Arizona Women's Basketball

No. 19 Arizona may not have a lot of height but it has an abundance of athleticism, versatility


Arizona senior point guard Shaina Pellington had 20 points and seven assists with no turnovers in the 113-56 win over NAU on Thursday (Stephanie van Latum/Special to

No 6-foot-5 Lauren Ware for the season because of a knee injury.

No 6-4 Maya Nnaji on Friday in No. 19 Arizona’s season-opening 113-56 rout of NAU at McKale Center.

No more 6-6 Semaj Smith (transfer to San Jose State), 6-3 Gisela Sanchez (Kansas State), 6-3 Aaronette Vonleh (Colorado) and 6-3 Ariyah Copeland (graduation).

No sweat for Adia Barnes.

Arizona’s depth of players 6-foot-3 or taller might be depleted from last season, but Barnes looks at that as more of an opportunity than a hindrance.

“Sometimes we’ll play four guards and one big — and I think that’s just kind of the style of basketball nowadays,” Barnes said. “We play four out anyways. Sometimes we’ll have more five (versatile players) out sometimes. Sometimes you’ll see (6-foot-2 forward) Esmery (Martinez) playing some five.

“We’re going to be really good pressing in those lineups. Sometimes we’ll have five shooters. Sometimes we’ll have Shaina, whose great at breaking people down, and four shooters. I kinda like the look at that.”

Nnaji, a highly-touted freshman whose brother Zeke starred for the men’s team, will play, perhaps as soon as Sunday when Arizona hosts Cal State Northridge (CSUN) at McKale Center at 5 p.m.

Barnes said she kept Nnaji out of Thursday’s game as a precautionary reason because the young post player was sore from knee tendinitis.

“She was medically cleared to play, but she’s just had really bad tendinitis and her knee was sore,” Barnes said. “So instead of playing with a sore knee, I’m more worried about the Pac- 12 and the season. I just decided it wasn’t worth playing her.”

Martinez, a 6-2 active, fluid forward inside the lane who transferred from West Virginia, finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds against NAU, spearheading a team rebounding effort that ended with a 49-29 edge for Arizona.

Veteran Cate Reese, also 6-2, finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.

Other than Martinez and Reese playing mostly on the blocks, Barnes utilized eight players who can play either guard position or the wing position.

All of them can shoot, which has Pellington playing at a high level because she has developed into a capable drive-and-dish point guard who also has the ability to score.

“I’ve never played on a team better than the one I’m on currently right now,” said Pellington, who played for the 2020-21 team that lost in the national title game to Stanford.. “I think the sky’s the limit for this group. And as long as we continue to work together, and we have each other’s backs, I think we can go as far as we want to go this year.”

Aside from Martinez and Reese, who shot a combined 10-of-18 from the field against NAU, Arizona was 32 of 60 – remarkable 53.3 percent for the eight perimeter players. The Wildcats were 8 of 14 from 3-point range, led by ASU transfer Jade Loville (3 of 6) and Oklahoma State transfer Lauren Fields (2 of 2).


Arizona — Adia Barnes is 111-74 in the seventh year of her career (all at Arizona). She is 91-34 since starting 20-40 in her first two seasons of rebuilding the program.

CSUN Carlene Mitchell, is 53-103 in the sixth year of her career. She is 9-21 in her second season at CSUN. Her previous coaching experience was four years at Cal Santa Barbara from 2011 to 2015 and she was 33-82 in that stint. A former standout at Kansas State, she was a lead assistant at Rutgers for 10 seasons from 2001 to 2011 under legendary C. Vivian Stringer. She filled in for Stringer in one game in the 2009-10 season when Stringer was suspended by Rutgers because of a violation of an NCAA bylaw involving the eligibility of male practice players. Rutgers’ win over Seton Hall in that game is part of Mitchell’s coaching record.


— Look for Pellington and freshman backup Kailyn Gilbert to consistently break down the defense and draw defenders for open looks for their teammates. Pellington had seven assists and no turnovers in 23 minutes against NAU. Gilbert played 11 minutes and had one assist and one turnover.

— Having Loville and Fields on the floor is like having a couple of Sam Thomases at one time because of the versatility playing offensively all over and defending multiple positions. Loville figures to be more on track after shooting 4-of-11 from the field against NAU.

— In CSUN’s opening losses at Cal (86-56) and Stanford (104-40), guard Rachel Harvey led the Matadors with three steals combined. She was one of CSUN’s steal leaders last year with 28.


— The focal point through the first two games has been Boise State transfer forward Tess Amundsen — who has the most field goal attempts (18) and shots from 3-point range (nine). She is shooting only 27.8 percent from the field.

— CSUN tries to be patient with the ball and shoot within the 3-point line mostly. They attempted only 30 of their 113 shots from beyond the arc against California and Stanford. Problem is they shot 29.2 percent as a team.

— Arizona freshman guard Paris Clark will be a reliable defender for Barnes, evidenced by her six steals against NAU. The Wildcats tallied 17 steals overall.

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! 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, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, 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

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