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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona seniors carry Wildcats to victory in home finale

Pearl Dixon

Arizona’s Lauren Evans (10) guards USC’s Courtney Jaco during the UA-USC Womens Basketball Game on Sunday, Feb. 26. The Wildcats won 67-62 on senior night. 

In their last game at McKale Center, seniors Dezja James, LaBrittney Jones, Malena Washington, Breanna Workman and Lauren Evans combined to score 62 of the 67 Wildcats points to defeat visiting USC 67-62 in Sunday’s home women’s basketball finale.

All five seniors got the starting nod from Arizona head coach Adia Barnes and subsequently put up 24 points, including a trio of threes from Washington, to jump out to a 24-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.

“I said to myself it’s either going to be awesome or it’s going to be horrendous,” said Barnes when asked why she hadn’t started all five seniors before. “When it’s good and we started good, everyone is going to ask “Well why didn’t you start them”, so I think it’s par for the course, but I think they did a really good job.”

Arizona dominated play for a majority of the first half, but then started to falter, scoring only eight points in the second quarter and allowing USC to cut the lead to five by halftime. The Wildcats turned the ball over 11 times in the second quarter and allowed USC to six points almost equaling the eight put up in the entire quarter by Arizona.

In the third quarter, Dezja James put the Wildcats back on track and scored 10 consecutive points en route to a 14 point, 12 rebound performance. James was one of four Wildcats in double figures, joining fellow seniors Jones, Workman and Washington.

“I know Malena [Washington] was looking for me that whole third quarter,” James said. “This was our last game in McKale, I didn’t want to regret anything looking back.”

Jones continued her pursuit of placing herself in the top ten of all-time Wildcats in terms of scoring. She passed Aimee Grzyb for 12th all-time after her 16-point effort today, needing only 26 points to crack the top-ten. Jones could be in the top-ten in rebounds, blocks and points to finish her season if she is able to do so.

In the fourth quarter USC put up a fight on the back of Minyon Moore who scored a game-high 21 points, 11 in the fourth quarter alone. Moore kept feeding off of more turnovers by Arizona, finding other Trojans like Courtney Jaco who hit her only two threes of the game in the fourth quarter. USC shot 4-of-7 behind the arch to tie the game with just over four minutes left in the game.

From that point it was a back-and-forth affair, and it was the senior class that weathered the USC attack and found a way to win. A large part of that was due to Jones scoring 11 points, including the game winning free throws to secure the victory for Arizona.

“We made a couple of mistakes back-to-back, which got the game kind of close and so we just knew we didn’t want to lose our last game in McKale and we all just turned it up a notch,” Jones said.

The win gives Arizona five conference wins on the season, four more than they had last season. The victory also moved Arizona to the No. 11 seed in the Pac-12 tournament this week, facing No. 6 Oregon in Seattle Thursday at 9:30 MST on Pac-12 Networks.

Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter.

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