They say that basketball is a game of runs. It certainly was in McKale Center on Sunday afternoon. The Arizona Wildcats overcame the shifting momentum and inconsistencies on both offense and defense to take a 73-61 win over Oregon State.
The Wildcats took care of the ball and cleaned up on the offensive glass. Arizona (17-3, 7-3) turned the ball over three times, setting a program record for fewest turnovers in a game. Meanwhile, they took advantage of 16 Oregon State turnovers to score 19 points. Eleven offensive rebounds gave the Wildcats 13 points.
Arizona also took advantage of getting to the line 18 times. For a team that averages just 10.6 free throws made and 15 free throws attempted per game, it made all the difference.
For the second straight game, junior Koi Love came in from the bench and gave the Wildcats a big boost. Love crushed her season high with 16 points while playing a season-high 29 minutes. Her previous scoring high in an Arizona uniform was 10. The Vanderbilt transfer had a career-high of 32 at her previous school.
Love also added three rebounds and an assist on a day when Arizona really needed her. Ariyah Copeland was out with a migraine and Lauren Ware ran into early foul trouble. Love helped plug the holes along the front line.
“I thought Koi—the last two games, this whole weekend—she came out of her shell a little bit,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said, “and she really brought us great energy, offensively, defensively.”
Love had 24 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists during the homestand against Oregon and Oregon State. It felt like a turning point for the junior, a point that has taken some work to reach.
“Adjusting to the style of play, the defensive part that is a part of everything that we do,” Love said about what has changed for her. “Just being whatever my team name needs me to be on the court, off the court. I want to win. I want to play. So whatever I had to do to get on the court, I was gonna do it.”
But the Wildcats were once again led by senior Cate Reese who had big first and fourth quarters. Reese ended the game with 19 points, eight rebounds, one assist, and two steals while playing 40 minutes.
“I thought I took her out once,” Barnes said. “I didn’t remember I didn’t take her out at all. I thought I gave her a few minutes early and I looked, I was like, ‘Wait, she played 40 minutes.’”
Her scoring gave Reese 1,455 points for her career. That moved her past Ashley Whisonant (2005-08) into eighth on the career scoring list.
Sam Thomas also reached double digits with 10 points, four rebounds, one steal, and two blocks. Her points gave her 1,316 for her career, pushing her past Timi Brown (1987-91) for 10th on the career scoring list.
Shaina Pellington helped the Wildcats get out to an aggressive start in the third quarter. She drove to the basket again and again, and the Beavers obliged by fouling her. She went 5 of 6 from the line in the quarter to help Arizona turn a two-point halftime lead into a nine-point lead halfway through the third quarter. She ended the day with nine points, four rebounds, and three assists.