The Arizona Wildcats captured the WNIT title Saturday, beating Northwestern 56-42 in front of the largest crowd to ever watch a Pac-12 women's basketball game.
A record 14,644 fans watched as Aari McDonald scored a game-high 19 points, earning tournament MVP honors. Freshman forward Cate Reese added 13 points and nine rebounds, and was named to the all-tournament team.
The UA announced the record attendance figure during the second half. The Wildcats had been aiming for a sellout since Wednesday night, when a then-record crowd of 10,135 packed the arena for the WNIT semifinal win over TCU.
The push to sell out McKale went viral on Friday, with coaches, former players and UA alumni voicing their support. Brooklyn Nets standout Rondae Hollis-Jefferson purchased tickets for those wanting to go.
Freshman Cate Reese said the support shows what's special about Arizona.
“I think it just shows the culture we have at UA and we all back each other,” Reese said. “I know if any other team out there was going to a National Championship we would back them, too. I think it’s great to have all the support, not only from the community, but from the teams. It means a lot for us to have that.”
The WNIT championship is Arizona's first since 1996, when Barnes — then a sophomore forward — was the Wildcats' best player.
Watch the Wildcat community wish the team good luck below:
Alumni, others rally behind women's basketball team before WNIT title game
For the first time since 1996, the Arizona women's basketball team looks to win the WNIT championship and cut down the nets at McKale Center. The Wildcats will battle Northwestern for the crown at noon Saturday.
UA had sold more than 12,000 tickets as of Friday afternoon, exceeding Wednesday's WNIT Final Four game of 10,135, which was a program record. Arizona's magical run has drawn national attention, and some of the biggest names in UA sports history showed support for head coach Adia Barnes and the Wildcats.
Here's who they are: