When Arizona has been most successful, it has been playing team basketball. On Friday night, there was very little team basketball for most of the game. There was also no rebounding or 3-point defense and little ball security. Through 30 minutes, the Wildcats were on their way to what looked like the worst defeat of the year.
“From the get-go, they had way more intensity,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “It took me calling a timeout and...being intense for us to play defense, and that’s not who we are.”
Down by as many as 14 with 1:56 to go in the third quarter, it looked all but over for Arizona. The Wildcats turned it on in the fourth, clawing back and taking a 3-point lead with 4:05 to go. With 21.7 to go and down one, Shaina Pellington drove to the basket as she had against Vanderbilt and Oregon State to win those games. The whistle blew. Charge.
Arizona State went 6 for 11 from beyond the arc and outrebounded UA 42-27 on the way to an 81-77 victory.
“That’s a focus (thing),” Barnes said. “If you can’t box out...it’s an effort thing...To get out-rebounded 42-27, that’s unacceptable.”
The Sun Devils also outshot the Wildcats from the line where both of them spent huge amounts of time. ASU hit 31 of 34 free throws while Arizona hit 23 of 35.
Pellington led the team in scoring with 30 points, the most she had scored in her Arizona career, but her points largely came from one-on-one drives to the hoop. There was little ball movement for the Wildcats in the first half, and it showed in the score and pace of the game.
“We’re not a team that gets ten assists,” Barnes said. “Ten assists is an indication that we didn’t share the ball. That’s not from selfish reasons. It’s just trying to do it all ourselves one-on-one.”
Arizona also made some poor shooting decisions, taking 3-point shots out of the rhythm of the offense and going 0-for-5 until late in the third quarter. Sam Thomas hit the first 3 for the Wildcats with 5:47 to go in the third frame, then hit another to pull them within one. She finished with 14 points.
Cate Reese joined Pellington and Thomas in double digits with 18 points.