Sparked by a seven-point scoring run by Cate Reese in the fourth quarter, No. 19 Arizona defeated Washington 61-54 in a defensive showdown on Friday evening in front of 7,884 fans at McKale Center.
The Wildcats led by 13 points with 2:24 remaining in the game.
“It didn’t end too pretty, but a win is a win, so I’m happy, ” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “Not happy with us not playing for 40 minutes, but happy with the win.”
The Wildcats took a 40-38 lead over the Huskies with a layup by Reese with 7:25 remaining in the game. She would extend the lead to 45-38 by scoring a free throw on Arizona’s next possession, picking up a steal that led to a transition layup, and hitting a jumper with 6:32 remaining.
Washington (10-10, 1-8) cut the Wildcats’ late fourth quarter 13-point lead lead to eight points, at 57-49 when Washington guard Hannah Stines scored a fast break layup with 26 seconds on the clock.
Barnes called a timeout after the score to regroup and close out the game.
In the end, the eight point deficit was too much for Washington to overcome.
Madi Conner, who finished 6-for-6 from the free throw line, scored four free throws for Arizona’s final points.
Two made free throws for Stines with 15 seconds remaining and a made three-pointer by Washington guard Elle Ladine at the buzzer got the Huskies closer in the box score.
Barnes believes that Reese and the Wildcats need to grow defensively.
“She’s (Reese) not a good defender. Cate is a really good player that I think has gotten a lot better defensively, but struggles. I think position-wise she’s gotten better, she’s gotten stronger but that’s an area she has to get better in,” Barnes said. “There’s a lot of players on our team that have to get better defensively for us to get better. I think Jade (Jade Loville) has improved defensively. I think Shaina (Shaina Pellington) has the ability to be a tremendous defender, but you have to have the desire, and the want, and I think she picks and chooses.”
The Wildcats clawed out to a 9-4 lead early in the first quarter after Conner hit a three pointer with 5:44 left, but Washington forward Haley Van Dyke hit a three pointer of her own to get the Huskies within two.
Both defenses stepped up the rest of the quarter, with the only scoring coming from Reese on a jumper, and a second-chance layup from Washington forward Lauren Schwartz to cut the Wildcats lead to 11-9 at the end of the first quarter
Arizona continued its cool streak on offense in the second quarter while Washington started to heat up, scoring seven straight points to take its first lead of the game since its opening score at 18-13 with 5:14 remaining before half.
Washington would hold onto a 23-19 lead at halftime.
Arizona opened up the third quarter on a 5-0 run after a transition layup from Pellington and a three pointer from Loville, giving the Wildcats a 24-23 lead with 8:18 remaining in the quarter.
Van Dyke would go on a 5-0 run of her own to cut Arizona’s lead to 32-31 with 3:36 left in the third.
Washington clung to a 36-35 lead after three quarters.
Helena Pueyo, who was named to the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Midseason Watchlist on Tuesday, was honored before the game for reaching 200 career assists.
Reese finished with 15 points and six rebounds, Loville had 13 points, Conner had 11 points and two assists, and Esmery Martinez had eight points and 12 rebounds. Pellington had eight points and five assists.
Lauren Fields and Pueyo each had three steals.
Arizona next plays Washington State (14-6, 4-5) at 12 p.m. at McKale Center on Sunday.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer 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.