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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona WBB falls to UNC 63-45 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament

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Nathanial Stenchever

Head coach Adia Barnes of the Arizona women’s basketball team tries to think of a way to stop the high-powered University of North Carolina offense on March 21 in McKale Center. This unfortunately would be the game that would drop the Wildcats out of the Women’s Tournament as they would lose 63-45.

The Arizona women’s basketball lost to the University of North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by a score of 63-45 in McKale Center on Monday night, ending the Wildcats’ season. 

“North Carolina did a great job. They played well, they disrupted us. They really congested the paint, didn’t allow us to drive and we kind of lived and died by the 3-point shot in the first half and just couldn’t convert. So they did a really good job of just outplaying us in multiple ways,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. 

Both teams got off to a fast start on offense with Bendu Yeaney scoring the first points for Arizona on a contested layup. UNC got most of their baskets inside the paint or from the midrange. Arizona got hot from deep early with 3-pointers from Sam Thomas and Yeaney to take a 9-8 lead midway through the first quarter. 

UNC played inspired defense, holding Arizona to a 5-minute scoring drought to end the quarter and took a 14-9 heading into the second quarter. Arizona was aggressive on the glass, grabbing 12 rebounds in the first quarter after only getting 22 last game. 

Arizona could not make a shot to start the second quarter, even wide-open shots somehow bounced off and away from the rim and UNC took advantage of it in the paint, driving inside often for baskets. Halfway through the quarter, Arizona had scored 0 points while UNC took a 23-9 lead forcing a Wildcat timeout. 

After the timeout, Thomas got their first points of the quarter on a much-needed 3-point shot followed by a Cate Reese jumper to bring the game within 10 points. Lauren Ware was called for a technical foul following her block on Deja Kelly. Thomas responded with an uncontested 3-pointer and Arizona went into the half down 28-17. 

Thomas led the way for the team with 9 points, all 3-pointers on 3-5 shooting. Yeaney had 5 points and three rebounds while Ware continued to be a force on the glass, grabbing a team-high four rebounds. The Wildcats shot 6-26 (23.1%) from the field and 4-16 from the range (25%).

Shaina Pellington scored the first basket of the second half on a stop-and-go layup between defenders followed by a tough and-1 jumper to bring the score within seven points. UNC started to heat up on both sides of the ball, going on a 5-0 run forcing another Arizona timeout, extending their lead to 12 points. 

While Arizona played solid defense, the refs called several fouls against them including two quick ones on Thomas to give her four fouls late in the third. The Wildcats missed their last eight shots in the quarter and gave up a basket and foul with 1.1 on the clock. Kelly converted the free throw and UNC led 47-27 at the end of the third quarter. 

Arizona’s offensive struggles continued to start the fourth quarter but got on the board with back-to-back 3-pointers from Helena Pueyo and Gisela Sanchez. Pueyo continued to make an impact with a massive block which led to Thomas’s layup. 

Thomas’s full skillset was on display helping force multiple turnovers and getting to the hoop to cut the UNC to 14 late in the fourth. Arizona was unable to sustain their momentum down the stretch which sealed the win for UNC. Yeaney was the second-highest scorer with 10 points, three rebounds and two assists. Reese was held to 6 points and five rebounds. Ware had seven rebounds, the most on the team. 

With three seconds left and the game already decided, Barnes called a timeout.

“I was gonna get [Thomas] a standing ovation because she deserves that. [She’s an] incredible kid, incredible person, incredible young woman. She came to Arizona this introverted, shy kid that played the four. And that wasn’t heavily recruited and she left this monster defensive player, stellar academically, just a role model in every sense of the word like a role model, that’s what it is. That’s what a student-athlete is, it is [Thomas]. She gave so much to this program,” Barnes said. 

In her last game in McKale Center, Thomas led the team with 15 points and two steals before receiving her standing ovation at the end of the game. 

“I don’t think there’s words for the experience that I’ve had with my time here. I mean, it’s been anything more than I could have wished for or imagined for … These fans and this team have been everything for me,” Thomas said.

Yeaney was the second-highest scorer on the team with 10 points, three rebounds and two assists. Reese was held to 6 points and five rebounds. Ware had seven rebounds, the most boards on the team. After the final buzzer, Thomas spent time at center court with the players and gave waves and kisses to the crowd as she walked off the court one final time. 

“Exiting the court just looking at everyone in the arena, just knowing that it’s my last time actually being on the court as a Wildcat in my uniform but just knowing that I think the fans are hopefully gonna follow me,” Thomas said through tears. “A lot of them, so they’re gonna follow me in my next adventure in life and that they’re all like family to me. They just made this place a great place to be.” 


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