Aari McDonald reaches scoring milestone, Arizona trounces USC in Pac-12 tourney 76-48

LAS VEGAS – With the chance to snap a four-game skid and advance in the Pac-12 tournament, the No. 8-seeded Arizona Wildcats (18-12) showed no mercy in a 76-48 rout of the No. 9 seed, USC, Thursday afternoon. The first round game gave third-year head coach Adia Barnes her first win in the conference tournament

“We came out with a level of intensity that I expected from this team,” Barnes said about the dominant win.

In addition, Arizona is peaking at the perfect time.

“We’re playing our best basketball,” Barnes said. “And we came out, and we always say punch first, and I think we did that. And we also know that USC is a very good team. They’re coached very well. They have very good players, and we didn’t overlook them by any means. We knew we had to play a good game to win, and I thought we played a good game for about 30 minutes today.”

Led by redshirt sophomore guard Aari McDonald and freshman forward Cate Reese, the Wildcats kept the pedal to the metal for the duration of the first half, outscoring the Trojans 21-14 in the first quarter and 23-7 in the second.

The Trojans could not find the basket, especially in the second period when they shot a measly 6.3 percent from the floor (1-of-16) while the Wildcats made 60 percent of their field goals in the same period. At the half, Arizona led 44-21.

USC showed some signs of life in the third quarter, but the effort to gain ground was futile as the Trojans could do no more than trade baskets with their opponent. With a fourth quarter in which Arizona outscored USC 16-12, the game went into the record books for Arizona. The 28-point victory is the largest in conference tournament history for the Wildcats.

Overall, Arizona shot 57percent from the field and held the Trojans to 26 percent shooting. In addition, they outscored USC 40-20 in the paint.

McDonald, who scored 19 points, reach the 1,000-point career mark in the game. She also dished out four assists and collected four rebounds. Reese also had 19 points, along with 11 rebounds for a double-double. Senior forward Tee Tee Starks contributed 14 points while sophomore forward Sam Thomas added 10.

Senior guard Mariya Moore scored 12 points for USC and junior forward Kayla Overbeck added 11 and five rebounds.

With the win, Arizona is set to face top-seeded Oregon in the quarterfinals on Friday at 2 p.m. PT. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.

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