The first Final Four in program history was on the line. Who on these defensive-minded teams could find their offensive groove and grab it? Arizona proved that they were the superior offensive team on a night when they only turned the Indiana Hoosiers over nine time, but went on to win 66-53.
Aari McDonald led the way once again, as she has for 91 games since she put on an Arizona jersey. She ended the night with a double-double and scored over 30 for the second straight game. Her game ended with 33 points on 12-for-20 shooting and 11 rebounds.
She also caused hearts to stop around Tucson. With 2:54 left in the game, McDonald tweaked her ankle after tripping over the foot of a Hoosier. She tried to get up, then went back to the court and covered her face with her jersey.
With the earlier game between Connecticut and Baylor decided by an injury to Baylor’s point guard (and a non-call by the officials), the thought that this one might be impacted the same way was real.
As head coach Adia Barnes and the trainer kneeled by her side, McDonald laid on the court in pain. She left, was worked on at the training table, and returned to the game.
The offense was clicking for Arizona from distance. A team much-criticized for lack of offensive production and the ability to shoot the ball hit 42.9 percent of their 3-pointers, making good on nine shots from outside.
McDonald came out hot. She had double figures in her 91st straight game after just 10 minutes on 4-for-7 shooting. Two of those buckets were 3-pointers adding to McDonald’s newfound deadly outside shot.
At the half she was up to 17 points and the Wildcats were up 27-23. Just 20 more minutes to the next step of their historical journey.
Maybe McDonald could have done it all by herself, but she did not need to. Trinity Baptiste came up big for the second time in this NCAA Tournament. Baptiste also had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. She got under the skin of a few Hoosiers, too.
Helena Pueyo did what McDonald and Adia Barnes have been begging her to do: she kept shooting even when she missed. In the fourth quarter, they started going in. Pueyo ended the night with six points and a key hit-ahead pass that led to a Bendu Yeaney layup in the final moments.
Cate Reese had just 5 points and 6 rebounds before fouling out, but set critical screens throughout the game.
The Wildcats will play UConn on Friday.
This story will be updated