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Arizona WBB notebook: Preview of Arizona vs. UNC, Cate Reese’s return and more

Maddison+Conner+a+guard+on+the+Arizona+womens+basketball+team+points+in+the+direction+of+the+Wildcat+basket+after+a+teammate+steal+on+March+19+in+McKale+Center.+The+Wildcats+would+win+72-67.
Nathanial Stenchever

Maddison Conner a guard on the Arizona women’s basketball team points in the direction of the Wildcat basket after a teammate steal on March 19 in McKale Center. The Wildcats would win 72-67.

Arizona women’s basketball team defeated the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, March 19 by a score of 72-67. Arizona will face the University of North Carolina in the second round in McKale Center tonight at 7 p.m. 

Here is a preview and some other storylines from the first-round matchup heading into tonight’s game. 

Arizona vs UNC preview

Arizona should have their hands full against UNC in tonight’s game. Deja Kelly led the way for UNC with 28 points against Stephen F. Austin but also had four other players scoring in double-digits. 

UNC also dominated on the glass, grabbing 38 boards which will need to be a focus for Arizona as they got out-rebounded by UNLV 36-22 in their first round matchup. Arizona head coach Adia Barnes noted it was something the team just needs to step up and do. 

“It’s one of those things where I can’t take two hours today and work on boxing out and transition defense. It’s something at this point, you guys just want to do it and have the mindset and the mentality because to me boxing out, that’s just the mindset,” Barnes said. 

Arizona’s offense looked to be getting back on track after a 30-point game from Shaina Pellington and 16 from Cate Reese in her first game back. Sam Thomas led the way defensively with four steals and two blocks. 

“They’re very athletic. They like to score and so we know they’re a transition team. They’re going to run into as much as they can to get those transition offense. So I think we’re just going to have to stay true to ourselves, play our defense, put pressure on them. Because obviously, they’re able to hit, pull up threes; they’re three-level scorers all around on the guard,” Sam Thomas said. 

Arizona will need that consistency tonight on both ends of the floor if they want to beat UNC as the defense should be able to stay strong and work to contain the likes of Kelly and crew. 

RELATED: Arizona WBB defeats UNLV by 5 points in the first round of the NCAA Tournament

Cate Reese was excited to be back and let it show. 

Reese was the second team’s leading scorer with 16 and showed how important she is to the team. She hit Arizona’s first points of the game with a 3-pointer early in the first quarter. She was as good as ever and showed why she is such a leader on the court and emotionally for the team. 

That was highlighted by her classic stomp celebration after hitting a layup and drawing the foul. 

“That’s always the player I’ve been. I’m a very emotional player; I get hype. So I mean, that just, those plays really bring out the best in me. So that was really exciting. I mean, the three I was a little nervous shooting before practice and stuff. I wasn’t too sure how it was going to be with my shoulder and the brace. So being able to hit my first three gave me a lot of confidence,” Reese said. 

Derin Erdogan made her minutes count

Erdogan entered the game for Helena Pueyo while the team was struggling offensively and provided a much-needed spark off the bench hitting a big jumper to give the team momentum. 

“It wasn’t [Pueyo’s] night. She was a little passive when she came in, so I wanted someone to have a little bit more ball pressure, and I know what I’m going to get from [Erdogan],” Barnes said. 

Barnes also noted that Erdogan will earn more minutes and that her mindset is to constantly show why she should get minutes from her play on the court, something Thomas also noted when speaking about her in practice. 

“[Erdogan] earns her minutes every day in practice. We see her; she goes against [Pellington] every day in practice it seems like. We were confident putting [Erdogan] in,” Sam Thomas said. 

Sam Thomas couldn’t wait to see her sister on the court 

Jade Thomas entered the game in the last few minutes. Sam Thomas had just exited the game and quickly stood up, said a few words to Barnes and sat back down. 

“I was just joking around a little bit you know like ‘Oh like put me back on’ but, I mean, I wasn’t expecting to play. It was just a little joke. You know, a little sister-on-sister action we could have got for the last minute of the game, but it was all fine. I was glad to see her go in the game so she deserved that,” Sam Thomas said. 

Arizona faces UNC in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in McKale Center tonight at 7 p.m. MST. 


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