On Thursday, Arizona head coach Adia Barnes talked about how Washington liked to play deep into the shot clock. On Friday, the Huskies went out and proved it. It wasn’t enough to get the upset, though. The 19th-ranked Wildcats used a strong fourth quarter from Cate Reese to defeat UW 61-54.
“I’m happy not happy with us not playing 40 minutes, but happy with the win,” said Arizona head coach Adia Barnes.
While UW is playing at a slightly faster pace than it did last year, it is still ranked No. 297 in pace of play. Arizona is ranked 63rd. In the first half, the Huskies controlled the pace of play.
“It’s very hard to play against a team that doesn’t shoot until like the last five seconds,” Barnes said. “But that’s discipline and focus. We knew that coming into the game. We knew they run chin and Princeton, and we knew we were going to guard a one-four set, back cuts. So, you have to stay disciplined and there was a lot of times we give up wide-open layups. And I think it’s hard because our tempo is fast, and their tempo really slowed us down.”
After taking 21 shots in the first quarter last week at Arizona State, the Wildcats took just 25 in the entire first half against Washington. The slowed-down tempo allowed UW to go into the locker room with a 23-19 lead.
“They use the whole shot clock, and so it’s a matter of locking down on defense and not having a mental breakdown for that whole shot clock,” said fifth-year wing Jade Loville. “So, I think that was another thing. And then just like Cate said, that communication of that chin action. They come together. They split. Sometimes it’s a backdoor. So just communicating early was something that we were lacking in the first half.”
Arizona came out looking to impose its style of play in the third quarter and found immediate success. The Wildcats scored five quick points to take the 24-23 lead and force a Husky timeout less than two minutes into the half.
“My question for the team—I asked this just a second ago,” Barnes said. “I said, we started off the game. It wasn’t bad. I think we just weren’t running great offense. We weren’t sharing the ball and we are extremely efficient when...we get paint touches and ball reversals. We’re great. We are not good with one pass and dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble. Look, pick up your dribble, pass. That is not us. So, I said what’s the difference? You’re halfway through the game. You’re more tired. So why did we come out of the gates in the second half, just with so much energy and ball pressure? They didn’t know. And so, I said, ‘Well, those are the things that are the differences of being good and great, and you have to have that same intensity. Shouldn’t wait to the third quarter.’ We shouldn’t score 19 points in a half. We’re too good for that.”
Despite the improved energy in the third quarter, UW led 36-35 heading into the fourth quarter. That’s when Reese took over as the Wildcats outscored the Huskies 26-18 in the final 10 minutes.
The fifth year forward had eight points and a steal in the fourth quarter. In one crucial stretch, she hit a shot and was fouled. She hit the free throw, then stole the ball on the ensuing Washington possession and hit another shot.
After a Husky timeout, Reese hit yet another bucket to put a bow on a seven-point run in less than a minute. The personal run turned a tied game into an Arizona seven-point advantage with 6:32 left to play. Washington never got closer than six points after that.
“I talked about that after the game to Jade and Cate,” Barnes said. “They were cold. Jade was like one for five in the first half. Cate wasn’t finishing well. Six for 13 isn’t that great. They’re not great numbers. But the fact that she ended with really big buckets down the stretch and strong moves and finished when we needed it, that matters. And that’s why I chose her player of the game. Because a lot of players will be frustrated, hanging their heads the whole game, but she stuck with it, got hot and really put us on her back for those few minutes, and that was important.”
Still, Barnes was not happy with the entire second half. The Wildcats led by 13 with 1:29 left in the game. Washington closed out the game on a 10-4 run to make the final margin just seven points. The coach even called a 30-second timeout with 26.1 seconds to go and an eight-point lead.
Reese ended the game with a team-high 15 points. She added six rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
She was one of three Wildcats who scored in double figures. Loville scored 13 and had one assist. Madi Conner added 11 points, three rebounds and two assists.
“Madi is our spark off the bench,” Loville said. “She comes in and does what we need her to do. She has been the last five, six games, I think, over double digits almost every game. So, I think that’s exactly what we need. Someone to come off the bench and really give us that spark. We’re definitely looking for her. We know she’s going to hit the shot, but she’s also just unpredictable now because you’re gonna fly out at her, given her percentages, so I think she’s doing a really good job of reading defenses.”
Shaina Pellington led the team with five assists. She also had eight points and one steal.
“As a point guard, to have five assists and one turnover is very good,” Barnes said. “I think if you look like a month ago, Shaina would drive...for herself. I think now she’s driving for her teammates, and I think that’s what good point guards do...I hope you guys notice the difference also in Shaina. She’s shooting better and she’s providing a lot more ball pressure.”
Esmery Martinez had a team-high 12 rebounds to put her season total at 189 in 21 games. She just missed a double-double with eight points and added three assists.
Barnes also praised Lauren Fields for playing hard on defense despite not getting many shots.
“She played a really good game,” the coach said. “She had 20, 25 minutes and only took three shots, but she was phenomenal defensively. Three steals, one turnover, one assist, but she gave on-the-ball pressure. She’s always guarding the best guard. She’s working her butt off, but most players don’t want to do the dirty work. She’s tough. And she’s doing that and taking three shots...[I]t is very selfless to do that.”
The Huskies were led by Haley Van Dyke with 16 points. Lauren Schwartz (13 points) and Trinity Oliver (11 points) also scored in double figures.
Arizona (16-4, 6-3 Pac-12) plays Washington State on Sunday at 12 p.m. MST in McKale Center.