Arizona upsets UConn, advances to 1st NCAA Tournament title game
The No. 3 seed Arizona Wildcats toppled No. 1 seed UConn 69-59 Friday night to bring the team to its first ever trip to the women’s NCAA Tournament championship game.
Aari McDonald scored 26 points in the win. It was the Pac-12 player of the year’s 92nd straight game scoring more than 10 points.
As she has done throughout the tournament, McDonald did it all for the Wildcats with slashing drives, pinpoint shooting from long range and a defensive intensity that kept UConn in check.
Arizona will now face No. 1 seed Stanford in a fight for the national title on Sunday.
“We just believed,” McDonald said. “It was that grit. We didn’t want to go home once again, and we’re proving it.”
The Wildcats dominated from the start by getting on the board first and holding the lead over the 11-time national champions through the entire first half. A 3-pointer by McDonald pushed Arizona’s lead to 12 before UConn closed the gap to 10 on two free throws to end the half.
The Huskies were unable to overcome Arizona’s lead for the rest of the game, which at one point reached 14 points in the third quarter, the largest deficit UConn faced all season.
Arizona held UConn freshman standout and first-team All-American Paige Bueckers to five points in the first half. Bueckers finished with 18 points and her 3-pointer with 1:23 left got UConn within 60-55 in the final two minutes before Arizona closed out the win with free throws. Christyn Williams led UConn (28-2) with 20 points before fouling out.
The two programs had met once before in the tournament, back in 1998 when Arizona head coach Adia Barnes was the Wildcats point guard. UConn won that matchup and now it’s Barnes and Arizona taking the next big step to a championship.
The Associated Press contributed to this report