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'We are in the climb': A look at UArizona women's basketball's dramatic rise

Posted at 10:50 AM, Dec 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-13 15:53:21-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — For the first time in the history of women's basketball at the University of Arizona, the team is 10-0.

The Wildcats earned the record after a 77-42 victory over the 18th-ranked Tennessee State Thursday night. It's been a remarkable turnaround for the team with head coach Adia Barnes at the helm.

It started with now-senior Lucia Alonso. Barnes used her international experience to land the Spanish guard.

"Lucia, I love her," Barnes said. "I always have a special place in my heart for her. I mean, she was my first recruit here at Arizona, so she'll always have a special place in my heart."

But, as they say, the struggle was real -- a losing first season was followed by a 6-24 second season.

"I always told her, 'Don't leave. It's going to be ok. It's going to get better,'" Barnes said.

Barnes knew that Aari McDonald would be a difference-maker. McDonald had followed her from Washington as a transfer and became eligible last year. She finished third in the nation in scoring and broke Barnes' single-season scoring record at Arizona.

"Aari is awesome," Barnes said. "She's a phenomenal player changed everything. I didn't want it to just be Aari. So my j ob, and our job as a staff, is to put better players around her that want to play with Aari, and it makes Aari even better."

Enter Cate Reese -- the first McDonald's All-American in program history. Reese and McDonald helped the Wildcats to win last season's WNIT Tournament.

Throw in another recruiting class, and the Wildcats are ranked for the first time in 15 years.

"Right now, we are not in the rebuild. We are in the climb," Barnes said.