The Arizona women’s basketball team won its eighth consecutive game as the Wildcats cruised to a 62-40 win over UTEP on Monday night at McKale Center.
Despite a worry-free night from the Wildcats, the UA was outrebounded 36-31 and had only four bench points.
“For everybody, it wasn’t their best game,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “The low points of the game was our rebounding, giving up offensive rebounds in the third quarter, not executing and kind of stalling the ball, those were things we did not do a good job of tonight.”
While the Wildcats struggled in certain categories, they found their groove offensively as four players contributed double-figure scoring. Sophomore guard Aari McDonald finished the night with a near double-double, with 15 points and a season-high nine assists.
Forward Sam Thomas recorded 14 points and made 4 of 7 shots from 3-point range. Thomas has scored in double figures over the last three games and has averaged 14 points in that span.
“I’ve been working on my shot a lot more in practice and outside of practice, so it’s making it easier for me to read the defense so when they close hard because they want me to shoot, I can drive or if they give me space off me, I can shoot the ball,” Thomas said.
Sam Thomas and Lucia Alonso were 🔥 in Arizona’s win over UTEP, knocking down five 3-pointers in the second quarter. Here is Thomas and Alonso after the game: pic.twitter.com/pAzeCUEUuo— The Wildcaster (@TheWildcaster) December 18, 2018
The Wildcats jumped out to a 15-8 lead after the first quarter and forced UTEP to commit eight turnovers. The UA was active on the offensive glass and grabbed seven second-chance points off five offensive rebounds. The backcourt of McDonald and Lucia Alonso each had four points at the end of the first quarter to lead the Wildcats.
Arizona shot 25 percent from 3-point range in the first quarter. Heading into Monday’s game, the Wildcats were shooting 32.9 percent from beyond the arc.
Three-point shooting wasn’t an issue for the Wildcats in the second quarter.
The Wildcats made 6 of 11 3-point shots — 54.5 percent — with Alonso and sophomore Sam Thomas leading the charge. Thomas and Alonso went 5 of 5 combined from 3-point range, and Arizona held a 38-17 advantage heading into the halftime break.
“Lucia got hot first and started the rhythm for the team so everyone else could follow along,” Thomas said.
However, Barnes thought the Wildcats “settled” for shots in the second half, but Arizona’s defense forced 23 turnovers, which turned into 23 points compared to UTEP’s five.
UTEP shot 23.1 percent from the field and was held to six points in the third quarter. The Miners also went scoreless in the final 4:23 of the third quarter and Arizona led 50-23 heading into the final period.
Although UTEP was held to single-digit scoring in the first three quarters, the Miners went on a 12-0 run in the final five minutes to end the game.
The Wildcats advanced to 9-1 on the season and will wrap up their nonconference schedule against Northern Arizona at McKale at 6:30 p.m. Friday before opening up Pac-12 play against ASU on Dec. 30.
“It was really important to get this win no matter how ugly it was, and it’s really important to focus on Friday, because it’s going to be a long break if we lost,” Barnes said.