SAN ANTONIO (AP) – Aari McDonald scored 31 points to lead No. 3 Arizona to a 74-59 win over No. 2 Texas A&M; on Saturday night in the Sweet 16 and send the Wildcats to the regional final for the first time in program history.
The Wildcats had only made one previous trip to the regional semifinals when coach Adia Barnes was a player in 1998. This time they rode their Pac-12 player of the year and 13 3-pointers to the school’s most significant victory yet. McDonald’s was 6-of-12 shooting from long range.
She did it on both ends of the court. The Pac-12’s defensive player of the year shut down Aggies guard Jordan Nixon, whose late-game heroics had pulled Texas A&M; through the first two rounds. Nixon finished with three points after scoring 35 in the second round.
McDonald came in on average 19.6 points and scored 19 by halftime in carrying Arizona to a 35-32 lead. The Wildcats (19-5) stretched the lead to 13 by the end of the third quarter as Arizona made four 3-pointers, two by McDonald, in the period.
Texas A&M; had won its first two games by a total of six points and now had to make a desperate bid to rally in front of a small but boisterous Aggies crowd in the Alamodome, just a three-hour drive from campus.
The Aggies cut the lead to 59-48 on Ciera Johnson’s layup to start the fourth. But three straight Texas A&M; turnovers and consecutive 3-pointers from Sam Thomas and Cate Reese had the Wildcats in total control with 4:41 to play.
Aaliyah Wilson scored 17 points to lead Texas A&M; (25-3).
Texas A&M; was just 2-of-8 shooting on 3-pointers and committed 19 turnovers that Arizona turned into 28 points.
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