The Arizona Wildcats beat the Washington State Cougars 56-55 in a defensive game Sunday afternoon at the McKale Center.
Malena Washington was the leading scorer for Arizona with 10 points. The Cougars shot 33 percent from the field compared to Arizona’s 31.
The victory improves Arizona’s record to 11-6 overall and 2-4 in the Pac-12 in Adia Barnes’ first season. Arizona finished 13-19 and 3-15 last season.
LaBrittney Jones hit the game-winning basket with 30 seconds left. She scored 10 of her 15 points in the fourth quarter. She also had nine rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots.
Going into halftime, Barnes had a single message according to redshirt sophomore guard Taryn Griffey, the daughter of baseball legend Ken Griffey Jr.
“Rebound the basketball”, said Griffey, who wanted to achieve an additional goal for her team. “We needed to pick up our intensity and pick up our pace.”
The Seattle product sees a difference in this year’s team compared to last year’s team.
“This year we don’t shutdown at all,” she said. “We wanted to prove people wrong.”
Like Griffey, Barnes likes her team’s attitude. However, she wants her team to cut down on mistakes.
“Take care of the ball,” she said. “(Also), we continue to really struggle on rebounds.”
Barnes was pleased with Griffey’s performance. She is a major contributor for the Wildcats in ways that go beyond the stat sheet.
“I am looking her to be a spark from the bench,” Barnes said. “Without Taryn, we would not have won the game tonight.”
Barnes wants Griffey to step up with other players who are struggling. Sunday, that was freshman guard Lucia Alonso.
“Sometimes we need her to be a little bit more of a scorer,” Barnes said of Alonso. “Sometimes we don’t have that shooter out there.”
Arizona will continue to utilize a full-court press defense. It is becoming a blueprint for the team.
“We are creating an identity,” Barnes said. “We are continuing to cause a problem with our press. There is length and athleticism that is hard for people.”
The Wildcats had to use the press in the final moments when Washington State’s Caila Haley drove down the court and took a potential game-winning shot just beyond the 3-point arc.
Barnes was “pleased” with her team’s defensive stand.
“It was good,” she said. “We had to press. That was kind of scary because she had hit one going into halftime.”
The Wildcats will now go on a two-game road trip. They will begin with a rematch with Stanford. The Cardinals won the first matchup 77-55 in Tucson. Arizona will look to improve on their 38 percent field goal percentage from the game.