Shaina Pellington drove the lane and eluded three defenders to put up a running one-handed off-balanced shot with the clock winding down.
The release of the off-balance shot was No. 9 Arizona’s performance against unranked Vanderbilt in microcosm — getting just far enough in the clear but was it good enough to win?
The shot banked in at the buzzer to allow Arizona to escape with a 48-46 win Thursday in the opening day of the Paradise Jam event at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
— Arizona Women’s Basketball (@ArizonaWBB) November 25, 2021
Arizona (5-0) withstood Vanderbilt’s charge in the fourth quarter after the Wildcats built a 38-27 lead.
The Commodores (3-3) gradually cut into the lead and trailed 45-44 with 1:53 remaining following a 3-pointer by Iyana Moore.
Taylor Chavez made one of two free throw attempts with 23 seconds left to put the Wildcats ahead 46-44.
Kaylon Smith tried a jumper in the lane that was blocked by Lauren Ware but Brinae Alexander grabbed the loose ball and made a shot to tie the game at 46 with 8 seconds remaining.
Adia Barnes called timeout and had Chavez inbound the ball with 4 seconds left at the top of the key to Pellington, who looked determined to take the game-winning shot from the moment she caught the pass.
Helena Pueyo cleared out to the right wing and Sam Thomas to the left wing and Cate Reese ran from the post to the free-throw line. After Chavez passed to Pellington, she stayed beyond the three-point line in front of Arizona’s bench.
Arizona spread Vanderbilt’s 2-3 zone defense just enough for Pellington to break it down and drive past three converging defenders for the winning shot. Pellington finished with seven points and two assists.
Thomas led Arizona with 13 points and Ariyah Copeland had 11 points and six rebounds.
The Wildcats shot only 40.9 percent from the field, including 6-of-20 from 3-point range. They committed 23 turnovers and attempted only 10 free throws, making six.
Vanderbilt’s performance was worse — 36.2 percent shooting from the field and 26 turnovers.
Arizona will play DePaul on Friday at 1:15 p.m. in the second of three games in the Paradise Jam. The Wildcats play Rutgers on Saturday.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District