For years, the Arizona State women’s basketball program has held the upper hand over its rival down south. Consistently making the NCAA Tournament and being ranked in the AP top-25 has been a constant over Charli Turner Thorne’s two-plus decades in Tempe.
However, for the first time in a while, the Sun Devils were big underdogs when they stepped on the floor against Arizona this evening at the McKale Center. After sweeping ASU last year, the Wildcats have changed the tides.
The program beat ASU for the third consecutive meeting, with a dominating 65-37 victory. It’s the first time since 2000 that the Wildcats have won three straight games against the Sun Devils.
Ranked No. 6 in the nation and boasting preseason All-American Aari McDonald (the first in program history), Arizona head coach Adia Barnes has completely changed the culture of women’s basketball in Tucson over the last four seasons, and it’s now putting an interesting flare in the Territorial Cup rivalry. McDonald finished with a game-high 22 points while going 8-17 from the field and 5-11 from downtown.
“When you have your best player diving on the floor and taking charges, then the rest of the team does it,” Barnes said of McDonald. “I value those things and we do those things and talk about those things. Aari does those things. That’s why she’s a great leader and why she’s helped this program get to new heights.”
Since taking over in 2016, Barnes has produced two 20-plus win seasons, putting the Wildcats back on the women’s college basketball map while bringing a buzz around the program.
If not for the cancellation of last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Arizona was well on its way to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years. Arizona moves to 4-0 and 2-0 in the rugged Pac-12 with the rivalry win.