SAN ANTONIO, Texas (KOLD News 13) - Forget Cinderella. The Arizona Wildcats are writing their own fairytale.
Aari McDonald scored a game-high 26 points as Arizona took down perennial power UConn 69-59 Friday night in the semifinals of the NCAA basketball tournament.
Sam Thomas added 12 points and Cate Reese had 11 for Arizona (21-5), which will face Pac-12 foe Stanford in the championship game Sunday, April 4. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. (Arizona time) on ESPN.
Arizona has never won an NCAA title in women’s basketball while UConn has a record 11 titles.
”It’s just historic,” said University of Arizona President Dr. Robert Robbins. “I mean, it’s the first time that the UA women have been to the national championship. And I’m particularly interested in the opponent since I spent so much of my time at Stanford. I keep texting coach Barnes, I want you to cut that tree down. So we get out chance on Sunday finally to get them, and I just couldn’t be happier for them.”
The Wildcats’ best season before this year came in 1998 when current head coach Adia Barnes led her teammates to the Sweet 16. The Wildcats ended up losing to the UConn Huskies.
Christyn Williams led top-seeded UConn (28-2) with 20 points and five rebounds.
Arizona’s defense was a big difference, not a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention.
Arizona and Stanford have played twice this year, with the Cardinal taking both games easily.
On Jan. 1, the top-ranked Stanford faced off against No. 6 Arizona in Tucson. Haley Jones scored 18 points as Stanford crushed Arizona 81-54.
On Feb. 22, the Wildcats traveled to play Stanford and lost 62-48. McDonald had a game-high 20 points, but Stanford had four players score in double digits.
“Let’s go win it,” said UA Athletic Director David Heeke. “Let’s go beat Stanford. All Pac-12 conference championship I guess you’d call it. And again, from the conference of champions, the best conference in women’s basketball will be represented on both sides in the championship game.”
Standford 53, South Carolina 47
Haley Jones scored 24 points, including the go-ahead jumper with 32 seconds left, to help the Stanford Cardinal advance to the national championship game.
It will be Stanford’s first trip to the title game since 2010, which was also in San Antonio. The Cardinal lost 53-47 to UConn in that contest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.