The Arizona Wildcats’ chances in their last Pac-12 conference game at Pauley Pavilion were thought to hinge on whether or not UCLA post Lauren Betts played. Instead, it turned on the Wildcats’ inability to contain the Bruins’ perimeter shooters in a 66-58 loss.
“I thought we did some really positive things,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “Forced them into 20 turnovers. Had nine steals...but got killed in transition. Our turnovers led to transition buckets. Other things we got to the free throw line. We attacked. We got Kailyn (Gilbert) back. Kailyn gave us 14 off the bench. So I think we did some really good things, but just made mistakes at really critical times.”
Betts took the floor after missing the last four games, but her final line was six points, nine rebounds, four blocks, two steals, two turnovers, and four fouls. She definitely had an impact. It just wasn’t the defining one.
Instead, the Bruins were led by forward Gabriela Jaquez with 21 points and point guard Kiki Rice with 20. They were the only two UCLA players to score in double figures, but they were enough. The duo went 17 for 27 from the floor.
Jacquez added 15 rebounds and six assists to a monstrous game. Those 15 rebounds were part of a 48-27 UCLA advantage on the boards.
“We prepared for Betts being there just because I thought she’d play,” Barnes said. “Just knew that she’d been practicing and just always have to prepare for all their players. But we did a really good job containing Betts, Charisma Osborne, and Londynn Jones, but we didn’t do a good job on Rice and let Jaquez come in and just dominate.”
Jaquez used her 3-point efficiency to open other parts of the game and continue to hurt Arizona.
“I think she got confident,” Barnes said. “She hit two or three 3s in the first half. We were kind of going to be short on her, but then she was wide open for a couple. She did a good job of converting and making us pay. And then...we started to close out for her 3-point shot, she started to drive by and get offensive rebounds.”
As Barnes mentioned, Arizona also welcomed a missing player back to the court. Gilbert played 15 minutes after missing the last three games for undisclosed non-medical reasons.
Gilbert entered in the second quarter. She finished with 14 points, two rebounds, one assist, and one steal.
The Wildcats were led by Esmery Martinez who came close to a double-double with 16 points and eight rebounds. She added two assists and two steals but also had three turnovers.
Helena Pueyo gave Arizona three players in double figures. She scored 10 points on 5-for-13 shooting. She also had four rebounds, two assists, one block, and two steals.
Six of Arizona’s eight players put points on the board and five had two assists each. One of those was freshman point guard Jada Williams, who came close to scoring double figures with eight points to go along with her two rebounds, two assists, and one block.
Arizona did not shoot well from the floor, though. The Wildcats hit just 19 of their 57 shots. They went 2 of 10 from the 3-point line. In contrast, UCLA hit 40.4 percent of their shots overall and went 7 for 17 from beyond the arc.
Like Martinez and Gilbert, a large chunk of Williams’ points were from the free-throw line. The freshman went 4 for 4 from the line. Martinez hit 7 of 8 free throws. Gilbert went five 5 for 6.
Those trends were part of a foul-prone game. Each team shot 20 free throws. Arizona connected on 18 of its shots from the charity stripe. UCLA hit just 13 of its 20.
“I think we’re out of position a little bit,” Barnes said. “We have to be smarter with some of our fouls, especially Breya (Cunningham). Getting out of position and bailing out. Or if a post is making a midline move, we don’t need to slap down. Even if it’s all ball, the slapping down motion’s going to be a foul. We should know that by now. So I think we have to do better in those situations. And a lot of times if you work early, you’re not in those situations. So you have to learn from them, and that’s the result of when you have three freshmen. They’re gonna make mistakes.”
Cunningham fouled out in 15 minutes while Isis Beh had four fouls in 26 minutes. On the UCLA side, four players ended the game with four fouls each.
“Breya, she makes mistakes, but it causes her to sit,” Barnes said. “I mean, we needed her on the floor to score and play longer to give us size with Betts. The foul trouble, that made her sit, and we needed her. We needed Jada to hit some more shots, (Skylar Jones), and Helena. Otherwise, it’s hard to win.”