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Aari McDonald, No. 10 Arizona earn hard-fought win over Cal

Arizona v Oregon

EUGENE, OREGON - FEBRUARY 08: Aari McDonald #2 of the Arizona Wildcats looks to pass during the first half against the Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena on February 08, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images)

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BERKELEY, Calif. — Standing at midcourt after the final buzzer, Aari McDonald took a moment before her postgame television interview to greet California players Leilani McIntosh and Michelle Onyiah with handshakes and hugs of support.

McDonald scored 28 points and No. 10 Arizona had to earn a hard-fought victory over Cal this time on the way to its seventh straight win, beating the winless Golden Bears 59-50 on Friday.

“They played like they had nothing to lose,” McDonald said. “They gave us all they had for 40 minutes. They played like they wanted it more for almost 40 minutes. We just can’t do that. We can’t overlook opponents. I’m really proud of Cal.”

The Wildcats (15-2, 13-2 Pac-12) had beaten Cal 69-33 in Tucson on Jan. 3 - the fewest points Arizona has ever allowed to a Pac-12 opponent - but were outhustled to the boards regularly Friday as the Bears stayed in the game with effort and energy doing all the little things.

Arizona coach Adia Barnes sounded completely disgusted afterward - saying, “It was just an atrocious game” and “it’s our worst game of the season” and “I’m very disappointed, it does not feel like we won.”

“If Aari wouldn’t have been scoring and creating shots on her own we wouldn’t have won,” Barnes said, pointing to her team’s five assists on 21 field goals. “Aari had to put us on her back.”

McDonald shot 11 for 23 in Arizona’s fourth straight win since four consecutive games were postponed. Arizona closed on a 6-0 run as Cal went cold, finishing 1 for 10 without scoring over the final 2:21.

The Bears have had nine games postponed and this was their first contest since Feb. 7 after missing last weekend’s scheduled trip to face the Oregon schools.

Evelien Lutje Schipholt’s layup with 2:13 left in the third briefly put Cal ahead 38-36 - a stretch of six straight made baskets by the Bears to end the third tied at 43. They made seven straight spanning the quarters.

“We’re a lot better than we were in January,” Cal coach Charmin Smith said. “We just had certain game goals that we wanted to try to accomplish just to prove to ourselves that we’re better than the first time around.”

Dalayah Daniels scored 24 points on 9-for-13 shooting to go with 10 rebounds leading scrappy Cal (0-14, 0-11), which has just eight healthy scholarship players and former walk-on and lone senior Archer Olson adding experience in the starting lineup. Three potential starting guards were lost to season-ending injuries.

Onyiah added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Bears, who outrebounded the Wildcats 40-26 for the game. But Arizona scored 21 points off 18 Cal turnovers while committing only six of its own.

“Today, we had something else in our bones, in our blood, that we can do this,” Onyiah said. “We are a really good team, we’ve just got to prove it. And today we proved it really well.”


Arizona: The Wildcats weren’t as accurate from long range coming off a school-record for three-point field-goal percentage of 75% - 12 for 16 - in a 75-53 win against Washington last Sunday. ... Arizona has won 13 of its initial 15 conference games for the first time in school history.

California: Olson, a 6-foot guard, will be honored on senior day before Sunday’s final home game at Haas Pavilion. She is a former walk-on who earned a scholarship. ... The Bears shot 5 for 11 in the first quarter and held a 9-8 edge on the boards to stay within 18-13.


Arizona: At No. 6 Stanford on Monday night.

California: Hosts Colorado on Sunday in the team’s final home game.