Losing a game on the road in the Pac-12 can be overcome — because of the competitive nature of the league — but losing one of the best post players in the nation is no easy task to battle through.
Cate Reese left Sunday’s 72-67 loss at Washington State in the fourth quarter with a dislocated right shoulder after colliding with Washington State’s Johanna Teder on a fast-break manuever to the basket.
Arizona coach Adia Barnes mentioned after the game that Reese’s injury did not involve torn ligaments or a bone break and that the shoulder was popped back in with assistance from the Washington State orthopedic staff.
“That’s a great thing,” Barnes said of Reese’s diagnosis, “just because the time being out is significantly less.”
“She’s gonna be very sore,” Barnes added. “It’s the first time dislocating her shoulder. And that was pretty devastating for me. I’ve never seen that before. Going next to her and she’s in excruciating pain, it was scary. So that kind of shook me a little bit.”
Thank you to everyone who checked on me after the game. Hope to be back on the court with my teammates as soon as I can! In the meantime we have our last two home games this week. Hope to see you there!! Thank you and bear down❤️❤️
— C8 (@cate_reese) February 20, 2022
Barnes said she is “very optimistic” of Reese being able to play in the Pac-12 tournament from March 2-6.
“The timing couldn’t have been better if this was going to happen, because right now, we have our last two games (this week against UCLA and USC), and we’re at home,” Barnes said. “We’ll have 10,000 people-plus, great momentum playing at home and then we have a little bit of time in between then and the Pac-12 tournament.
“Hopefully, if we can win a couple games, we can have a bye (in the Pac-12 tournament) and it buys us time. So that’s like 10-11 days, so there’s a good chance that she can only be out maybe a week or maybe less, because there’s nothing else damaged. I won’t play her unless she’s ready because for me, I’m looking big picture. If we take care of business, do well in the Pac-12 tournament, we’re gonna be in a great position to possibly host (in the first two rounds) in the NCAA tournament. I really need her for that. We need Cate but at least we have time at this period.”
The play with 6:59 left in the game was obviously an emotional obstacle for Arizona to overcome with the game coming to an end.
Thomas mentioned of Reese that she and her teammates “definitely just wanna make sure she’s okay.”
“It was definitely sad to see her go down in the game, and obviously (seeing Reese) after the game in the locker room,” said Thomas, a roommate of Reese’s for three years. “We know that we just have to keep fighting and the next person has to step up. Definitely, we’ll be praying for her.”
Washington State led 58-52 at the time of Reese’s injury and the Cougars were up by at least five points afterward until Helena Pueyo’s 3-pointer with 2:44 left cut the lead to 60-58.
Teder, who had 21 points, responded with a 7-0 run of her own, including her fifth 3-pointer, to give Washington State a 67-58 lead with 50 seconds left.
A 3-pointer by Madison Conner, her third of the game, cut the lead to 69-63 with 33.5 seconds left.
Krystal Leger-Walker sealed the win making one of two free throws with 15.3 seconds left to put the Cougars ahead 72-65.
“We have to be the attacker. We can’t wait. We’ve kind of been not playing Arizona defense,” Thomas said about the loss. “We’re not really running our offense either. We’re kind of taking the shots that the defense wants us to take.”
Washington State (18-8, 10-5 Pac-12) strengthened its NCAA tournament hopes by reaching 18 wins in a season for the first time since the 1990-91 season.
Arizona (19-5, 9-5) returns to McKale Center on Thursday to play UCLA without Reese.
“We have to come together with a faster turnaround — we play on Thursday and Saturday this week, so it’s a little different for us,” said Thomas, referring to the schedule usually being a Friday-Sunday format. “We play two games against two really good teams, UCLA and then obviously we want to avenge our loss against USC (last month in Los Angeles).
“Hopefully we can just turn around and have positive vibes back in McKale.”
Arizona is 4-5 on the road in the Pac-12 and 5-0 at home.
Reese had 10 points and three rebounds at the time of her injury Sunday.
She is the seventh-leading scorer in Arizona history with 1,506 points and the fourth-best rebounder with 766.
Reese has made it known that she will return for her “Super Senior” season next year, an extra year granted by the NCAA because of COVID-19 restrictions the last two seasons.
She has become a captain for the Wildcats because of her four years in the program.
“Shaina was there to give her support (in the locker room) because Shaina has dislocated her shoulder multiple times,” Barnes said. “We already have (Reese) in a sling. She’s going to be okay. There’s nothing torn, there’s nothing bad, and that’s great news for us because we’re moving into the most important part of our season.”
Conner led Arizona with 15 points in Sunday’s game and fellow reserve Koi Love was next with 12.
In need of offense after her team committed five turnovers and made only one basket in the first four minutes of the game, Barnes substituted Love, Conner and Pueyo into the game for Lauren Ware, Bendu Yeaney and Pellington.
Conner had five points, including a 3-pointer, and Love made a basket in a 9-0 run that gave Arizona an 11-6 lead with 3:31 left in the first quarter.
Teder then made consecutive 3-pointers to put Washington State ahead again.
A 3-pointer by Conner and layup by Love gave Arizona an 18-14 lead with 1:10 left in the first quarter, but Washington State again answered with a 3-pointer by Charlisse Leger-Walker before heading into the second quarter.
“Madi gives us a shooter coming off the bench and I think she’s been doing some great things,” Barnes said. “Koi brought us some energy, drove to the rim and did some really, really good things today.
“Those two off the bench I think have been great. And it’s great if we can get a consistent rotation and then continue to have them do that.”
In the second quarter, Pellington awoke making both of her shots for four points and two assists, and Sam Thomas made her first 3-point attempt. Pellington finished with seven points and Thomas had 10.
Arizona led 33-31 at halftime shooting 51.9 percent from the field, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range, but Washington State was equally as effective. The Cougars made 57.1 percent of their shots, including 5 of 8 from beyond the arc.
Leger-Walker, Washington State’s leading scorer entering the game with 16.2 points a game, had only five points at halftime, but Teder had nine points and post player Bella Murekatete had 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field.
Leger-Walker had six points to lead the Cougars to a 19-12 advantage in the third quarter.
Thomas’ right leg was hurt when Leger-Walker landed on her during a rebounding attempt and she had to leave the game with 2:13 left in the third quarter. Thomas had four points in that quarter after making both of her field-goal attempts.
Thomas returned in the fourth quarter and appeared to be fine playing all 10 minutes.
“I felt myself undercutting her so I tried to fall to the ground to release her fall a little bit, and then my leg just accidentally released her,” Thomas said. “She just landed on my leg. It was a little bit more scary than it did hurt. Just wanted to make sure everything was okay.”
Washington State led 50-45 going into the fourth quarter.
Pellington also appeared to be shaken up in the fourth quarter when Murekatete landed on her during a rebound attempt. Pellington held her head when she stood, but she continued playing.
Leger-Walker finished with 15 points and her older sister Krystal, a senior honored on Senior Day before the game, finished with 12.
Murekatete had 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field and pulled down eight rebounds.
Washington State shot 54.2 percent from the field, 56.3 percent (9 of 16) from 3-point range.
Arizona was able to force the Cougars into 17 turnovers that led to 21 points, but the Wildcats were outrebounded 32-21.
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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.