Arizona Women's Basketball

Arizona’s balanced scoring nets win over NAU

Arizona’s Breya Cunningham, Sali Kourouma, Skyler Jones and Kailyn Gilbert during the Wildcats’ 87-64 victory over NAU. (Lexie Fegan/Special to

Arizona returned to McKale Center to face Northern Arizona after a 68-57 season-opening win against New Mexico State at Las Cruces, N.M., on Monday.

In their 87-64 win over Northern Arizona, the Wildcats formulated a balanced game plan for the Lumberjacks resulting in all available players getting on the board and five players in double figures.

Freshman Breya Cunningham led the way for Arizona with 18 points. Cunningham went 9 for 10 from the field, had three rebounds and played solid defense. Cunningham’s presence in the paint and her ability to kick the ball back out has helped open the floor for her teammates.

“I’m not going to say it was easy because you still have to like work to get open and things like that, call for the ball and be aware if I’m double-teamed or if my teammates are open,” Cunningham said. “I just try my best when my teammates give me the ball to be efficient so that way they feel comfortable giving me the ball and that way I’m not like a liability to throw the ball in and nothing happens. So I try my best to be as efficient as I can be.”

Sophomore guard Kailyn Gilbert achieved her first double-double (16 points and 10 rebounds).

Gilbert on getting comfortable in the point guard position in her second season: “I feel good, I still feel like I have a lot more to work on. I have to clean up some things in my game like some easy lay-ups, definitely defensively but I just feel like just clean up a little bit and I think from there I’m just getting better.”

Esmery Martinez contributed 16 points and six rebounds, Maya Nnaji added 10 points and five rebounds in limited playing time due to illness and Sali Kourouma finished with 12 points and four rebounds.

The Wildcats were shorthanded in previous games due to injuries, but they look to have the majority of their team back, healthy and ready to get into the swing of a long basketball season.

“We really haven’t practiced together except for a couple of times with everybody healthy,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. “I think once we have a couple more weeks under our belt and these games to prepare for I think you’ll see a big jump the next two weeks for us. Playing Friday, playing Sunday, playing Tuesday and going to the Bahamas playing three games, that’s a lot of games in a short period of time where I think we are really going to improve in that period.”

In the second quarter, the Wildcats’ basket seemed to grow a lid. Scoring only two points in 4 minutes and 12 seconds.

The Wildcats’ offense found their rhythm again in the third quarter stretching their lead to 18 points leading 64-46 as the quarter ended.

Arizona will be back in McKale on Sunday to face Loyola Marymount. Tip off is at 1:00 p.m. The Wildcats will then host San Diego on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. before they head to the Bahamas for the Battle4Atlantis that starts next Saturday against Memphis.


— When the No 12 Arizona men’s basketball team’s 78-73 win over No 2 Duke was announced in McKale, there was a loud ovation.

— Former Catalina Foothills standout Reilly Clark is a freshman at NAU. She returned to Tucson on Friday night and played four minutes off the bench. She had one point, making one of two free throw attempts and grabbed a rebound.

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