Aari McDonald has said all season that she went to Arizona to do something special.
Monday night, she did exactly that, leading the Wildcats to their first-ever Women’s Final Four, as third-seeded Arizona beat fourth-seeded Indiana 66-53 in the Elite Eight in San Antonio.
McDonald, the Pac-12 player of the year and co-defensive player of the year, led Arizona with 33 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. A tremendous defender, McDonald recorded just one steal in the game, but it came at a critical time, as she took the ball away and sprinted down the floor to score — and get fouled — for what would be the final basket with 34.1 seconds to go.
After the win, McDonald shared a long embrace with Wildcats coach Adia Barnes, an Arizona alum who returned to lead her alma mater in 2016.
Arizona guard Aari McDonald (2), driving past Indiana guard Grace Berger, tallied 33 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists during their Elite Eight game. (Photo: Troy Taormina, USA TODAY Sports)
Arizona advances to play Connecticut in Friday's national semifinal. The Huskies hung on for a 69-67 win over Baylor in the night’s first Elite Eight matchup.
Neither team shot 40% from the field (39% for Arizona and 36% for Indiana) but the difference came from deep: Arizona went 9-of-21 from three-point range and Indiana went 0-of-9. Arizona also won the rebounding battle 40-33, and turned 11 offensive rebounds into 12 second chance points.
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Late in the fourth quarter, it looked like Indiana could make a run when McDonald went down with a left ankle injury. She left the game with 2:35 to go and Arizona up 57-50. But Indiana couldn’t take advantage of McDonald’s brief absence. She returned — with a freshly taped ankle — just 41 seconds later and led the Wildcats to victory.
Both schools were playing for their first trip to the Women’s Final Four and both are coming off recent WNIT championships; Arizona won it in 2019, and Indiana won in 2018. Over the weekend, both coaches talked about how special it was to make a deep NCAA Tournament run at a “basketball school,” even though both locations have long been known for their men’s basketball dominance.
Trinity Baptiste chipped in with 12 points and 10 rebounds for Arizona. Mackenzie Holmes finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and five blocks for Indiana. Grace Berger added 15 points.
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