Arizona made it quite a suspenseful birthday present for Adia Barnes on Friday.
After the No. 22 Wildcats were down 11 points with 4:49 remaining in regulation at No. 14 UCLA, they scored the next 15 points of the game extending into overtime.
Arizona’s defense, which held UCLA scoreless for a 6:22 stretch, was the difference in the 71-66 epic comeback of a victory in overtime at Pauley Pavilion.
“The only present I wanted was a win,” Barnes said during the KTUC 1400-AM postgame radio show. “Comeback Kids.”
Barnes called timeout when UCLA went ahead 61-50 with 4:49 left. She was asked during the postgame interview what she told her team in the huddle.
“We had to get stops,” she said. “The two main problems in the game I felt like the whole game was our transition defense and (UCLA’s) offensive rebounds. We were giving up a lot.”
Arizona (17-5, 7-4 Pac-12) forced overtime when Lauren Fields made a 3-pointer with 1:08 left in regulation to tie the game at 61. Fields was in an 0-for-17 shooting slump from the field over the last five games before making that shot.
The Wildcats had a chance to win the game on the last possession of regulation but Shaina Pellington’s shot following a drive to the basket was off the mark as the buzzer sounded.
“Everybody stepped up at the right time,” Barnes said. “We gutted it out and found a way to come back. We were fighting from a deficit the whole game.”
COMEBACK CATS 😱
No. 22 @ArizonaWBB makes a late comeback to force OT and get the win over No. 14 UCLA! pic.twitter.com/coHo3aaNCb
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) February 4, 2023
Arizona extended its 15-0 run with Pellington making a short-range jumper and Esmery Martinez banking in a shot, putting the Wildcats ahead 65-61 with 3:56 left in overtime.
UCLA (17-6, 6-5) finally broke its cold spell on a 3-pointer by Londynn Jones with 3:33 left in overtime to cut the lead to 65-64.
Pellington and Madison Conner made Arizona’s last six free-throw attempts in the final 35 seconds to secure the win.
Pellington, a 55 percent free-throw shooter entering the game, made two free throws with 35 seconds left to give Arizona a 67-64 lead.
After Kiki Rice missed two free throws with 29 seconds remaining, she grabbed the offensive rebound. Charisma Osborne’s 3-pointer was off the mark, but UCLA, which tallied 18 offensive boards, grabbed another rebound and called timeout.
Rice drove through the lane and made the shot to cut the lead to 67-66 with 9 seconds remaining.
Arizona called timeout and inbounded the ball to Conner, a 97 percent free-throw shooter. She was fouled immediately and she converted both free throws.
Following a missed 3-pointer by Emily Bessoir with 4 seconds left, Pellington was fouled. She nailed both free throws to close the scoring.
UCLA made only two of its last 13 shots to finish shooting 30.6 percent (22 of 72) from the field.
Arizona shot 41.7 percent from the field despite going 4-of-16 from 3-point range. The Wildcats, who were shooting 65.9 percent from the free-throw line as a team, made 17 of their 20 free-throw attempts.
Pellington finished with a game-high 21 points while making all five of her free-throw attempts.
Martinez had a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds and Jade Loville had 11 of her 13 points in the second half.
Arizona’s victory comes on the heels of its 70-59 loss at home against Washington State last week.
The Wildcats next play at USC (17-5, 7-4) on Sunday at 1 p.m., Tucson time.
They are 6-3 on the road.
“This was a great win (against UCLA); it makes up for our Washington State loss,” Barnes said. “I think it’s even better.
“Now on Sunday, it’s a different team but a team that plays our style more. We like aggressive defense … I think it’s gonna be a fun game. When you win on Friday, it’s much easier to play better on Sunday.”
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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.