It was a day for Arizona’s bench players to shine as the Wildcats pulled away from California Baptist late to win 81-63 at the Dana of Mission Bay Thanksgiving Classic in San Diego. The Wildcats were paced by freshman Kailyn Gilbert and sophomore Madi Conner as the Lancers stayed in touch with the Wildcats for most of the game.
Gilbert led the Wildcats with a career-high 25 points in 28 minutes. She also had four rebounds, two assists, and a steal. She shot 9-for-13 including connecting on 4-of-7 three-point shots.
Conner also had a career outing by hitting five of her nine 3-point shots. She went off for 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the floor. Both the made 3-pointers and the points were career highs for the sophomore guard. She added three rebounds, an assist, and three steals.
The two reserves were the only Wildcats in double figures. Esmery Martinez with seven points was the only other Arizona player with more than six. Martinez led the team with 10 rebounds. She also tied Lauren Fields for the team lead with three assists and added two steals.
The Wildcats came out with a different look due to the absence of starting point guard Shaina Pellington, who missed the game with an injured ankle. Helena Pueyo got her second start of the season, joining Martinez, Fields, Jade Loville, and Cate Reese.
The Wildcats weren’t as short-handed as they could have been despite the absence of a regular starter. Freshman Paris Clark returned to the rotation for the first time since the opening game against Northern Arizona. She missed three games while in concussion protocol.
Arizona held CBU to 33.3 percent shooting from the floor and 28 percent from beyond the arc. However, they gave up 24 free throws that the Lancers turned into 18 points.
CBU got as close as nine points midway through the fourth quarter, but Arizona used a 9-0 run to go up 18 with 1:38 to go in the game. The run was punctuated by a Maya Nnaji steal and layup on the other end.
The Wildcats next take on the host San Diego Toreros at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26.