Arizona women’s basketball didn’t start out sharp in their final home game before heading to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Over halfway into the first quarter, they were losing in every category. Shooting, turnovers, rebounds, and, most importantly, points. The Wildcats finally found their footing late in the second quarter on their way to a 78-36 victory over Marist College.
“I think we just picked up the intensity we talked about it on the first time out,” Arizona point guard Shaina Pellington said. “Like, we need to pick up our energy coming with more fight. We made some adjustments defensively, as well. So I think that kind of helped us.”
Sam Thomas is best known as a lockdown defender, but on this night she was the catalyst on the offensive end of the court. She had 14 points in 22 minutes to lead the Wildcats in scoring. She hit 5 of 8 from the field and 2 of 4 from the 3-point line.
Koi Love had a breakout game with 9 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 steals.
“Koi is coming into her own,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “We all know Koi can score. I think the challenge for her here is our defensive intensity and how we play. She has the ability to do it and it’s just learning how to be consistent with it and she’s committed to doing that.”
As a team, the night was a good one from beyond the arc. The Wildcats connected on 11 of 24 outside shots. Six different players hit at least one 3-pointer. Part of that is learning their roles.
“I think we’re understanding who does what and what ignites us,” Barnes said.
For Pellington, her role is to find shooters and run the team, according to her coach. Not only did she do that, but she also found her shot. The point guard had 7 points on 3-for-4 shooting to go with 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and a steal. Most importantly, she did so while committing just one turnover.
“Four assists, one turnover,” Barnes said. “That’s an incredible ratio. And played some really good full-court defense. She’s pressing the whole game So Shaina is running us well. I didn’t care about her shot not falling before. I just told her stick with it. Keep on shooting and it will fall, and it’s falling now. She’s been putting the work in and I believe in her.”
The Red Foxes came out looking every bit like they believed that they could get just their third win over a top 25 team in program history. At the end of the first quarter, they led by two. Arizona grabbed the lead again in the second quarter, but it was a rather thin 10-point advantage at the end of the half.
After the lackluster first half, the Wildcats came storming out of the locker room. The 32-22 lead they had at the end of two quarters became a 42-24 lead at 6:49 in the third quarter.
On a night when both football and men’s basketball were on television, the team attracted 6,787 fans to McKale Center.