One moment, like a bounce of the ball, can change the course of a game.
And in postseason tournaments, like the WNIT, a moment becomes even bigger, as it can determine the difference between continuing to play more basketball or the end of a season.
Dominique McBryde had a moment like that Sunday afternoon, as her Wildcats defeated Pacific 64-48 at McKale Center.
Arizona moves on to host Idaho (22-11) Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at McKale Center in the Round of 16 in the WNIT.
Pacific was hanging around in the third quarter, cutting the gap to three points — twice. The Wildcats just couldn’t shake the Tigers. That is, until 1:56 was left in the quarter.
Arizona was up by five points when the junior forward stepped up — well past the 3-point line — to steal the ball from Pacific’s Ameela Li. McBryde almost looked like a guard coming up with her third steal of the game. Typically, the majority of McBryde’s steals — she has 32 this season — come inside the paint by muscling the ball away from her opponent.
“She does it in practice all the time (comes out to steal the ball),” said UA coach Adia Barnes. “We can do so many different things defensively with her when she’s in the game.
“I think she does it on both ends. Even if it’s not a play it’s a solid stop — she gets a big stop or a deflection — or offensively she makes a big basket that we need. She can do it on both ends of the floor. We’re not as good without her on the floor.”
From there, the Wildcats lead kept growing. The UA’s defense held Pacific scoreless for 10 minutes across the third and fourth quarters. This is typical Arizona ball — using defense to spark the offense.
After that moment, McBryde and her teammates kept bringing it — tipping balls, altering shots and forcing wild passes and travels.
In the first two games, the Wildcats have held their opponents to under 57 points and under 38 percent shooting.
McBryde didn’t dress for Arizona’s first WNIT win, as she was the most recent Wildcat to be hit with an illness. She was happy to get back out on the court with her teammates and contribute. She was definitely missed.
“She’s one of our smartest basketball players,” said Barnes. “She’s definitely the post that can guard a versatile post. She can guard a back-to-the-basket post. So she’s very valuable and we need her to be successful and have a chance to win this tournament.”
McBryde’s importance showed in her stat line: 11 points, four rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
After the game, McBryde said she felt much better Sunday and was direct about what’s next.
“We’re not done. We have a lot more basketball to play,” she said.
A different style of play
In each of the three seasons Barnes has coached at Arizona, her scheme has evolved. She has adjusted the style to the strengths of the players. Her scheme is based on the European-style — passing a lot and reading what the defense gives — a style, once she learned, made all the difference in her playing career.
“I think in the long run it makes us better,” said Barnes. “My philosophy is, if they go under the pick and roll, you can’t do the same thing, because they are cutting it, they are doing something that affects how you read. So I think you need to read. You play it differently if they switch. You play it differently if they hedge, and that’s just knowing basketball.”
Thank you, Tucson
Sunday afternoon, it was the players’ turn to take the mic and thank their fans for coming out. Cate Reese, Aari McDonald and Destiny Graham addressed the crowd. McDonald said they were the “best fans in the country,” Reese asked everyone to bring “friends and families to the game Thursday to get 5,000 fans,” and Graham finished with, “We love you all!”
“I had them talk at the end because it was a good thing to just thank the crowd,” Barnes said. “People appreciate that when you have your best players out there saying ‘thank you, you are the best fans in America.’ I think it’s meaningful and they don’t have a problem doing it.”
Nearly 6,800 combined fans showed up for both WNIT games — giving the Wildcats the second-largest attendance for two games in the event behind Arkansas (7,628).
One of the criteria for hosting games is seats sold. So, if Arizona brings in another 3,000-plus crowd and wins Thursday, it most likely it would host the next round.
“(We want to) pack the house and make this place really hard to play in,” Barnes said. “The big thing for us is we are playing at home. So I think that’s huge. Tucson has done a great job of coming out, buying tickets and supporting us.
“Even though it was a little below 4,000 it felt like (7,000). So that is special to me because people are supporting us. ... I am happy that Tucson is really embracing us.”