Arizona’s Aari McDonald is the espnW player of the week

Aari McDonald took 29 shots this week. The Arizona guard made 23 of them.

Go to your local gym or neighborhood rim, and shoot a basketball 29 times. We’ll make this easy. Don’t worry about finding someone to guard you on those shots. Don’t worry about running up and down the court or guarding someone on defense. Just hoist that many shots, and see if you make as many of them as college basketball’s best scorer did this week.

Capped by a school-record 44 points in Sunday’s blowout win on the road against No. 22 Texas, McDonald did more than enough to make sure the unbeaten Wildcats enter the AP Top 25 this week. She also did plenty to claim espnW player of the week honors.

McDonald warmed up with 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting in 20 minutes at Chicago State early in the week. Paced by those points, the Wildcats managed in a 32-point win what might be expected of them against an opponent struggling to stay afloat in Division I. But doing the same thing to the Longhorns — on their court, no less — ought to turn a few heads.

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The junior made 14-of-18 shots from the field and all 14 free throw attempts in the 83-58 win. It was the worst home loss for Texas since Karen Aston’s first season and matched the most points ever scored by a visiting player in the Frank Erwin Center, where Texas has played since 1977.

McDonald hit a long jumper on Arizona’s first possession, after which Texas’ Sug Sutton appeared to ask referees to look at some problem with the basketball. They examined it and swapped in a new one. On the next Arizona possession, McDonald hit another long jumper.

Ball don’t lie — any ball, in this case.

At halftime, McDonald alone led Texas 22-19. Then she scored 22 more in the second half.

A week after Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu won the season’s first player-of-the-week honors for her performance against Team USA, McDonald showed why the Ducks and their star won’t have it easy against mere college competition in the Pac-12 — not with someone like McDonald around.

Coming off a WNIT championship, Arizona was picked to finish sixth in the conference. But with the nation’s leading returning scorer in tow, that means either the Pac-12 is ridiculously loaded this season (and Oregon State’s Preseason WNIT title on Sunday certainly lends further credence to that idea) or people are sleeping on the Wildcats. Then again, maybe it’s both.

Because if McDonald misses six shots a week, Texas won’t be the last team she humbles.

Also considered: Nia Clouden, Michigan State; Rennia Davis, Tennessee; Emilija Krista Grava, Wagner; Mikayla Pivec, Oregon State; Ajah Wayne, Old Dominion

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