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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Find out what the WNIT championship meant from the players a couple months later

Griffin Riley
Coach Adia Barnes cuts the championship net after the women’s basketball team beat out Northwestern on Apr. 6 in Tucson, Ariz.

A sellout crowd of 14,644 fans packed into the McKale Center for the 2019 WNIT Championship game in what was the largest attendance for a women’s basketball game in the history of the Pac-12 Conference. It was Arizona’s 11th postseason appearance and first since 2011. 

Although the Women’s National Invitational Tournament is viewed by many as inferior to the NCAA tournament, the city of Tucson showed their support and filled the arena for one of the most historic tournament runs in program history.

“The fanbase was incredible. Being able to sell out McKale with their constant support was great,” sophomore guard Bryce Nixon said. 

Arizona hosted all six of its WNIT games last year, seeing an increase in attendance from 3,265 in the first round to a sellout crowd of 14,644 in the final game just two weeks later. The boost in attendance was bolstered by Head Coach Adia Barnes’ promotion on Twitter, where she challenged fans and students to hit an attendance goal that she set for each game. Men’s Basketball Head Coach Sean Miller also joined in on the promotion by purchasing several tickets for the ZonaZoo student section to further encourage the city-wide engagement. 

But the support of women’s basketball didn’t stop after the final game back in April. Since then, the school has sold close to 3,000 season tickets for the upcoming season, the most sold since the program launched almost 50 years ago.

Despite the accomplishment of bringing home the program’s second-ever trophy, the players and coaches say the team has moved on and set higher goals for this season. 

“We want more,” Barnes said. “I think we’re very happy about the WNIT, but if we went to another WNIT this year, it would be a failure.”

Returning senior Tee Tee Starks also said the WNIT is not the ceiling for this team. 

“We’re striving for more this year,” Starks said. “… It was a great accomplishment, but we want to go to the big dance. We want to go to the NCAA tournament.”

Winning the WNIT has also attracted the attention of some high-level recruits across the country. Just last September, Arizona hauled in five-star athlete Lauren Ware, who is the No. 22-ranked prospect in the nation according to ESPN. Ware is a 6-foot-3 center from Bismark, N.D. and was the 2018 and 2019 North Dakota Player of the Year. Ware is the third top-100 player to play for the Wildcats in the Adia Barnes era, as the commitment is sure to bring in more top-rated players. 

Arizona’s season opener is Tuesday, Nov. 5, against North Dakota at 6:30 p.m. in the McKale Center. 

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