The Arizona Wildcats sent a nine-player roster to the floor at McKale Center and beat Incarnate Word 84-42 on Tuesday night.
The Wildcats suffered a blow earlier in the day when four-star forward Shalyse Smith, who was the first to commit to Arizona in the class of 2018, announced she would transfer from UA — a decision made possible by a new NCAA rule that allows players to transfer after October without having to ask their current school permission.
The news came a week after Kiana Barkhoff asked for a transfer to be closer to her home in Florida. During the offseason, Sammy Fatkin and Marlee Kyles decided to leave the UA and Valeria Trucco opted to go pro instead of joining the Wildcats.
Even though the roster has dwindled from 15, coach Adia Barnes isn’t too worried about it.
“I feel good,” Barnes said. “I think, you know, when you’re a player and there’s nine players, you should be happy because you can play through your mistakes and people are going to get playing time.”
The Wildcats’ previous four wins have each came by a minimum of 22 points, with two wins of 30 points or more. Tuesday was no different, even with Destiny Graham sitting out with a concussion.
Friday’s 41-point win over South Carolina State was the largest margin of victory since Nov. 11, 2011, when Arizona beat Georgia Southern by 42.
The Wildcats matched that Tuesday.
The Incarnate Word Cardinals’ loss was their seventh straight, but even though Arizona was facing a winless team, Aari McDonald said the Wildcats took a “take no prisoners” approach.
“We treat every game the same,” McDonald said. “We can’t underestimate our opponents. We’ve just got to go out and do what we are supposed to do — execute the game plan.”
Arizona came out of the gate hot. The Wildcats forced five turnovers within the first four minutes of play — they would end the first quarter with six — and were led offensively by Lucia Alonso, who was 4 for 4 on 3-pointers.
In the second quarter, Arizona held Incarnate Word to 14.4 percent shooting from the field. By halftime, the Wildcats led 43-23.
Shortly after the third quarter started, Alonso took an elbow to the face on a defensive transition. The injury forced Alonso to sit out the majority of the third quarter with an ice bag to her face. The Wildcats were still able to go on a 12-2 run with Alonso on the bench.
Had it not been for the mid-game injury, Alonso believes she could have helped contribute more. Still, the junior guard finished with 14 points — all from the first half.
“Maybe,” Alonso said, “I was scared because my nose really hurt.”
Cate Reese ended the game with a double-double, her third of the season, with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Entering Tuesday’s game, Reese was one of nine players in the country to have a perfect 1.000 mark from the line. The freshman wasn’t able to maintain the perfect streak and instead finished 2 for 4 on free throws for the night.
McDonald proved once again why she’s tied for most points in the nation. McDonald averaged 26.6 points in the first five games of the season and added 24 points Tuesday, even on 7 for 19 shooting from the field and 1 for 6 shooting on 3s.
“It wasn’t her night,” Barnes said. “For Aari to have a bad night and have 24 points in (29) minutes and then get fouled seven times, she still affects the game.”