, April 7, 2021



JUNIOR GUARD BENDU YEANEY throws up “fours”to signify the Arizona women’s basketball team’s first Final Four berth following the third-seeded Wildcats’ 66-53 Elite Eight win over fourth-seeded Indiana on March 31, 2021 in the Alamadome in San Antonio.




DailyWildcat.com • 23

Wednesday, April 7, 2021 ● Arizona Women’s Basketball Final Four








5’6”” I senior I GuarD I FRESNO, CALIFORNIA 2021 Pac-12 Player of Year 2020 & 2021 Pac-12 Defensive PLAYER OF YEAR UA’s First-EVER FIRST-Team All-American 3 UA seasons: 21.7PPG, 5.9RPG, 4.5APG, 2.5SPG 2020 Ann meyers drysdale award (top sG) single-game UA scoring record: 44POINTS 2021 NCAA All-Tournament Team


Photo: Ana Beltran | The Daily Wildcat


6’0”” I senior I GuarD I Las Vegas, Nevada 2021 Pac-12 All-Conference team



2020 & 2021 Pac-12 All-Defensive team

arizona team captain all four seasons 2021 NCAA Elite 90 winner TOP GPA AT FINAL FOUR (3.97GPA I MAJOR: PSYCHOLOGY)

started all 125 games played for Arizona Photo: Beau Leone | The Daily Wildcat





6’0”” I Senior I FORWARD I Tampa, Florida 2020-21: Started every game for Arizona after transfer from Virginia Tech 2020-21: Arizona’s third-leading scorer 2020-21 season: 8.3PPG, 5.7RPG 2020 ACC sixth-player of year (Va.tech)


Photo: Daniel Dunn /Courtesy NCAA

Profile for Arizona Daily Wildcat

Daily Wildcat | Commemorative Edition | Final Four | Friday, March 26, 2021  

Daily Wildcat | Commemorative Edition | Final Four | Friday, March 26, 2021  

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