LAS VEGAS — Lauren Ware tried to carry the Wildcats. With leading scorer Cate Reese still out, Ware had 15 points and 8 rebounds, but it was not enough for Arizona to defeat the Colorado Buffaloes in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament.
The Buffs moved on with a 45-43 victory. It was the lowest point total of any winning team in tournament history.
“Not a great game for women’s basketball, right?” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “No one wants to see 20-20 or 10-10 for 10 minutes. But I think we both are very defensive-oriented teams and both were not hitting the three.”
Ware was the only member of the Wildcats to score in double figures. Ware also led the team in rebounding with eight. Even when she wasn’t grabbing boards, she was going up and battling, looking like the volleyball player she used to be. It’s a part of Ware’s game that has improved since the injury to Reese.
“That’s just something I think I should be doing all the time, I think,” Ware said. “But now with Cate out, obviously, we have a big deficit in those two areas of scoring and rebounding. So the coaches have kind of put on me to be more aggressive and take more good shots and be more aggressive on the offensive end, and the defensive end as well, with rebounding on both ends and I think I’ve done a better job of that.”
Pellington was the only other player to get close to double figures. She scored nine. No one else scored more than four.
Colorado was led by super senior Mya Hollingshed who said she came back to take care of “unfinished business.” Hollingshed battled foul trouble, but ended with 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
It was not a game for the offensive-minded. Arizona scored just 22 points in the first half while Colorado scored 24. Each team went 9 of 10 from the free-throw line, so the offense was even leaner than the score indicated. The Wildcats shot just 27.3 percent from the field while the Buffaloes connected on 31.8 percent.
It didn’t get better in the second half, especially for Arizona. The Wildcats only scored four points coming out of the locker room. The Buffs got closer to double digits, but they only scored nine on their end in the third quarter.
Foul problems mounted for both teams. Ware had three fouls before the half. Colorado’s Kendyll Wetta and Mya Hollingshed had each had four with over seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and Arizona’s Shaina Pellington picked up her fourth with over six to go.
Arizona had an opportunity to tie the game with 15 seconds left, but Colorado defended the interior shot well and rebounded the ball. With 4.2 seconds to go, the Buffs could have just let the clock run. They chose to call time to avoid turning it over in Arizona’s end.
The Buffaloes still turned it over. Ware stole the inbounds. Arizona still had a chance with two seconds. The ball was in-bounded to Pellington who has hit two game-winners this season. Those were drives to the hoop, though. In this case, it had to be a 3. Pellington’s 3-pointer was off the mark. The Wildcats rebounded the ball, but there wasn’t enough time to get a second-chance shot.
If there was any good news on Thursday afternoon, it was that Reese was not wearing a sling on her injured shoulder. She was grabbing rebounds for her teammates as they warmed up.
“She already started shooting, so we were all happy about that,” Barnes said. “So, we’ll be full force soon.”
Arizona hopes Reese’s improvement and the work they put in before Reese’s injury is enough to get them a top 16 seed and the opportunity to host the opening rounds of the tournament.
During the game, it was reported that Arizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne would be stepping down after 25 years at the helm for the Sun Devils. Both Barnes and Colorado head coach JR Payne were asked about the retirement.
- Barnes: “I really respect Charli. She’s a really good coach and she’s a trailblazer in our profession. I love the fact that she does so many other things. Se’s a mom and she’s successful. She represents our game so well. She’s been a WBCA president, so she’s very involved in our game. Sad to see her go for sure, but I think she’s had a great career.
“I love it when coaches go out on a high note, not necessarily winning a championship, but having success year after year, and kind of good go out on your terms.
“So, although, I’m surprised. I thought she had a couple more years in her, but you know, this is a hard job. It’s extremely stressful. I definitely have aged more this year than I have in a while. So it’s a hard job. It’s a blessing to be able to do this job, but it’s a lot. It’s never, it never ends. You’re never in the off-season. So it will be good for her to have a chance to spend some time with her family. So congrats on a great career, Charli.”
- Payne: “Congratulations to Charli on an incredible career. She’s been a trendsetter for so many of us women in this business. She’s always someone that we’ve looked up to. She’s had tremendous success, on the court and in the classroom, and in their community. And she will definitely be missed.”