Arizona’s McDonald named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year

Reese, Thomas and Pueyo also earn postseason honors

Arizona’s McDonald named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year
Aari McDonald (Source: Arizona Athletics)

TUCSON, Ariz. – Aari McDonald, Cate Reese, Sam Thomas and Helena Pueyo all earned Pac-12 postseason honors on Tuesday, March 3.

McDonald was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and All-Pac-12, Cate Reese was named All-Pac-12, Sam Thomas was named Pac-12 All-Defense and Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 and Helena Pueyo was named Honorable Mention Pac-12 All-Freshman.

It is the first time since 2000 that three Wildcats were named All-Pac-12 and McDonald is the second Arizona player to be named Defensive Player of the Year and first since Ify Ibekwe in 2011. It is also the first time in school history two players were named All-Defense and the first time since 2012 that Arizona has had a member on the All-Freshman team three-straight years.

McDonald, who leads the Pac-12 in scoring (20.3) and steals per game (2.5) and was also named a Naismith Player of the Year semifinalist on Tuesday, has scored in double-figures in 64-straight games, the entirety of her Arizona career. She is eighth all-time on the Arizona scoring list and set the single-game scoring record with 44 points at Texas earlier this season.

She was named Pac-12 Player of the Week and National Player of the Week twice this season and has been named to numerous National Player of the Year Watch Lists. The Fresno native has the second-most career steals among active Pac-12 players as well.

Reese, who is second on the team with 13.1 points per game and leads the Wildcats with 7.6 rebounds per game, has eight double-doubles this season and 15 for her career, which is the sixth-most in school history. She was named a Katrina McClain Award Finalist a few weeks ago, which recognizes the top power forward in the country. Reese finished the regular season with the seventh-most double-doubles in the Pac-12 and is fifth in the conference in free throw percentage (81%).

Thomas, who is the only player in the Pac-12 with 40 blocks and steals this season, has been a dominant force on the defensive end all season long. She averaged 1.94 blocks per game in Pac-12 play, which is the most of any player in the conference. She finished the regular season second in blocks per game (1.6) and fourth in steals per game (1.8). Against Washington, she became the only player in school history to have six blocks and four steals in one game.

The junior from Las Vegas is already fifth all-time in Arizona history with 135 blocked shots and is also sixth all-time in Arizona history with 129 made three-pointers. She is the only player in school history with 100 career made threes and blocked shots. Her offensive game has really picked up as of late as she finished the last four games of the regular season averaging just under 15 points a game, which included a career-high 31 points in a road win at Utah.

Pueyo, who is shooting 37% from three this season and has made 37 triples this year, has been Arizona’s top player off the bench this season. She is second on the team in both three-point percentage and made three pointers and is shooting just under 40% from three on 5.5 attempts per game over her last six. Pueyo has eight double-figure games this season and has made multiple three pointers in 11 games, including a career-high four vs. Prairie View A&M and Washington.

The Wildcats are gearing up for the Pac-12 Tournament this weekend and await the winner of Thursday’s Arizona State-California game. Arizona will be the No. 4 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament and have earned a first-round bye for the first time since the conference moved to 12 teams.

Tip-off for Arizona’s quarterfinal matchup in Las Vegas is set for 12:30 p.m. MST at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

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