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Arizona women’s basketball shakes up the lineup in a 23-point win over California

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 06 Women’s Oregon State at Arizona Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The loss to Stanford on Thursday was one that Arizona head coach Adia Barnes called “embarrassing.” She implied after the game that there could be different people in the lineup in the future. To that end, she made some changes in an 80-57 win over California.

“I’m not a coach who usually changes starting lineups,” Barnes said. “Because I think there’s good with consistency. But I think there’s sometimes you have to shake things up so people have more of a sense of urgency.”

Madi Conner got the first start of her career, but she only played nine minutes and went 0-1 from the floor with one rebound and one steal. Helena Pueyo made her fifth start of the year, going 0-2 with four rebounds and five assists. They were joined by usual starters Shaina Pellington, Cate Reese, and Esmery Martinez.

“I was trying to get a lot of different people in the game, and trying some different things because as we’re progressing, I need to kind of see how different combinations play together,” Barnes said.

She added that she didn’t care that neither Conner nor Pueyo scored, because everything is not predicated on scoring.

“I know what Madi can do,” Barnes said.

Barnes made more changes to start the second half. Out went Conner and Pueyo. In came Paris Clark and usual starter Lauren Fields.

Fields earned the time with a huge first half off the bench. She led all scorers with 10 points while also accounting for two assists and a rebound in the first half.

Throughout the game, Fields made nice passes on the fastbreak and into the post, finding openings to set up her teammates even when she didn’t end up with assists. She ended the game with 10 points, one rebound, three assists, and one steal in 23 minutes.

Clark earned her time by “staying ready,” as she said after her play against Stanford. She scored nine points, had six rebounds, dished out one assist, and grabbed one steal in 18 minutes off the bench.

Pellington led all scorers with 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting and went 5 for 6 at the line and 1 for 3 from beyond the arc. She added one rebound, three assists, and one steal.

Barnes said that she felt Pellington was confident against Cal because she also had a good game in Berkeley. Pellington agreed, saying that getting used to how teams guard her in the conference is important.

“They don’t pressure me because they can’t guard me speed wise,” Pellington said. “They can’t. So, they’ll guard me at the free throw line, and sometimes that doesn’t even work. That’s just how teams guard me in this conference. And I take it as a compliment but also kind of disrespect because I gotta make shots, and I think I did a good job of doing that today.”

Barnes had also challenged the team defensively after the blowout loss to Stanford. She said that they needed Pellington, in particular, to pressure the ball more. Both the player and her coach felt she did a better job of that on Sunday.

“I wasn’t perfect by any means, but I did feel like while I was playing, I was more conscious of trying to pressure the ball,” Pellington said. “I think overall as a team, we did a better job of trying to do that. Again, we’re not perfect yet at it, but I think the focus was there. We were thinking about it while we were playing.”

The Arizona defense held the Bears to 33.3 percent shooting from the floor and 18.6 percent shooting from 3. The Wildcats put Cal on the line 17 times, though.

Martinez surpassed 1,000 career rebounds during the game. She ended with her seventh double-double of the year, contributing 15 points, 15 rebounds, a game-high seven assists, one block, and three steals. Most importantly, she had just two fouls, so she was able to stay on the floor for 30 minutes.

“I think she dominated today,” Barnes said. “And she’s been sick all week. So, she missed a few days of practice this week. Has been struggling breathing. For her to do that...I’m really proud.”

Arizona built a lead of 24 halfway through the third quarter. Barnes opted to use more of her reserves at that point, but things stalled. The Wildcats went on a scoring drought the final 2:35 of the quarter.

California kept pushing. They cut the lead to just seven.

Even with the usual starters in, the Golden Bears kept chipping away as Arizona failed to take care of the ball. The Wildcats had four turnovers and just two baskets from 8:36 to 5:50 in the fourth quarter. Pellington was responsible for five turnovers in the game with two coming during that period. Reese, who also turned the ball over during that period, ended with four.

Arizona finally settled down with about five minutes to go. Over a four-and-a-half-minute period, the Wildcats went on a 15-1 run to go back up by 22 points.

Cal was led by Jayda Curry with 15 points and six assists. Ugonne Onyiah and Leilani McIntosh both scored in double figures, as well.