Last week, with her team down less than 10 points to Washington State with over four minutes to play, Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said she looked at her team and they already looked defeated. She didn’t understand why. There was still a lot of time.
Less than a week later, being down 11 points with over four minutes to go didn’t faze the Wildcats. On their head coach’s birthday, UA used a huge 3-pointer from Lauren Fields and a 5-for-5 night from the line by Shaina Pellington to defeat the Bruins 71-66 in overtime.
“I thought our team did such an amazing job of staying with it,” Barnes said. “We didn’t play our best game. Shots weren’t falling. We were getting killed on the boards, and we just found a way to battle back and get big stops. From being down 11 with four minutes to go and fighting back, I think it shows a lot of character for our team and it will enable us to believe that we can come back from a deficit.”
Fields had been struggling, to put it mildly. She had scored two total points in her last four games—going 1, 0, 0 and 1 in those games. She appeared to be passing up open looks, as UCLA sagged off her. Eventually, Barnes took her out of the game and went with freshmen Paris Clark and Kailyn Gilbert for long stretches.
Like she did against Oregon State when she scored eight straight points to help the Wildcats come back, Fields pulled the trigger with the Wildcats trailing 61-58 with 68 seconds to go. It went in.
“She fights so hard on defense and she’s been consistently one of our best defensive players,” Barnes said. “And for her she’s been struggling offensively and to hit a big one when it counted, I think this is going to do so much for her confidence. And we need her. We need her to step up. We know she’s capable doing it. I believe in her.”
Pellington had a chance to win it in regulation. As she had all evening, she found a lane right to the bucket through UCLA’s defense. She just couldn’t make this one go.
“She had two chances to win it but didn’t hang her head,” Barnes said. “Still was big in overtime. That’s an area she’s grown in.”
Pellington hit the first bucket for either team in overtime. Arizona didn’t trail again.
The Wildcats scored the first four points of the extra period and held the Bruins to just two field goals. Pellington scored six of the team’s 10 points in the final five minutes.
The final two of Pellington’s season-high 21 points put the game away. Like her teammate, she overcame her own demons. The 55 percent free-throw shooter hit the final two of her five free throws of the evening.
“Shaina carried us the whole first half,” Barnes said. “I’m proud of her. We’ve had free throw problems all year. Shaina hit some big free throws. Madi [Conner] hit some big ones. Shaina made baskets when it counted. She was the only one scoring for like three quarters. Her and Esmery [Martinez], but she was consistently doing it the whole game.”
UCLA couldn’t guard Pellington when she decided she was going to the hoop. She had double-digit points in the first quarter. She added three rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal.
Martinez had her sixth double-double of the season. She ended with 17 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, a block and three steals. Jade Loville had 13 points to complete the trio of double-digit scorers.
Cate Reese was just shy of double digits with nine points, all in the second half. She added seven rebounds, as assist and a steal.
“We hit some big shots, and it was by committee,” Barnes said. “Jade hit some shots. Cate came alive at the end. Shaina was carrying us and Esmery.”