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No. 18 Arizona women’s basketball winds up nonconference play with routine win over UT Arlington

The freshmen got plenty of playing time

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 13 Women’s Cal State Northridge at Arizona Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The last game before the Christmas break can be a difficult one. Arizona women’s basketball ran into a few challenges against UT Arlington. They weren’t enough to sidetrack the Wildcats, who handled the Mavericks in a 78-59 victory.

“I was proud of us to bounce back after a really big win, and just find a way to win” said Arizona head coach Adia Barnes. “I think before Christmas is always hard, because everybody’s focused on when they’re leaving and what they’re packing and they have their stuff. So proud of us and the way we just showed some resilience and got to play everybody. Wasn’t pretty but we found a way to win.”

It was the last opportunity for Barnes to get her freshmen experience before going into Pac-12 play. She made good use of that opportunity, finding time for all four first-year players to get on the floor and contribute. All four rookies played double-digit minutes.

“I thought all of them did well with different things,” Barnes said. “It’s experience and it’s just finding ways to figure things out in games under adversity. I’m proud of all of them.”

Kailyn Gilbert had a strong game for the Wildcats with six points, two rebounds, a team-high four assists, and three steals in 18 minutes. The young point guard also took care of the ball, turning it over just once.

Maya Nnaji played just 10 minutes due to foul trouble, but she made very good use of those minutes. The freshman post had six points, nine rebounds, and an assist.

However, Nnaji ran into problems that plagued the entire team. Not only did she have three fouls in the first half and foul out with 9:53 left to go in the game, but she also had three turnovers. Two of Nnaji’s fouls, including her fifth, came on the offensive end of the court. Both were borderline.

“I thought Maya was playing physical, got called for a lot of fouls,” Barnes said. “I don’t think all of them were fouls.”

As a team, the Wildcats had difficulty taking care of the ball. They turned the ball over a season-high 23 times. UTA turned those into 18 points. On the other end of the floor, Arizona forced 21 turnovers that became 17 points.

Both teams also struggled playing defense without fouling as well as converting on the free throws they were awarded. UTA went to the line 22 times but made just 16 of those shots. UA had 21 opportunities from the line, converting just 13 of them. All six of the Wildcats who went to the line missed at least one free throw.

None of that made a difference in the end, primarily because Arizona put the Mavericks away early. The Wildcats went on a run in the latter half of the first quarter to go up 21-8 at the end of the first 10 minutes. The other three quarters were relatively close—UTA even outscored Arizona 19-15 in the fourth quarter—but the 11-0 run over the final 4:35 of the first quarter established the UA’s foothold.

Arizona was led by Martinez with 13 points and 9 rebounds. She also had two assists and three steals, but they were offset by her four turnovers and four fouls.

The points helped put Martinez over 1,000 for her career, which started at West Virginia.

Shaina Pellington, Reese, and Fields each chipped in 10 points to give Arizona four players in double figures.

Reese was close to her third straight double-double with eight rebounds to go along with double-digit points. She added three assists and two steals while only committing one foul and one turnover in 18 minutes.

Pellington also kept the fouls and turnovers to a minimum, committing just two fouls and one turnover. She also contributed a rebound, three assists, and a steal in 18 minutes of play.

Fields had five rebounds, three assists, and two steals to go with her 10 points.

Now the Wildcats break for a few days for the holidays, then prepare to open Pac-12 play against Arizona State on Dec. 29.