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Shaina Pellington has breakout game as Arizona women’s basketball edges out DePaul

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 15 Women’s - Texas Southern at Arizona Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Arizona head coach Adia Barnes knew her team had a tough game coming up against DePaul on the second day of the Paradise Jam. After the Wildcats snuck out a win over Vanderbilt on Thursday she said that the team had less than 24 hours to improve some things or they would lose to the Blue Demons. Shaina Pellington had her best game of the season to ensure that didn’t happen as Arizona won 75-68 on Friday.

“I think yesterday’s game, winning it for us at the buzzer, I think it just gave Shaina a lot of confidence because what Shaina is doing now, it’s been my expectation for her since she’s been here,” Barnes said. “I know she can play like this every game and it’s what our team needs to be successful and she’s capable of it. I’m not asking her to do anything she can’t do, and she knows that. And I think that now she’s starting to believe that herself and I love to see that.”

The Blue Demons came out strong, going up 15-8 halfway through the first quarter. The Wildcats came back, building a 10-point lead, but DePaul whittled that back down to two points at the half.

Pellington took the team on her back in the third by attacking the basket, keeping them in the game as DePaul went basket-for-basket with Arizona. She scored 9 of her 14 points in the quarter, ending the game just shy of the career-high 15 points she had in last year’s title game. She also contributed five rebounds and an assist.

The Wildcats took control in the fourth to pull out the win. They hit 60 percent of their shots including 66.7 percent from the 3-point line in the quarter.

“I think it was more of the intensity that we had that we should have had from the beginning of the game,” senior forward Cate Reese said. “But I think we were all just really intense and just pumped to win the game.”

Reese led the Wildcats with 19 points and 8 rebounds, while Bendu Yeaney once again led Arizona in assists with six.

In addition to Reese and Pellington, the Wildcats had two more score in double figures in a game that they won by being stronger inside. Arizona outscored DePaul 50-28 in the paint.

Lauren Ware finished with 12 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. Ariyah Copeland contributed 10 points, 5 rebounds, a steal, and a block. Sam Thomas wasn’t far behind with 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks.

The advantage inside didn’t help the Wildcats on the boards. DePaul came out on top in rebounds 42-39 and had a huge upper hand on the offensive boards with 22 to Arizona’s 10. The Blue Demons turned those 22 offensive boards into 15 second-chance points.

“We weren’t boxing out at all,” Barnes said. “The second thing is they wanted those offensive rebounds a little bit more. They were purposely sending a lot to the board, so if we would have secured rebounds it would have been layups (at the other end).”

The Wildcats shot 55.6 percent from the floor while holding the Blue Demons to 34.3 percent. After turning the ball over 23 times against Vanderbilt, Arizona gave the ball away 17 times against DePaul.

The Wildcats will finish the Paradise Jam with a game against Rutgers at 1:15 p.m. MST on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights lost to both DePaul and Vanderbilt in their previous games in St. Thomas.