No. 18 Arizona defeated Arizona State 84-66, outscoring the Sun Devils 56-28 in the paint, in front of 9,495 fans at McKale Center on Thursday night.
“Great win. Whenever you beat your rival, I think it’s really good, and I think we had a great crowd tonight,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “I didn’t know what to expect because I don’t know how many people were on Christmas break, but to have 10,000 people here at this time on Dec. 29, I think it was really good.”
Esmery Martinez, who was honored before the game for reaching 1,000 career points, led the Wildcats with 21 points and 10 rebounds despite not playing most of the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach for Arizona State.
“I just said, ‘Thank God,’ first for the win. I feel good about it; it’s a good win,” she said.
Arizona finished with 24 assists on its 36 field goals in one of the more efficient games on offense this season for the Wildcats.
“I didn’t really know what to expect from us, I’m still learning a lot of things about our team, but I thought we’ve improved in a lot of areas,” Barnes said. “It’s not perfect by any means, but we’re sharing the ball better. We’re more efficient.”
Arizona held a 26-12 lead over Arizona State (7-5) after the first quarter, with Martinez and Cate Reese combining for 12 points in the paint, scoring six points each.
The Wildcats extended the lead to 40-24 with 1:42 remaining in the second quarter before Arizona State cut into it with two three-pointers from guards Tyi Skinner and Treasure Hunt.
Arizona held a 42-30 lead at halftime.
Fast break points and points in the paint helped propel Arizona to its biggest lead of the game late in the third quarter, going up by 28 points.
Arizona’s bench finished with 22 points, with reserves getting extended playing time in the fourth quarter.
Overall, Barnes was pleased with the shot selection and ball distribution on Thursday night.
“I’m really happy with seven threes because if we can win a game like this and we can score 84 points and only take seven threes, that’s great,” she said. “About a month ago, I think we were taking 27… I don’t like one pass, jump shot. That bothers me. I like us moving the ball, sharing the ball, and then that stat of 24/36 (assists to made field goal ratio) that’s positive. We’re playing more like a team, and that’s what we have to do.”
Shaina Pellington had 14 points and four assists.
Cate Reese scored 13 points.
Jade Loville scored 12 points and had four assists.
Arizona (11-1) next plays at California on Saturday at 8 p.m.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU.