Arizona head coach Adia Barnes was not happy with the slow start the Wildcats had against Colorado on Friday night. It wasn’t a problem against Utah on Sunday. What were problems were fouls and free-throw shooting.
Arizona lost three players to disqualification and watched Alissa Pili sink two free throws with 0.3 seconds on the clock as the Utes escaped with an 80-79 victory.
“To lose a game in that manner is very upsetting,” Barnes told Derrick Palmer of KTUC 1400 AM. “I didn’t see a foul. I’ll have to review it.”
The Wildcats had their own problems at the line. Arizona went 9-for-16 from the free throw line. Cate Reese hit 7 of 9, but Esmery Martinez went 1 for 5 and Lauren Fields was 1 for 2.
Reese had her second straight strong outing, putting up a season-high 25 points to go with her 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and one steal.
She was one of four Wildcats in double figures. Jade Loville had 17 points, three rebounds, and an assist. Shaina Pellington ended with 10 points, three assists, and five steals. Esmery Martinez rounded out the quartet with 10 points and five rebounds.
Reese was also one of the three Wildcats who fouled out. Pellington went out first, getting disqualified in her second straight game. She was called for her fifth with 2:49 to go. Reese followed with 37 seconds to go. But it was Martinez whose fifth foul hurt the most.
With Utah up by one, Arizona stole the inbound pass. Paris Clark scored to give the Wildcats the lead with 1.6 seconds to go. Utah advanced the ball after the timeout and got it in to Pili. The officials whistled Martinez for her final foul on the block attempt with 0.3 seconds to go.
It was a disappointing end to an exciting game.
“Having three players in foul trouble, it’s hard to win close games,” Barnes said. “But I am happy with the way we’ve improved since Friday night’s game.”
Madi Conner played for only a few seconds in the fourth quarter, but Barnes said that was not due to injury.
“She was fine,” Barnes said. “Just the matchups were difficult. Lauren was playing good defense and then Paris came in and gave us a spark off the bench.”
The Wildcats started the game on a 7-0 run, a dramatic difference compared to their outing in Boulder two days before when they scored just eight points in the opening quarter. A three-pointer by Utah’s Isabel Palmer gave the home team the three-point lead after the first 10 minutes.
It was a two-point Utah lead at the half and a three-point game after three quarters.
Pili led the Utes with 27 points.
“We didn’t have an answer for Pili inside,” Barnes said.
Jenna Johnson fouled out for the Utes while Pili and Gianna Kneepkens played with four fouls during the fourth quarter.