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Arizona women’s basketball falls in double-overtime nailbiter at Oregon State

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 20 Women’s - Jerry Colangelo’s 2023 Hall of Fame Series - Gonzaga vs Arizona Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Arizona’s four-game road trip was starting with what looks like the most difficult opponent. Oregon State came in 12-2 on the season with a NET of 21. The Beavers have an inside presence that could cause a foul-prone and depleted Arizona frontline problems. The Wildcats didn’t fold but they couldn’t close the deal in a 73-70 double-overtime loss in Gill Coliseum.

“They fought, they played their hearts out, they did everything they could,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “I’m just sad for them when you do all that, then you don’t rebound or four people box out and one doesn’t. Those are daggers.”

The Arizona frontcourt came up big early in a game that was a numbers mismatch for them. Freshman Breya Cunningham scored 10 points and had a block in the first half. Esmery Martinez picked things up in the second half, getting 14 of her season-high 20 points after halftime.

Had they been able to grab one more rebound, that would have been the story. They weren’t able to get that rebound.

The Wildcats had a five-point lead with 35 seconds to go. A 3-pointer by Oregon State’s Adlee Blacklock cut the lead to two with 22.9 ticks on the clock. Kailyn Gilbert pushed it back to a three-point lead by hitting one of two free throws.

With less than 15 seconds to go, OSU missed two 3-point shots, but Arizona could not corral the defensive rebound. The third time was the charm for the Beavers when Talia von Oelhoffen sank one to tie the game at 60 with three seconds to go. Gilbert’s shot at the buzzer rimmed out and it was on to overtime.

“Honestly, ABCD, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10, the reason we lost the game was box out, box out, box out, box out, box out, box out, rebound,” Barnes said. “That was the difference in the game. If you give a team three opportunities to shoot a 3, a high school team would make a 3 to go into overtime or win a game. That is a problem...We’re not going to win games if we get outrebounded by 20-some.”

Once in overtime, the Wildcats tired and had difficulty guarding Raegan Beers without fouling. Beers scored just three points in the first half and only took three shots. At the end of regulation, she still had just nine points. She ended the game with 20.

Beers scored all of the Beavers’ points in the first overtime from the line. In the second overtime, it was Beers scoring seven of OSU’s nine points, five of those coming on free throws. The other two points were on von Oelhoffen free throws.

“When you’re tired, you’re not pressing the ball as much,” Barnes said. “It kind of hurt us in the third quarter, Talia...got really comfortable in pick and roll and she does a really good job finding Beers. And they’re a good team. And they’re hard to guard when they can pound the ball inside.”

Gilbert ended the game with a team-high 22 points, six rebounds, three assists, and five steals. Close behind was Martinez with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting. She added eight rebounds, three assists, one block, and three steals.

Jada Williams and Cunningham also ended in double figures. In addition to her 10 points, Cunningham had five rebounds, four blocks, and one steal. After dealing with foul trouble in many games this year, Cunningham made it through the first half with only one whistle, although she did finally foul out towards the end of the second overtime.

What Cunningham couldn’t do that Beers was able to do was draw fouls. Barnes said that came down to the kind of shots she was taking.

“Breya, we did a great job of pounding the ball inside and allowing her to attack Beers,” Barnes said. “She kept going to the same thing and kind of fading, and in the Pac-12 it’s going to be hard to get those calls. So, we have to work with Breya. She’s going to be so talented.”

Williams had 11 points, two rebounds, two assists, and two steals.

After scoring 20 points in her last game, Helena Pueyo went scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting. She had three rebounds, three assists, and four steals.

The Wildcats also stopped sharing the ball as well after the first half. They had 10 assists on 14 made baskets in the first 20 minutes but only assisted on four more baskets the rest of the game.

“I think that we forced a lot of shots down the stretch,” Barnes said. “Definitely have some film to show them. Some of that is fatigue and not being aware. When you’re tired, I think that a lot of things go out the door. That’s not an excuse. We have to share the ball better.”

None of that was the real difference in Barnes’ opinion.

“I think we played good enough defense,” she said. “If we would have just ended with a box out, we win the game.”