The story of the Arizona Wildcats’ 78-77 win over the USC Women of Troy was celebrated freshman Lauren Ware. But the Pac-12 officials tried hard to make it their story.
Ware had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds in 27 minutes of play. All were career highs. That kind of production from outside the starting five is something new for Arizona.
“Last year, we couldn’t go down the bench like this and have somebody come off the bench and get a double-double,” Aari McDonald said.
That’s not to say that the main producers weren’t still doing their thing. McDonald led the team with 30 points on 12-20 shooting as she was named the player of the game by her coaches. She added four rebounds and two assists in 39 minutes.
The lone blemish on her stat sheet was in the turnover column. McDonald gave the ball away five times on the day.
Along with several of her teammates, Cate Reese battled foul trouble. She still scored 25 points on 57 percent shooting. Reese also pulled down five rebounds and went 9-11 from the free throw line.
“She was in foul trouble a lot today,” head coach Adia Barnes said. “So I mean, she probably would have 37 otherwise.”
Fouls were a problem for Arizona all day—especially for the Wildcats’ front court—giving Ware the opportunity to break out. For the first three quarters, USC spent almost half of each period in the bonus. They were above the limit for almost 4.5 minutes in the first quarter. In the second and third, they shot free throws for almost 7.5 minutes of each period.
“We’re not as good everybody thinks we are right now,” Barnes said. “Just to be honest, I think that we have a lot of talent, but we need to get better. Our offense is not flowing. Defensively, that was not Arizona defense. We’re not disciplined right now.”
In each quarter, after USC had moved into the bonus, the officials then called a flurry of fouls against the Women of Troy. Few plays were completed on either end of the court without a whistle.
When all was said and done, Reese, Helena Pueyo and Trinity Baptiste had four fouls for Arizona. Sam Thomas had three.
It was the second straight game where foul trouble hindered Arizona. Against UCLA on Friday, both Reese and McDonald dealt with early foul trouble and spent a good part of the first half on the bench.
On USC’s side, Angel Jackson, Desiree Caldwell, Jordan Sanders and Madison Campbell had four. Amaya Oliver and Kyra White each had three.
The Women of Troy had just seven players available. Five players were out due to injury, including last year’s Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Alissa Pili.
Barnes no longer sounded anxious to add more non-conference games. While she previously took to Twitter to try to get games, after Sunday’s win she said, “Right now, we need a lot of practice. I have to actually decide on (a possible game) today. So I’m thinking about adding one. But you know, there’s a lot of factors. There’s finals, there’s travel, there’s a lot of things. So I’m just not sure. If it’s the right situation for our team, then I’ll do it. But if it’s not I’m not gonna do it, because I think this is a year where if you play one less game, it doesn’t hurt you because our conference is so tough.”