Arizona head coach Adia Barnes told the media on Wednesday afternoon that starting point guard Shaina Pellington and starting post Lauren Ware would spend yet another game watching from the sidelines. It didn’t turn out to be the case.
“I made that decision today at shootaround,” Barnes said. “At shootaround, I limited both of them because I wanted to make sure I’m making a decision that’s going to set them up for success. I wasn’t going to play Lauren if I didn’t think she was fit enough, but she’s been running the last week and a half. I talked to her about it and we have a good relationship and she’s honest with me. I’m really concerned about her long-term health and being healthy in a month, two months from now. So she looked good. We agreed on limiting her minutes like just in spurts and I thought she handled it really well.”
Both of the missing starters were back in the starting lineup as the Wildcats took the floor against Oregon State. It made all the difference as Pellington finished with 12 points and hit the game-winning shot with 0.5 seconds to go. She also had two rebounds and two assists.
The Beavers were without one of their starters, though. Taylor Jones, the 6-foot-4 forward who makes up half of their starting twin towers, missed the game for the home team. Taya Corosdale stepped up for Oregon State in her teammate’s absence with a career-high 19 points.
Pellington had a rough start, picking up two fouls in the first quarter and having to sit in the second. Helena Pueyo came in and had another solid performance at the one, giving the Wildcats two points, two assists, a block, and four steals.
Pellington returned in the third to pick things up again. She had eight of her 12 points on 3-for-4 shooting in the period but picked up her third foul with 4:47 to go in the third quarter. She still wasn’t done, though.
It was not a strong offensive showing by either team in the first half. When the first 20 minutes came to an end, Arizona was shooting 33 percent and Oregon State was at 38 percent.
The Wildcats went into the locker room trailing 27-25. In the third, Arizona was able to grab a six-point lead at the end of the period, but they couldn’t maintain it.
The Beavers came back to take the four-point advantage in the fourth quarter, then Pellington took over. She drove to the basket, drawing fouls or kicking the ball to teammates. Bendu Yeaney tied it up at 53 with under a minute to go.
“Shaina has been doing a good job finding shooters, just finding different players, putting them in the right positions,” Yeaney said. “She found me on the corner after she got like triple-teamed and I saw the big come out from the basket. So I knew that I had a wide-open lane if I drove it, and so I just took the layup.”
It was the point guard with the big moment just over a minute later. With less than a second on the clock, Pellington drove and hit the jumper from the free-throw line for the 55-53 lead.
“It was just a high ball screen in the middle of the paint,” Pellington said. That was something that was working for both me and Bendu throughout the entire course of the game. Just to have one-on-one coverage with their post players in the middle of the key. And we had a lot of success doing that. So yeah, that was the play. Middle ball screen in the middle of the floor. At five seconds, attack and get whatever shot I could.”
Sam Thomas sealed the deal by batting away Oregon State’s attempt to inbound the ball.
Yeaney and Cate Reese led the Wildcats on the offensive end for the first half and had some big moments in the second, as well. Yeaney led Arizona with 15 points for the game to go along with a rebound, two assists, and a steal. Reese matched Pellington with 12 points while also contributing six rebounds and three steals.
“I think our whole team was disappointed—not in the win or the loss against USC—the way we performed and the way that we didn’t fight back,” Barnes said. “So I think that they really took it personal.”