Arizona women’s basketball could have locked in a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament with a win over Oregon. The Ducks were on a seven-game losing streak, so it’s not like they are the Oregon teams of old. To make matters worse for UO, star freshman Grace VanSlooten was out with an injury.
The No. 14 Wildcats couldn’t put it away, though. They came out strong in the first quarter, but the Ducks used a 22-11 second quarter to take a 40-30 lead into the half. They would never relinquish that lead.
“They were destroying our principal defense,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “I mean, we couldn’t contain Endyia [Rogers] and [Te-Hina] Paopao, and they were picking us apart and manhandling us so much that we had to change our principal defense.”
Despite the loss, Arizona was still able to lock up that first-round bye. They got a little help from Washington State, which defeated UCLA in Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins had to go 2-0 this weekend and have the Wildcats go 0-2 to overtake Arizona because UA holds the tiebreaker.
Arizona shot just 34.4 percent in the first half while allowing Oregon to shoot 51.7 percent. Things didn’t get much better in the second half as the Wildcats ended the game shooting 30.4 percent while the Ducks finished at 47.2 overall and 41.7 from 3.
Arizona cut the Oregon lead to one point with 7:58 left in the game after two free throws from Shaina Pellington. That was the last big push by the Wildcats.
The Ducks outscored Arizona 12-1 over the final 3:36 of the game. The Wildcats did not score another point after the 2:43 mark.
“They made us pay for going under on-balls,” Barnes said. “The dagger of the game was Chance Gray’s end of the third quarter three. Shaina completely lost her, gave up an open shot. And the lack of focus through three quarters. And that was the dagger that gave them momentum.”
Cate Reese led the Wildcats in scoring with 19, doing much of her damage from the free throw line. She went 8 for 10 from the line and 5 for 17 from the field. She added three rebounds, one steal and one block.
Freshman Paris Clark was a bright spot for the Wildcats. She showed her trademark hustle and approached a double-double. The young guard had nine points on 4-for-9 shooting, 10 rebounds, one assist and one steal. Six of her rebounds came on the offensive end of the court. Her only struggle was at the free throw line where she went 0 for 4.
“She’s bringing us a tremendous amount of energy,” Barnes said. “She’s effective, and she deserves a lot more minutes. Madi [Conner] played really well. Madi and Paris are a few that are bringing energy and life when things are hard and fighting when we’re down. And we need that from more people.”
Besides Reese, Conner was the only Wildcat in double figures. She had 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting. She added two rebounds and two steals.
The only other players to get close to double figures were Clark and Pellington. Pellington had eight points to go with her six rebounds, two assists and one steal. No one else scored over five points.
Both of Arizona’s leading rebounders were guards. While Reese had three boards and Esmery Martinez had four, Clark’s 10 and Pellington’s six were the most on the team.
Arizona started with a lineup of Pellington, Reese, Martinez, Lauren Fields, and Helena Pueyo. Usual starter Jade Loville had been in a walking boot earlier in the week due to an injured ankle. She played 18 minutes but only scored four points on 2-for-10 shooting and grabbed two rebounds while picking up three fouls.
The Wildcats will end the regular season on Saturday at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore. Oregon State had its losing streak extended to nine games when Arizona State finally broke through and won its first Pac-12 game of the year on Thursday.