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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

No. 11 Arizona WBB falls to No. 6 Syracuse in the Round of 64 of NCAA Tournament

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Caroline Bailey
Guard Jada Williams pushes through Cal’s defense on Jan. 28 in McKale Center. Arizona women’s basketball lost to Stanford 96-64.

The No. 11 seed Arizona women’s basketball team lost to No. 6 Syracuse University 74-69 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Harry A. Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut, on Saturday, March 23. 

First half

The starting lineup remained the same for the Wildcats. The Wildcats started this game hot, scoring the first points of the game. Arizona had great momentum early on, forcing turnovers and playing aggressively. However, down the stretch of the second quarter sloppy passes and fouls became issues that once again haunted the Wildcats. Syracuse started to pick up momentum from the Wildcats’ mistakes. Freshman guard Skylar Jones led the way offensively for Arizona, scoring 10 points in the first quarter.

Syracuse tried to pick up the pace but was shut down by Jada Williams, who would halt the Orange run by knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers. Arizona would then attempt to amp up its defensive pressure, but the Wildcats’ attempt to do so led to three players picking up two fouls. Syracuse was able to take advantage of this and regain the momentum, making it a close game entering halftime. Arizona was up 37-32 going into the break. Williams had 8 points, and Jones had 12.

Fifth-year forward Esmery Martinez had three fouls to go with her five steals in the first half.

Second half

The tables turned to start the second half. Syracuse laid in multiple shots early. Williams took matters into her hands and began to pressure Syracuse’s defense which eventually got her to the foul line, and she made two free throws to extend Arizona’s lead. Breya Cunningham did her part, helping her team by grabbing as many rebounds as she could, and would ultimately finish the game with six

Head coach Adia Barnes reminded her girls on the sideline to “settle down” as sloppy fouls were happening more and more. Martinez received her fourth foul with 4 minutes left in the third quarter. 

Dyaisha Fair from Syracuse was the backbone for her team as she tied the game with 16 seconds left in the third quarter.

For the first time in the game, Syracuse took the lead early in the fourth quarter. From here on out, it was a dogfight with both teams taking the lead from one another. Then fifth-year forward Helena Pueyo had a steal then made a 3-pointer that was much needed for the Wildcats to extend their lead. Fair once again came in clutch for the Orange with a step-back 3-pointer to take back the lead. Martinez fouled out with just a minute to go. Arizona attempted to find a last second spark from Pueyo and Willams but was unable to, as Syracuse held the lead.

Jones led the Wildcats with a career-high 24 points and six rebounds, but it was not enough to overcome the offensive onslaught Syracuse put on display to close out this game. 

Pueyo and Martinez played their final games as Wildcats. Pueyo finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, four steals, two assists and one block. Martinez’s final statline was 7 points, seven rebounds, five steals, one assist and one block. Both of these players have been crucial cornerstones to this program and were vital to the success of this year’s team. Now as they move on, their time at Arizona will be something that will never be forgotten amongst Wildcat Nation. 

Arizona fell 74-69 to Syracuse and its season officially came to an end with an 18-16 record and a Round of 64 exit in the NCAA Tournament. 

Despite the disappointing ending, the Wildcats overcame midseason roster changes, played through arguably the toughest conference in college basketball and did so with only eight available players for half of the season. This team was able to accomplish upsets, record-breaking games and made another appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

To top it all off, if these tournament games are any indication of the future of Arizona women’s basketball, under Barnes and her promising freshman class, this program can certainly be right back in the dance this time next year, looking to make its deepest run in the tournament yet.


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