After the Arizona Wildcats’ showing against Kansas in McKale Center on Dec. 8, it would be understandable to be worried about how the team would fare against fellow Big 12 member Baylor. No need to worry as UA put together a complete effort to defeat the Bears by the score of 75-54.
“I’m really proud of our fight today,” said Arizona head coach Adia Barnes. “I’m really proud of the way we came out. I think we came out on-point. We always say punch first, and I thought we did that. And this was a great test for us after we had a really hard loss a couple of weeks ago.”
After that game against Kansas, Barnes took responsibility and said that she and her staff would be focusing on defense. She felt like this proved both how the team could improve and their ability to change.
“I think your character shows in how you bounce back,” Barnes said. “How did we improve? What did we learn from that game?”
Cate Reese’s second straight double-double helped lift the Wildcats to its first win over a ranked team this season. Even better, they did it on national TV in front of the poll voters.
Reese was tough from the start, grabbing seven rebounds in the first quarter. That exceeded her 6.6 RPG average in just the first 10 minutes. She ended the game with 13 points, 13 rebounds, and one assist.
After not starting in Arizona’s previous game, Shaina Pellington returned to the starting five with a vengeance. She led the Wildcats with 18 points and eight assists while going 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. She added four rebounds and tied Esmery Martinez for the team lead with three steals.
Martinez narrowly missed her second straight double-double with eight points and a game-high 15 rebounds. She threw in an assist and two blocks, as well as her three steals, to fill the stat sheet.
Jade Loville was the third Wildcat in double figures with 16 points. She did it on an efficient 6-of-12 shooting including 4 of 5 from beyond the arc. She also had two assists, a block, and a steal.
Lauren Fields and Helena Pueyo both added to the offense with eight and seven points, respectively.
“I think one thing is we can all score, so when it comes to defense, we’re like, ‘Yeah, you know, defense,’” Reese said. “But we’ve definitely picked that up, especially since the Kansas game. So, I’m really proud of this win and I’m proud of the team.”
There was reason to be proud of Arizona’s defense. The Wildcats held the Bears to 32.8 percent shooting, including 26.1 percent from beyond the arc. That was below Baylor’s 46.5 percent field goal and 33.5 percent three-point shooting this season.
“We didn’t play 40 minutes of perfect basketball, but I thought we played like 35 minutes of good basketball,” Barnes said. “We’ve gotten better. We hadn’t done that all year. We had played like 25 minutes. But I think we were consistently on-point defensively. We took their runs, but that’s how basketball is, it’s the peaks and valleys... We fought back. And I just loved our hustle and determination for loose balls—and stuff that we value, we did today.”
The Wildcats forced 19 turnovers. They converted those at a high rate, getting 25 points off turnovers.
Baylor came in with seven players averaging double figures. Against Arizona, the Bears had just two reach that plateau. Jaden Owens had 15 points and Sarah Andrews contributed 14.
“We’ve been working really hard defensively,” Barnes said. “I’m seeing our hard work translate to the court...I thought we played pretty good defense today...Good rotations. Stuck to the game plan...We just got 50-50 balls. These are the things that we didn’t get a couple of weeks ago. But I think we just wanted it and trusted each other.”