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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona WBB defeats UNLV by 5 points in the first round of the NCAA Tournament

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Nathanial Stenchever

Cate Reese, a forward on the Arizona women’s basketball team, spins away from a defender and draws a foul during her shot on March 19 in McKale Center. The Wildcats would win the game 72-67.

The Arizona women’s basketball team beat the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by a score of 72-67 on Saturday, March 19 in McKale Center to advance to the second round. 

UNLV got off to a hot start, going inside and finding success to start the game 8-3 before the first media timeout. In her first game back from injury, Cate Reese got Arizona’s first points on a 3-pointer but the team got off to another slow start on offense.

“I haven’t played in a while so I was a little rusty but, I mean, my teammates did a great job of finding me, encouraging me. Like I said, I was just super excited to be back on the floor with them,” Reese said. 

Shaina Pellington got the offense back on track, breaking down UNLV’s zone defense and hitting a crafty layup through multiple defenders. UNLV continued to find holes in Arizona’s defense, ending the first quarter up 14-9. 

Pellington had a hot start in the second quarter, scoring a layup and following it up with a 3-pointer which seemed to be all Arizona needed to get its offense together. Arizona quickly erased the lead with baskets from Koi Love and Lauren Ware and tied the game off of a jumper from Derin Erdogan. 

UNLV went on an 8-2 scoring run to retake the lead late in the second quarter. The Lady Rebels continued to find ways into the paint, scoring multiple jumpers and layups. Arizona’s defense did look better in the second quarter and was highlighted by two massive Sam Thomas blocks near the end of the half. 

Arizona took its first lead since early in the first quarter from a Bendu Yeaney free throw to end the half up 31-29 over UNLV. Pellington led the way on offense for the Wildcats, scoring 10 points with Reese following behind with 5 points. 

Ware and Erdogan did the dirty work on the glass, grabbing seven of the team’s 11 rebounds. For UNLV they were led by Desi-Rae Young who put up 9 points, six rebounds and one assist in the half and Nneka Obiazor who had 10 points. 

Arizona looked settled in on offense and defense to start the quarter with two quick layups by Thomas and Ware. Pellington looked more comfortable shooting the ball, hitting her second 3-pointer of the game and a mid-range jumper to help Arizona take a 6-point lead. 

UNLV went on a run of their own, tying the game halfway through the quarter at 42-42. It was a back and forth battle for the rest of the quarter but two 3-pointers and good defense from UNLV gave them a 53-48 lead heading into the fourth quarter. 

Arizona’s defense dominated in the fourth quarter, with Thomas forcing two turnovers in back-to-back defensive plays that led to a Reese layup to bring the game within 1 point. After the Wildcats forced another two quick turnovers, Pellington made two driving layups in a row to give Arizona a 3-point lead. 

“In my opinion, [Thomas is a] very, very underrated defensively and she has been for her whole career here. She is a great defensive player, but she’s not a flashy defensive player besides the blocked shots. She is valuable and she’s a defensive stopper and she cancels a lot of people,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said.

Pellington continued to take over offensively, scoring at the rim and getting herself to the line while Arizona’s defense held UNLV to a 3-minute scoring drought while going on an 11-0 run in that time to seal the game for the Wildcats. 

“When I start hitting threes I feel like I’m really in my element. I’m like okay, they can’t guard me, especially when I was attacking the rim as well. I just felt super comfortable,” Pellington said. 

Pellington exploded offensively, matching her career-high with 30 points, three rebounds and four steals in the win with Reese dropping 16 points and Ware scoring 9 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Thomas put on a show defensively totaling four steals and two blocks.

“I’m very happy. The game wasn’t pretty at all times. I thought that we struggled defensively in some points in the game. I think they hit some really good, really big shots, tough shots. I thought first half, the post players were way too comfortable inside, hitting some tough shots,” Barnes said. “I think it was too easy at the beginning of the game when they got really confident. Usually, I look at the stat sheet. I don’t like the fact they shot 53%, but hey, it’s March and I’m happy that we won. So I’ll take it. It can be ugly, it can be whatever, but a win’s a win and this is a good way to start after being off a couple of weeks.” 

Arizona will play the University of North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday at 7 p.m. in McKale Center.  


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