Cate Reese is easygoing — to a point.
Cross a line, and the Arizona Wildcats forward will make you regret it.
Just ask the Oregon Ducks.
Reese scored 25 points Monday night as No. 10 Arizona crushed 12th-ranked Oregon 79-59. The Wildcats’ first win in Eugene in a decade ensured a regular-season sweep of Oregon, their first in 10 years.
Reese’s dominant performance came after Oregon let it be known that she couldn’t shoot.
“I just heard some stuff they were saying about me,” Reese laughed. “I took that personal.”
Reese filled up the stat sheet efficiently, going 11 of 14 from the field and hitting all three of her 3-point attempts.
“If I’m open, I’ll shoot it,” Reese said. “I think that it helps a lot just to get them guarding me outside and around the perimeter, so I could drive a little bit more. … My teammates have confidence in me to make those 3s.”
Reese’s UA teammates fed her all game. A wicked pass from a trailing Bendu Yeaney led to a first-quarter basket. A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dime from Helena Pueyo provided a third-quarter score, and a handful of spectacular hand-offs from Aari McDonald led to buckets.
“Cate dominated the game. They had a hard time guarding her inside and out,” UA coach Adia Barnes said.
Reese scored seven of the Wildcats’ first 10 points in the first quarter, then scored the first seven in the second quarter. By the time she got hot again, in the third quarter, Arizona led 60-46.
Reese is certainly capable of scoring like that on any given night. However, Monday marked just her third 20-point-or-more performance of the year.
“I think that having the time off really allowed me to look at myself and see what I needed to work on,” Reese said. “… I hadn’t been as aggressive in the past games ... I think that just having time off just to work on myself really helped.”
A balanced attack
Reese had help.
Trinity Baptiste added seven points in the first quarter, helping the Wildcats jump out to a 21-11 lead at the 2:06 mark. She finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
McDonald, Arizona’s All-American guard, finished with 13 points and four assists and grabbed six rebounds.
And the ever-efficient Sam Thomas scored 14 points 4-of-7 shooting. She hit back-to-back 3s in the fourth quarter to extend the Wildcats’ lead to 18 points. Thomas finished 3 of 5 from beyond the arc.
The Wildcats shot 50.8% from the field and 60% from 3-point range, their best long-range shooting performance of the year. The only game that came close a Jan. 17 win over Oregon State, when they shot 52.6%.
“I think we really took them out of their rhythm,” Barnes said. “I’m proud of the way we played. I mean, to come to Oregon to shoot 51% from the field and 60% from the 3, I think it’s this is a really good win. I think we did a good job today.”
The Wildcats’ defense was on point as well. Thomas finished with four rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Bendu Yeaney finished with two blocks.
Oregon shot 32.4% from the field and just 20% from the 3-point line. The Wildcats out-rebounded the taller Ducks 25-15 in the first half, and finished with a 42-37 advantage.
“You really have to box them out,” Thomas said. “There is no other way. A lot of times we’ll just try to jump with them and that’s never going to work against someone 6-7, 6-5. So, we are working on boxing out.”
A big step forward
Seventeen days is a long time between games. While Barnes was a little nervous to see how her team would respond, it didn’t take long to see the improvement on offense.
“We were working a lot on sharing the ball and I was able to see that carry over the game today, which I’m happy about because our offense had to get better,” Barnes said Monday night. “Seventeen assists is good for us — sharing the ball.
“Aari did a tremendous job of running her team. She knew Cate was hot. She was running sets to get the ball to Cate. She knew Trinity had mismatches, running it there. She was posting up Sam. I thought she did a really good job at balancing. I thought Shaina (Pellington) came in ran the 1 (position), enabled Aari to go to the 2 (position) and still continued to run the right offenses. It’s showing me that we’re growing as a team. We had to had to improve our offense to win games.”
- Arizona improved to 2-0 this year on the ESPN family of networks. “To come here and win in a manner we did on ESPN for the second time, I’m proud of our players,” Barnes said. “These are those big stage games that kind of show you where you’re at, tell you a lot about your team. We’re getting better. We’re getting better at the right time. I’m proud of us. Oregon is a very good team.”
- Thomas and McDonald have been named candidates for the Senior CLASS award. Arizona is one of two schools with more than one player on the list; Mercer is the other. UNLV’s Bailey Thomas, Sam Thomas’ older sister, is also up for the honor.
- McDonald was named to the Naismith Trophy’s midseason watch list for the best player in the nation. McDonald is averaging 18.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.4 steals per game. She extended consecutive games in double figures run to 80, the longest active streak in the nation.
- Yeaney left Monday’s game with a tweaked shoulder after bumping into an Oregon player on a screen. Yeaney is expected to play Friday against Washington State.
- Former Wildcats forward Sevval Gul has transferred to Saint Louis.