March 5, 2021 

Arizona’s Trinity Baptiste puts her mark on the Pac-12 Tournament

Last year's ACC Sixth Player of the Year has a starring night in the Pac-12 quarterfinals

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Las Vegas, Nev. — Arizona’s Trinity Baptiste (0) scores as Washington State’s Krystal Leger-Walker (4) and Ula Motuga (15) look on. Photo courtesy of the Pac-12 Conference

Las Vegas, Nev. — Trinity Baptiste was not supposed to end up in Arizona. When she decided to leave Virginia Tech after two years, she thought she wanted to play closer to her home in Tampa, Fla. not somewhere across the country where she had never even visited. Wildcats head coach Adia Barnes can be convincing, though.

On Thursday, Baptiste showed why Barnes wanted her so badly as she led the Wildcats to the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament with 17 points, six rebounds, and six steals. She was one shy of her season-high in scoring and tied fellow seniors Aari McDonald and Sam Thomas for the team’s season-high in steals.

It was the most steals Baptiste had ever grabbed in her career at Arizona or Virginia Tech. Even in her one season at Northwest Florida State College, she never had more than four.

That kind of defensive effort did not happen by chance. Nothing does with Baptiste.

Barnes often praises her grad transfer for her ability to lead the team by example, especially in the weight room. The work she puts in inspires the rest to follow her.

This time it did not require physical commitment. Instead, she needed to put her mind to work.

“I watched a lot of film and I made adjustments to make sure I’m in the passing lane more and I’m denying the next pass so it’s not an easy skip to the corner for a 3,” Baptiste said.

The Wildcats needed Baptiste to step up if they did not want to go home. Last Sunday, they lost their rivalry game to Arizona State in overtime. It was their third straight game with a less-than-stellar offense.

Barnes let them know that McDonald could not do it alone. It was not even going to work if it was McDonald and one other player. It needed to be the team.

“We know that we haven’t been playing well the last couple of games. I want to start off with that,” Baptiste said. “And our leaders stepped up this week in practice. Coach was on us harder. We just wanted to come out and win. We don’t want to go home. Simple as that.”

Baptiste set the offensive and defensive tone for the Wildcats from the start of their quarterfinal game against Washington State. She had 13 points and five steals in the first half as McDonald focused on distributing the ball instead of scoring.

It was part of a frenetic defensive attack that turned the Cougars over 26 times and held them to five points in both the first and third quarters. Despite some offensive droughts of their own, it was enough to lift Arizona to the 60-44 victory and back to the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals for the second straight year. It also showed once again that the Wildcats can stop almost anyone if they put their minds to it.

“That’s our identity,” Baptiste said. “That’s who we are.”

Written by Kim Doss

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