Cate Reese grabs a rebound in UA’s dominant win Thursday. Reese had 19 points for the Wildcats, who next face Oregon.

LAS VEGAS — Arizona was hesitant to call its 76-48 thrashing of USC in the first round of the women’s Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday its most complete victory of the season, but it would not have been a stretch.

The No. 8 seed Wildcats shot a season-high 57.4 percent from the field, limited USC to a season-low in points on 25.8 percent shooting, and broke the game open with a 27-7 run to end the first half at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

“We always say, ‘Punch first,’ and I think we did that,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said.

Aari McDonald and Cate Reese scored 19 points apiece, Tee Tee Starks had a season-high 14 points and Sam Thomas scored 10 as the UA broke a four-game losing streak. Reese had 11 rebounds, her sixth double-double.

“We’ve played aggressive defense all year long,” said Barnes, whose team played man-to-man and a 2-3 zone. “The catalyst on defense for us is Aari and Tee Tee. You can’t teach quickness, and she (McDonald) is just a piranha on the ball.”

Arizona’s Sam Thomas, left, hopes her season will continue after the Wildcats lost in the Pac-12 quarterfinals. UA is expected to play in the WNIT. “She is one of the most underrated players,” said UA coach Adia Barnes.

It was just Arizona’s day; during a fourth-quarter timeout, Thomas, a Las Vegas native, saw her brother and sister win a hula-hoop contest.

The Wildcats (18-12) have tied the biggest one-season turnaround in program history with 12 more victories than they had a year ago, and they will get a chance to extend that mark against No. 6-ranked and top-seeded Oregon on Friday afternoon. The Ducks won 83-54 in Tucson last Friday.

“We know we need to play 40 minutes of really good basketball,” Barnes said. “But we’re very capable, and I think our team is confident and feeling good.”

The blowout gave Barnes time to rest McDonald, who played only 32 minutes, her fewest against a Pac-12 opponent. McDonald had seven assists and four rebounds. Starks had five assists and four rebounds and no turnovers in 33 minutes.

Arizona’s Tee Tee Starks drives on Cheyanne Wallace during the second half. UA shot a season-high 57.4 percent from the field in blowing out USC 76-48 in Las Vegas.

Reese scored 11 points in the second quarter, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 32 seconds remaining, as the Wildcats opened a 44-21 lead. USC made only 1 of 16 field goal attempts in the second quarter.

“They defended us well,” USC coach Mark Trakh said. “They ran their offense well. They have a kid (McDonald) who is really hard to guard, and we tried.”

Mariya Moore, who averages 13.1 points a game, led USC with 12 points but she was only 2 of 14 from the field and 1 of 8 from 3-point range while being covered by Thomas. Kayla Overbeck had 11 points.

“I just wanted to run (Moore) off the line,” Thomas said. “I was trying to do whatever I could to make her miss.”