It was billed as a battle of a great defensive team in Arizona versus a great offensive team in Oregon. For three quarters, Arizona was clearly the superior team on both ends of the floor, leading by double figures heading into the final quarter and shooting over 50 percent for most of the opening 30 minutes. Then, came a five-point fourth quarter that allowed the Ducks to send it to overtime on the way to the 68-66 win.
Through three quarters, Oregon stayed in it from the free-throw line. They went to the line 18 times in the first 30 minutes while they struggled to hit from the field. They hit all 18 of those free throws. Oregon would end the day 22-26 from the line compared to 5-10 for Arizona.
“I think that we didn’t good do a good job of maintaining our lead down the stretch, but a lot of very questionable calls that didn’t go our way,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “I think that we’re a pretty good aggressive team, and there was a lot of calls that really were momentum shifters. So, you know, don’t make an excuse for losing a game, but I thought that a lot of stuff was out of our control that really affected the game.”
In a game that ended on the slimmest of margins, the five missed free throws were a crucial thing that Arizona could control. Even more crucial was allowing Oregon to erase an 11-point Arizona advantage over the final 10 minutes, but Barnes felt that the Wildcats were forced to be less aggressive on defense because of the officiating.
“The refs were making so many calls, we couldn’t play,” she said.
Last season, Cate Reese had a huge game in Matthew Knight Arena in a 20-point victory for Arizona. She said afterward that she heard Oregon claimed that she couldn’t shoot. She came out on Saturday looking like that comment was still under her skin, but she had difficulty maintaining it.
With her fourth rebound, Reese became the fifth player in Arizona program history to get 1,300 points and 700 rebounds as she corralled her fourth rebound of the game. She wasn’t able to sustain the scoring, though. She went into the half with 10 points and four boards. She ended the game with 10 points and five boards.
Lauren Ware was whistled for two fouls within three minutes of tip-off. She had three before the half and eventually fouled out. Reese also had two fouls before the half and ended with three. Reserve post Ariyah Copeland fouled out in 22 minutes of play.
Shaina Pellington got it started with a big first quarter. The hero of Thursday’s win over Oregon State put up six points in the first period. She ended the day with 14, tying Bendu Yeaney for the team high. Pellington added a rebound, an assist, and two steals.
Yeaney had three rebounds, three assists, and a block to go with her 14 points.
But it was Koi Love who had the breakout game of her Arizona career. The junior forward who transferred from Vanderbilt in the offseason came up big as Arizona’s frontcourt dealt with fouls. Love had eight points, seven rebounds, two assists, and three steals.
In the end, Barnes didn’t feel there was a lot that the Wildcats could have done differently beyond hitting a few more of the free throws that they were awarded. They shot 43.3 percent from the field. They were good on 45 percent of their 3-point shots.
“It is what it is, but that’s how the Pac-12 is,” Barnes said. “We’re gonna get homered in different places. And that was clearly going on today.”