TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona went through a third-quarter lull, falling into a nine-point hole against one college’s basketball’s top women’s programs.
Normally, a deficit like that against Stanford would be insurmountable. But in a season of marquee wins, the Wildcats not only rallied, they picked up arguably the biggest victory in program history. Aari McDonald scored on a driving layup with 8.5 seconds left and had 20 points, helping No. 13 Arizona beat a top-five team for the first time with a 73-72 overtime victory over No. 4 Stanford on Friday night.
“What a great, gutsy win,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. “We made a lot of mistakes down the stretch, but we gutted it out. First-time upset over a top-five team. We continued to say leave a legacy, and that’s what we do.”
The Wildcats (23-5, 13-5 Pac-12) rallied from a nine-point deficit in the third quarter with a short run in the fourth to take the lead. McDonald had a chance to win it in regulation, but her 3-pointer hit the front rim and bounced out.
Arizona hit consecutive 3-pointers to go up 71-64 in overtime, but the Cardinal answered with an 8-0 run, going up 72-71 on Lexie Hull’s corner 3. After McDonald’s basket gave Arizona the lead in the closing seconds, Kiana Williams’ runner on Stanford’s final shot came up short.
Sam Thomas added 17 points, helping Arizona end a nine-game losing streak to Stanford.
“This means a lot. Crazy,” said McDonald, who missed the previous two games with a leg injury. “This is definitely a statement win.”
Stanford (24-5, 13-4) has dominated the series with Arizona, but had its hands full against the Wildcats’ aggressive defense and quick hands. The Cardinal turned the ball over 22 times, leading to 23 Arizona points and offsetting a 13-for-27 night from the 3-point arc.
“We turned the ball over too much,” said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, who remains eight wins shy of become women’s college basketball’s all-time winningest coach. “We don’t have a big margin for error. The main thing is we have to take care of the ball better.”
The Cardinal and Wildcats already locked up first-round byes for the Pac-12 Tournament, which will be played March 5-8. Both were coming off losses; Stanford to No. 3 Oregon and Arizona to Utah.
Stanford got Friday’s game off to a shaky start, turning it over three teams while needing more than three minutes to score. The Cardinal had six turnovers and shot 4 of 14 in the opening quarter.
Arizona also was shaky early before finding an offensive rhythm, hitting six of its final eight shots to lead 18-11 after one quarter.
The Cardinal starting hitting shots in the second quarter — when they weren’t turning it over — rallying to pull within 28-26 at halftime behind Williams’ 13 points. Stanford had 12 turnovers in the first half — one shy of its season average.
“We made some bonehead plays, and you can’t do that against this team,” VanDerveer said.
The Cardinal opened the third quarter with two straight turnovers, but locked down Arizona defensively, holding the Wildcats scoreless over the first 5 1/2 minutes. Arizona made three 3-pointers in the final 2:58 to pull within 47-42.
The Wildcats went on a 9-0 run to go up 54-52, but went three minutes without a field as Stanford took the lead back.
The Cardinal rallied after Arizona went up seven in overtime, but came up just short — the distance of Williams’ floater.
“Adia has done a fantastic job. What she’s created here is very special,” VanDerveer said. “It’s great to see all the fans coming out and appreciating the fact that they have such a great team. It was loud and a great atmosphere.”
The Cardinal were doomed by a rare night of careless ballhandling to lose for the second time in the past 35 games against Arizona.
The Wildcats picked up another marquee win in a season already filled with them behind a clutch performance by McDonald.
Arizona hounded Williams all night, making it as difficult as possible for Stanford’s leading scorer. She still got 27 points, but took 23 shots to get there.
“She did have to take really tough shots, but she’s such a good player,” Barnes said. “I don’t think she has a weakness. Every time we did something we weren’t supposed to, she scored. When we didn’t do the right thing, we couldn’t guard her effectively.”
Stanford plays at Arizona State on Sunday.
Arizona hosts California Sunday.
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