Arizona came into its game against Loyola Marymount wanting to improve sharing the ball and defense. They left wanting much the same thing, although head coach Adia Barnes was pleased with the improvement from the opening week.
The Wildcats defeated the Lions by a score of 87-51 behind three players in double figures. Point guard Shaina Pellington led the ‘Cats with 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting. She also had three assists against just one turnover and added one steal and one rebound. After missing five of her first six free throws, she went 4-for-4 to end the night 5-for-10 from the line.
As a team, Arizona had 16 assists. That was an improvement over their first two games when they had 14 against Northern Arizona and 12 against Cal State Northridge. It didn’t start out that way, though.
At the beginning of the game, the Wildcats played a lot of one-on-one basketball. There were shots with plenty of time on the shot clock with little ball movement.
The assists didn’t come from the starting guards early on. There was only 1:20 left in the first quarter when a starting guard got her first assist when Lauren Fields set up Helena Pueyo.
Until that point, it was all forward Esmery Martinez and reserve guard Pueyo. That pair tied for the team high with four assists each in the game. Martinez was able to find her fellow frontcourt players throughout the game, whether she was playing with Cate Reese or Maya Nnaji.
“Cate and Esmery have really good chemistry,” Barnes said. “They had some good passes to each other. They look for each other. Esmery really looks high-low.”
Martinez ended the night with a double-double. She had 14 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and two steals. She and Pellington were joined in double figures by Reese, who ended her night with 15 points, three rebounds, a steal, and a block.
“It’s going to be really hard to get player of the game [over Martinez], I can tell you that,” Pellington joked.
The Wildcats had early struggles on the defensive end. Barnes noted that the Lions came in shooting 38 percent from the field but shot over 40 percent against Arizona. From the 3-point line, LMU came in shooting 18 percent but finished at 27.3 percent against the Wildcats.
“I thought defensively, we were just bad to start,” Barnes said. “I mean, they were six-for-eight. Credit to them. I think LMU did a really good job of scoring it, but to allow them to go six-for-eight in the beginning of the game, it’s just not the way we want to start.”
That 6-for-8 run gave the Lions a 13-12 lead at the four-minute mark in the first quarter. Shortly afterward came the timeout that let the Wildcats gather themselves on both ends of the floor.
“After the timeout we had a talk about moving the ball more, passing the ball around the perimeter, and just looking for the open guy,” Pellington said. “And I think after that timeout, we were able to execute a lot better and just calm down.”
Much like the assists, the Arizona defense improved as the game wore on. In the first quarter, the Wildcats allowed the Lions to shoot 54.5 percent from the field. In each of the next two quarters, Arizona held LMU to 35.7 percent. LMU did not score for the first five minutes of the third quarter.
Freshman guard Paris Clark sat out her second straight game due to concussion protocol.
Before the game, Barnes was honored by Arizona’s American Indian Alumni Association in recognition of Native American Heritage Night. The group wrapped her in a blanket to show “gratitude, warmth, and friendship.”
So proud to celebrate Native American Heritage Night today!— Arizona Women's Basketball (@ArizonaWBB) November 19, 2022
Coach Barnes was gifted and wrapped in a traditional blanket by the American Indian Alumni Association, an act showing gratitude, warmth and friendship. It is one of the highest honors from the Native American community pic.twitter.com/BCjdkgrj2R