When Dominique McBryde — one of the key players that makes Arizona tick —went down with what looked like a right ankle injury in the second quarter, the Wildcats didn’t have to look far to find one or, in this case, two players to step up.
It was her fellow post players — Cate Reese and Semaj Smith — who took over on both sides of the court as No. 20 Arizona cruised to an 86-34 victory over Monmouth on Monday night at McKale Center.
The Wildcats are now 8-0 and have extended their win streak to 14 dating back to last season’s WNIT run.
Smith scored a career-high 15 points and grabbed six rebounds. Her previous high was nine points.
Reese had her second double-double of the season with 16 points (5 of 9 from the field) and 11 rebounds. She grabbed 10 rebound No. 10 with 2:21 left in the game.
“I was just happy because Cate really had some great left-handed moves. You saw her celebrating — we work on that every single day,” UA coach Adia Barnes said.
“I thought I think she's playing so strong. She's been extremely efficient. I challenged the team today to get to the free throw line. Cate had eight free throws. Cate's so competitive, whatever you ask of her, she's gonna go do. She reminds me a lot of me when I was a player. If Joan (former UA coach Bonvicini) would have said go tackle Kim or go run through that wall. I'm like, ‘OK.’ That's kind of how Cate is. I love to coach players like that.
“She's just finishing better. And even though everybody knows she’s going to go right — even everybody in the gym — they still can't stop her. Right. The next level for Cate is being able to go both ways. And I think she's going to be unstoppable in the post.”
With 4:06 left in the second quarter McBryde went down and was on crutches after halftime. She came down the wrong way and knew right away something was wrong. When McBryde left she had two points, one rebound and one steal.
She was the second player that the Wildcats lost to injury in the first half. Freshman Mara Mote took an awkward step and it looked like she hurt an ankle as well.
After the game Barnes said both players had sprains and should see limited time in Saturday’s game at UTEP. Yet, it’s still hard not to have McBryde on the court.
“Last year (if) Dominique went out it would have been devastating for us," Barnes said. "And it still is because Dominique is so valuable, but at least we have Sam who can play multiple positions. "We have Semaj with a little bit more experience, so it's going to be better.
"But, you don't realize how much you miss Dominique until she's not on the floor. She does so many things that don't show up in the stats sheet. She is like the point guard from the post position. Missing her is really it's a problem for us.”
After a slow first quarter — UA was up by only four — the Wildcats seemed to get used to the zone defense. Reese started the second muscling in for two points. She had a few inside hook shots and just kept overpowering her opponent.
On the defensive end, they didn’t let up.
Arizona led 41-13 at the half after outscoring the Hawks 27-3 in the second quarter. Monmouth had only three free throws in the second.
“In practice we do what we call (Coach) Salvo’s (Coppa) drill and that's where we’re going up to if they're going to shoot and our sidestep," Smith said. "I feel like that really helps a lot,. During halftime, we said that we were going to hold them to 30 points instead of 40. I feel like that picked up the intensity a lot.”
The Hawks shot only 23.1% for the game and finished with 24 turnovers, which UA turned into 33 points.
The Wildcats had five players in double figures. Aari McDonald had 19 points and three steals. Helena Pueyo chipped in 15 points, two steals and a block.
And, once again Thomas was efficient and filled the stat sheet with 10 points (4-of-6 shooting), five rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks.
Smith who played 18:43 minutes said that even though she missed her first few “chippies” her teammates kept feeding her and it gave her confidence.
“I think tonight it was her best game overall — she was finishing and rebounding,” Barnes said. “I mean 15 points, six rebounds and 18 minutes is extremely efficient. That’s what I expect from Semaj every game. That’s what she is capable of doing.”
- Arizona moved up four spots in Monday’s AP poll to No. 20. Stanford is the new No. 1 after Oregon got knocked off by Louisville this weekend. Oregon is now at No. 3 and Oregon State is No. 5 — its highest ranking ever. UCLA was at No. 11. It’s the Wildcats’ first No. 20 ranking since 2003.
- UA won seven games in November for the first time ever.
- The last time the Wildcats faced Monmouth, Barnes was playing. It was in November of 1996, and UA won 84-42 as Barnes finished with 20 points, six rebounds and six steals.
- Heading into Monday’s game, Arizona was third in the Pac-12 in attendance, averaging 5,159 people per game. They are behind the Oregon schools. Oregon is tops averaging 8,582, while Oregon State is averaging 5,642.
- Sevval Gul sat out this game as she has a concussion. She got it in practice colliding with Shaina Pellington.