Arizona head coach Adia Barnes lamented after two close wins that she had not been able to play her bench as much as she wanted in the Paradise Jam. She finally got the opportunity on Saturday as the Wildcats dominated Rutgers in an 80-44 victory.
“We were able to play everybody and that was my intention,” Barnes said. “I wanted to do that more in the tournament because as you see we have some really good young players that are our future and that need to get some game experience in different stressful situations and facing some adversity.”
Arizona will return home as the champion of the Island Tournament portion of the Paradise Jam with a 3-0 record. The team defeated Vanderbilt and DePaul in two closely-contested games on Thursday and Friday.
It was no contest from the start of this one. The Wildcats held the Scarlet Knights to just eight points in the first half while putting up 46 points of their own. As a result, Barnes was able to play all 15 of her players. Only Bendu Yeaney, Taylor Chavez, and Helena Pueyo did not score, but all were responsible for multiple assists.
“I think that was Arizona basketball,” senior forward Cate Reese said. “Those other two games, that wasn’t us.”
With the extra playing time, Arizona’s freshmen were able to show their skills. Gisela Sanchez had 15 points and four rebounds, and Aaronette Vonleh accounted for 12 points, two rebounds, and an assist.
The Wildcats were led by Reese with 16 points and two rebounds in just over 12 minutes of play. She was crowned the tournament MVP.
Sam Thomas joined Reese on the all-tournament team. She hit 2 of 3 shots from the 3-point line for six points, grabbed two rebounds, had three assists, and stole the ball three times in 18 minutes.
Not only did Barnes finally get the chance to play those freshmen, but she got the experience playing different styles that she talked about before they left for St. Thomas.
“We can have some adversity and still find different ways to win,” she said. “I think that our first test was in South Dakota against Louisville, and I think that was a test that showed us okay, we’re pretty good. I don’t think we know how good we can be or know how good we are. And then coming here and knew we had three tough games in three days. Didn’t know how we'd do it. I think none of us did. I didn’t know how to do this in the situation, but I see that we can do it and win in different ways and figure it out.”