Arizona Women's Basketball

Arizona’s defense, led by Helena Pueyo, too much for Loyola Marymount

Arizona fifth-year senior Helena Pueyo tied her career high with seven steals in the Wildcats’ win over Loyola Marymount (Andy Morales/

Arizona forced Loyola Marymount into 26 turnovers, which resulted in 35 points for the Wildcats, in a 70-54 victory Sunday afternoon at McKale Center.

Arizona totaled 14 steals, led by seven from Helena Pueyo. The number of steals ties her career high set as a freshman in the 2019-20 season at Chicago State.

Pueyo, who also had a blocked shot, finished with 12 points and four assists on the other end. She earned the “Bang the Drum” honor after the game, designated for Arizona’s top player following a home victory.

“Helena does what Helena does,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said on the KCUB 1290-AM postgame show. “I mean, 12 points, four assists, seven steals and zero turnovers — that’s a fifth-year (player).”

Kailyn Gilbert came close to another double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds.

Sali Kourouma, a transfer from Arkansas-Little Rock, finished with 12 points, five rebounds and two steals.

Arizona played through rebounding difficulties (outrebounded 46-35) and shooting 38.2 percent from the field (22.2 percent from 3-point range).

“We you know we got outrebounded today against a smaller team. Not okay,” Barnes said. “So a lot of discipline fundamental things and going back to the basics, like boxing out, being in position, ball pressure, all those things that we’re not doing right now.”

Arizona was ahead by only five points against Loyola Marymount (0-2) with 2:03 left in the third quarter.

The Wildcats closed out the quarter scoring eight unanswered points to take control of the game.

Pueyo made two free throws, Esmery Martinez added a 3-pointer and Gilbert made a drive to the basket with 4 seconds left.

Arizona made it a 13-0 run by scoring the first two baskets in the fourth quarter.

Gilbert’s 3-pointer with 8:53 left capped the game-clinching run, putting Arizona ahead 57-39.

“She got into early foul trouble, so she would have had that double-double,” said Barnes about Gilbert, who was whistled for two fouls in the first quarter. “She’s getting some really tough rebounds inside. She’s a great offensive rebounder. She’s playing some solid defense, a lot more disciplined in that.

“I thought she lost some of her aggressiveness when she had fouls, but she’s doing a better job of reading when to score, when to look. She’s allowed to take those open shots and I think some she passed up. She had great drives to the basket. She’s just really improved. So proud of her.”

Da’Ja Hamilton led Loyola Marymount with 18 points and Amaya Oliver finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Loyola Marymount shot 34.6 percent from the field, 21.4 percent from 3-point range, and mustered only six assists.

The Wildcats (3-0) next play San Diego on Tuesday at McKale before traveling to the Bahamas for the start of the Battle4Atlantis on Saturday against Memphis.

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