Thomas and McDonald lead Arizona to win over Washington
TUCSON, Ariz. -- If senior Sam Thomas played her final home game Sunday, she made it one to remember.
Thomas had 20 points including a career-high six 3-pointers, added a season-high seven rebounds and had three blocked shots when No. 10 Arizona ran its winning streak to six games with 75-53 victory over Washington on Sunday.
“Sam was aggressive,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. “She was looking for her shot, feeling it. We know Sam is always going to be constant and consistent on her defense. But when she is looking for her shot and she’s hitting them, we’re just a better team overall.”
Since the NCAA is allowing everyone an extra season of eligibility, Thomas could return next year as well as fellow seniors Aari McDonald and Trinity Baptiste.
None has made their decision public, although McDonald is expected to be a first round pick in the WNBA draft if she leaves school.
“I’m not sure I’ll be three-for-three,” Barnes said. “I’ll be one-for-three or two-for-three.”
McDonald had 20 points and tied a season high with eight assists, Cate Reese had 12 points and Shaina Pellington had 11 for the Wildcats (14-2, 12-2), off to their best league start in program history.
Arizona shot 55.1% from the field, 63.6% in the first half, and made nine of their first 10 3-pointers. They finished 12-of-16 from three-point range, 75%, setting a school record for three-point percentage in a game.
“My teammates always tell me to shoot the ball more, so on senior night I thought I would listen,” Thomas said.
“We knew Washington was going to play a lot of zone, many different types of zone, so we knew the threes were going to be open. I just tried to do my job and hit when my teammate fed me the ball. They kept feeding me again and again.”
Quay Miller had 13 points and nine rebounds and Haley Van Dyke had 12 points for the Huskies (5-11, 2-11), who broke an eight-game losing streak at Arizona State on Friday.
The Wildcats opened a 13-point lead in the first quarter, and Thomas’ fifth three gave them a 48-28 lead three minutes into the second half.
PLAYING POSTPONED GAMES PROBLEMATIC
Arizona has had five Pac-12 games postponed because of coronavirus issues in its program and others, including one at No. 8 UCLA, and Barnes called it unlikely that all the games will be made up.
“It is very difficult at this point in the season to make up five games,” Barnes said. “I don’t know if I want to be playing multiple weeks of three games a week. We’re just not sure what’s ahead.”
Stanford has played 17 conference games, most away from home because of Santa Clara County health restrictions since lifted. Oregon State has played only nine league games.
Moments after Arizona’s men beat Oregon State on Thursday night, McDonald was on floor taking shots. She was 24 of 78 from the field in a mini-slump the previous four games before making 6 of 13 against Washington.
“I have to keep working on my craft,” McDonald said. “It doesn’t stop. I have to find that confidence again, get in that rhythm, and I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
McDonald made two of four 3-pointers against Washington and is on pace to set the Arizona season record for three-point percentage, 32.0.
Washington could not keep up with Arizona, but it appears to have a solid group of building blocks in junior Alex Van Dyke, sophomore Miller, freshman Tameiya Sadler and redshirt freshman Nia Lowery, a four-star recruit who missed 2019-20 with a foot injury. The Huskies limited Arizona State to 35 points Friday, the fewest points by a conference opponent since 1978.
Arizona and Stanford (15-2) are the only Pac-12 teams with two conference losses, and if the Wildcats win their final three scheduled games they could claim their first outright league title, at least by winning percentage. The Wildcats and Cardinal are scheduled to play at Stanford on Feb. 22. Arizona and Stanford were co-champs in 2003-04 in Nicole Powell’s senior year with the Cardinal.
Washington plays host to Utah on Friday.
Arizona visits California on Friday.