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Looking back at Arizona Wildcat Women's historic NCAA tournament performance

Posted at 9:19 PM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 23:19:55-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Arizona men's and women's basketball host a doubleheader to open the regular season Tuesday at McKale Center. The women have high hopes after a remarkable run through the playoffs and to the national championship game.

The Arizona women proved they were made for it last season with a 15-4 record. They finished second in the PAC-12.

Star Guard Aari McDonald led the team and earned some accolades of her own. She was named PAC-12 player of the year and co-defensive player of the year. After a semi-final loss in the PAC-12 tournament the Wildcats were a number 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Arizona dispatched Stony Brook and BYU and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1998.

"I was concerned about how we were going to come out," said head coach Adia Barnes. "Are we going to be too nervous as our first time in the tournament? This is uncharted territory. But we handled it like champs. I thought we came out just with intensity I expected and I wanted to see."

The Wildcats then dominated a strong Texas A&M team thanks to a 31-point effort from McDonald.

Arizona's first Elite Eight appearance ended with 33 from McDonald in a 13-point win over Indiana.

Up next, the Final Four and mighty UCONN. The Wildcats historic run continued with a 10-point win over the huskies.

Arizona landed in the title game against conference rival and perennial power Stanford. Despite a poor shooting night the cats still had a chance to win at the buzzer but Aari McDonald's desperation shot missed the mark.

"I'll remember most this ride," McDonald said after the loss. "We had a great run in the NCAA tournament. We accomplished a lot that many didn't think we could do. It was tough but I'm very proud of my teammates."

Ten days later, the Atlanta Dream took McDonald third overall in the WNBA draft. Senior Sam Thomas announced at the end of last season, she'd stay and play another year with Arizona. That's possible because of new rules surrounding COVID.

Cate Reese has said this year she plans to play an extra year as well.

The team played one exhibition game already this season. Tuesday is the home opener at McKale against Cal State Northridge.