No. 8 Arizona put an exclamation point to ending an 11-game losing streak at Pauley Pavilion by scoring the last 12 points of the game in a 74-63 win over UCLA on Wednesday night.
The last time Arizona beat UCLA at Pauley Pavilion was on Feb. 15, 2007 — a 66-63 score. Joan Bonvicini was the coach and the leading scorer was Joy Hollingsworth with 18 points in that game.
This time, Shaina Pellington and Sam Thomas were the standouts with Pellington finishing with 20 points (including 12 in the fourth quarter) and Thomas continuing her torrid 3-point shooting and finishing with 19 points.
Thomas and Pellington’s 19 points in the last quarter were more than what UCLA scored as a team (16).
Thomas, a fifth-year senior, lost with Arizona at UCLA in 2017-18 as a freshman and in 2019-20. The Wildcats did not play at UCLA in 2018-19 because of unbalanced Pac-12 scheduling and last year because of COVID-19 protocol.
“It feels really good,” Thomas said of the losing streak at Pauley Pavilion being over. “This year, I’m kind of trying to check off all the boxes that I haven’t and this was one of them. And winning at Stanford is another one.
“I’m really happy we got this one. Reminds me back to my freshman year, and we played against Monique Billings and Jordin Canada (in a 69-46 loss). I’m glad we could get this one. It’s a great road win for us and hopefully we can carry it over to Stanford.”
Arizona (15-2, 5-2 Pac-12) took control after UCLA led 63-62 lead with 4:12 left on a Chantel Horvat layup.
The Wildcats’ 12 points in the end included six points from Pellington and four by Thomas.
UCLA (9-5, 4-2) missed its last six shots.
“We found a way to win,” said Adia Barnes, whose team battled back from an early double-digit deficit and weathered the storm of UCLA’s rally after the Wildcats took an eight-point lead in the third quarter.
“We started off really slow, just with lack of intensity and a lack of execution. But then the thing that I’m most proud about is we showed some character. We dug ourselves a hole, but we didn’t give up and lay down and die. We found a way and fought back with intensity and defense.”
Things looked bleak for Arizona again in the first quarter for the second consecutive game.
The Wildcats trailed 19-7 early in the second quarter against Colorado on Monday before taking control and winning by 19 points.
Arizona again started slow against UCLA, falling behind 10-0 and trailing 19-8 going into the second quarter before making another strong comeback.
“Credit to UCLA, they came out they punched us in the face. They showed a lot of character,” said Barnes, who as a player with the Wildcats from 1994-98 was 3-1 at Pauley Pavilion. “They’ve made things difficult for us. And they scored on us. They’re a really good team.
“They’ve just been battling injuries and a lack of depth, but they’re a good team. In the end, they will be a top 20 team.”
The Bruins played most of the second half without Pac-12 Player of the Week honoree Charisma Osborne, who appeared to suffer a right knee injury. Osborne had 12 points and three rebounds.
Due to injuries, UCLA had only six healthy scholarship players at the end of the game.
In the pivotal second quarter for Arizona, Cate Reese had nine points and three rebounds while Thomas made two 3-pointers to spark the Wildcats.
Arizona made 10 of 17 shots in the second quarter after converting only 3 of 18 in the first quarter.
Reese finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds — her 19th career double-double, which ties her for fourth-most in program history.
Thomas became the fourth Arizona player to eclipse 200 career 3-pointers behind Lisa Griffith (285), Davellyn White (274) and Aimee Grzyb (208) with her first made attempt from beyond the arc in the game.
She finished 5 of 6 from beyond the arc giving her 204 in her career. She has made 14 of 19 from beyond the arc in her last three games.
“I feel like I’m finally giving everybody what they wanted; everyone’s always been telling me to shoot. So finally I’m shooting the ball and it’s working out,” she said. “Once you hit your first shot, it gives you really the confidence to shoot more.”
— Arizona Women’s Basketball (@ArizonaWBB) January 27, 2022
Thomas converted two 3-pointers in the third quarter to help fuel an 11-0 run that put Arizona ahead 50-42 with 3:51 left in the period.
Arizona again went into a lull and did not score the remainder of the quarter and UCLA cut the lead to 50-47.
The Wildcats’ cold spell continued into the fourth quarter failing to make a field goal until Pellington made a layup while being fouled with 8:10 left. Pellington made the free throw to give Arizona a 54-51 lead.
Arizona made 18 of 20 shots from the free-throw line while UCLA was 9 of 11.
“That’s 90 percent for us,” Barnes said of her team’s free-throw shooting. “That’s really good and I think that’s my expectation with the personnel on our team. We should get 20 free throws a game.”
After Pellington converted the 3-point play at the line, she picked up her fourth foul on UCLA’s ensuing possession with 8:00 left.
The Wildcats managed to keep the lead until Natalie Chou made two free throws with 4:47 left to give UCLA a 61-60 lead.
Pellington re-ented the game with 4:55 remaining and proceeded to take over the game. Her driving layup with 4:01 left put Arizona ahead 64-63.
That proved to be difference with Arizona’s defense shutting down UCLA from there.
UCLA led the Pac-12 with only 13.2 turnovers a game and it finished with 15 while Arizona had just 10 (4.3 below its average)
Arizona’s win was especially significant given that it already had two conference losses and a rematch of the NCAA title game looms ahead at No. 2 Stanford (14-3, 5-0) on Sunday.
“It’s one of the hardest stretches for us in the Pac 12 right now,” Barnes said of her team’s gauntlet that started over last weekend with games against Utah and Colorado. “Getting wins in this stretch is crucial for confidence, for a lot of things — momentum — because the Utahs, Colorados, the Oregon States — they’re going to be better in the end. They’re going to be top 20 teams, and they’re going to make the (NCAA) tournament.
“So these wins are really important in the big picture. Now there’s no pressure against Stanford. Stanford’s ranked higher. They’re a really good team. So we go there, we do our best. Then we come back home and play the Oregon (schools). So this is a really important stretch for a lot of different reasons right now.”
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
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.