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Arizona women’s basketball season review: Helena Pueyo

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 29 Women’s UC Riverside at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats never got to complete their historic 2019-20 season. After setting one record after another and securing what was sure to be a chance to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the team saw its drive for a special ending to the year stopped in its tracks when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sports world in mid-March.

While we’ll never know what this team could have accomplished in the NCAA Tournament, a full regular season and conference tournament worth of competition is more than enough to assess each individual player’s performance.

Helena Pueyo

  • Year: Freshman
  • Height: 6-foot
  • Position: Guard
  • 2019-20 statistics: 21.6 MPG, 6.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.9 APG, 39.1 FG%, 38.3 3FG%, 77.3 FT%, 29 GP, 1 GS

Season breakdown

Arizona’s sixth woman was brought in to help improve Arizona’s long-distance shooting. While the improvement wasn’t dramatic, the Wildcats did, in fact, bump that number up from 32.5 percent in 2018-19 to 34.8 percent this year.

Pueyo’s 107 3-point attempts were the third-highest on the team. She connected on 38.3 percent of those, landing in third among the six players who took at least 30 shots from behind the 3-point line.

She also proved to be a much better defender than expected. Her length and timing allowed her to pile up both steals and deflections that either got the ball for her team or forced opponents to restart their offense.

Pueyo ended her season fifth on the team in steals despite only playing 21.6 minutes per game. She snatched the ball from the opponent 2.6 times per 40 minutes. In comparison, Aari McDonald was good for 2.9 steals per 40 minutes and Sam Thomas grabbed the ball 2.1 times per standard contest.

Pueyo was also very adept at setting up her teammates. She was third on the team in total assists with 54, ending behind McDonald (105) and Thomas (68). That was good for 1.9 dimes per contest, again finishing third behind McDonald’s 3.6 and Thomas’ 2.2 per game.

The per-40-minute stat was even more impressive, putting her third on the team behind McDonald and Lucia Alonso. Alonso finished with 5.0 assists per 40, edging out McDonald at 4.5 and Pueyo at 3.5.

She did that while keeping her turnovers relatively low, especially for a freshman. Her assist-to-turnover ratio for the season was 1.4.

Best stretch of play

Getting acclimated to playing college basketball is not an easy task. Doing it while also settling into life in a new country is asking a lot, but Pueyo was able to manage it. It should not be a surprise that her best play was during the non-conference schedule when Adia Barnes schedules easy precisely to allow her younger players to adapt to the changes.

Beginning on Nov. 12 when the Wildcats traveled to Chicago State and ending with the home game against Monmouth, Pueyo scored in double figures four times in six games. She hit 24 of her 41 shots for an astonishing 58.5 percent—numbers more commonly seen in the post.

She wasn’t in the post, though.

Twenty-four of those shots were taken from beyond the 3-point line. She hit 13 of them for 54.1 percent accuracy.

She added 13 rebounds for an average of 2.2 per game. Her nine assists averaged out to 1.5 per game against just 0.7 turnovers per game. She added 12 steals—including seven against Chicago State—to average two per game.

Against Monmouth, she set her career high with 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting from the floor including 3 of 6 from 3-point distance. She hit both of her free throws and added three rebounds, three assists, a block and two steals.

Worst stretch of play

Pueyo never went into prolonged slumps, but her lowest point was probably right after the New Year. She opened 2020 with a solid game against USC, but the outing against UCLA was not as good by any stretch of the imagination. In her defense, she was up all night vomiting the night before the game according to her coach.

Pueyo missed all three of her shots against the Bruins. She had no rebounds, no assists and no steals, but she turned the ball over twice. It was something to forget.

Things didn’t improve the next weekend. On Jan. 10, she scored just three points against Oregon State, hitting her only shot. She didn’t grab any rebounds and she had two turnovers in just seven minutes of play. On the positive side, she did have two assists, a block and a steal.

On Sunday, Jan. 12, she didn’t see the floor at all against the Oregon Ducks, and things didn’t improve much when she returned to the court at Washington State. There, she went 1-for-3 with just two points. She added one rebound and a foul in nine minutes.

Quotable

Barnes after Arizona’s season opener: “Helena does what she does and I think we’re only seeing a glimpse of how good she is. I mean, her 3-point shots are like layups. So I’ll never tell her not to shoot the 3. I may tell some other people not to, but I mean, she’s 2 for 4 from the 3 in 14 minutes. She’s very efficient and she’s deceptive. She has a lot of length from the guard position, so she gets a lot of steals when she doesn’t look like she’s that fast. But she’s long. So I think she’s gonna continue to grow and she’s going to be a great asset for us.”

What’s next?

Pueyo will return to play a crucial role for a Wildcat team projected to be in the top 10. No one should be surprised if they were able to win the conference, although no one should be surprised if they lose the race to Stanford, either.

Based on comments made by Barnes, it’s likely that Shaina Pellington will take over the other guard spot next to McDonald and Pueyo will continue as the sixth women for the ‘Cats.