Arizona sophomore Helena Pueyo hasn’t always come in and performed up to her capability this season. That was hindering her and her team, according to her coach.
“She’s got to come ready to play,” Adia Barnes said earlier in the week. “She’s got to be ready to play and just take the shots when she’s open.”
Pueyo was ready against Oregon State as the Arizona Wildcats defeated the Beavers 67-51 to complete their first sweep of the Oregon schools since 2011. They led the entire second half by double digits despite falling into an early 11-2 hole.
Pueyo ended the night with 15 points on 4-of-5 shooting from outside. That tied her career high in scoring. She also had one rebound, three assists and two steals. She was one of five Wildcats with at least two steals.
“Coach just told me to be ready to shoot today,” Pueyo said. “They will operate in a lot of zones, so (be sure) you’re ready to shoot the ball. And that’s what I did.”
Aari McDonald once again led Arizona in scoring. She finished with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, her 78th straight game scoring in double figures. McDonald was efficient from outside too, hitting four of her 10 3-point shots.
Sam Thomas was perfect from the floor, going 3-for-3 overall and 2-for-2 from outside. She ended the day with eight points, an assist, a block and two steals.
It was all fueled by Pueyo, though. The Wildcats came out sluggish, looking like they might fall to a hangover off snapping a 10-game losing streak to the Oregon Ducks. Oregon State rushed out to an 11-2 lead, and Arizona just didn’t look like they had an answer to the 3-point shooting of the Beavers’ guards or the size of sophomore post Taylor Jones.
Pueyo came in at the 6:26 mark and it all changed. Two straight 3-pointers by the Spanish guard pulled the Wildcats within five points. Then Pueyo was the facilitator, getting the assist on a 3-pointer by Thomas. Next came a Pueyo steal and a 3 on the break. She had 10 points, an assist and two steals in just under six-and-a-half minutes in the first quarter.
“Even if she doesn’t hit five 3s, her just taking the shots is how we need her to play,” Barnes said. “Without Helena doing what she did in the first quarter, we wouldn’t have won the game because she got us going. Then other people started making shots. We were very stagnant on offense getting our butts kicked for the first couple minutes.”
Pueyo’s long-distance touch seemed to be contagious. The Wildcats shot 52.6 percent from the 3-point line for the game. The Beavers hit a healthy 36.8 percent of their outside shots, as well.
Also contagious was the struggle at the free throw line. Neither Arizona nor Oregon State were able to connect on their freebies. The home team hit 60 percent and their visitors made good on 57.1 percent. It has been an ongoing problem for the Wildcats this season.
“We’re gonna have some days where they just don’t fall,” Arizona forward Lauren Ware said. “We practice them a lot in practice and I think it’s just more repetition, just getting more shots up and they’ll fall the next couple games. So I think we’ll be okay.”
Ware made her own impression, grabbing nine rebounds and scoring four points against a sizeable Oregon State front court. She added three blocks and two steals to contribute to a strong defensive effort by the Wildcats, who improved to 10-2 overall and 8-2 in the Pac-12.
“As Adia would say, that’s just Arizona defense,” Ware said.