Arizona Women's Basketball

Arizona close again but falls short once more in loss at Oregon

Arizona’s Helena Pueyo went from scoring no points while taking only three shots in Friday’s double-overtime loss at Oregon State to scoring 11 points with seven assists and seven steals in Sunday’s loss at Oregon (Arizona Athletics photo)

Arizona was forced to fight through no atmosphere at Matthew Knight Arena at frigid Eugene, Ore., foul trouble once again, turnovers and continued rebounding woes in Sunday’s 70-68 loss at Oregon.

Because of the snowy conditions in Eugene, Oregon admitted only family and close friends of the Ducks into the arena, making the quiet atmosphere similar to the COVID-19-affected season of 2020-21.

Somehow, Arizona, with eight healthy available players, found itself in the game to the end, despite Esmery Martinez and Breya Cunningham on the bench with four fouls to start the fourth quarter and Arizona ultimately getting outrebounded 38-19 and having 15 turnovers.

“The thing that really is concerning to me, again, is the rebounding,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said in the 1290-AM postgame interview. “That’s the most disturbing thing to me, despite everything else, because you take away half of those, we win the game, despite the other mistakes.”

Arizona’s defense –16 steals, forcing Oregon into 27 turnovers — was its saving grace.

Helena Pueyo stole the ball and fed it to Jada Williams, who made a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left to cut the lead to 70-68.

Pueyo finished with 11 points, seven assists, seven steals and two blocked shots.

After Barnes called timeout, the Wildcats again stole the ball with Skylar Jones tapping it away and Kailyn Gilbert trying a 35-foot shot at the buzzer that did not fall.

The two-point loss comes after Friday’s double-overtime 73-70 defeat at Oregon State.

Last week at McKale Center, Arizona lost narrowly 75-74 to Colorado before gutting out a close 71-70 win over Utah.

The total score in the games against Colorado, Utah, Oregon State and Oregon — Opponents 288, Arizona 283.

“I think that these are tough games,” Barnes said. “I think the main concern for me is figuring out a way to get us to box out because in key possessions, were not able to do that and that’s what lost us the game at Oregon State.

“It was one of the reasons why we didn’t come back in this game. So I think we have to learn from that and get better.”

Arizona again plays in the Pacific Northwest next weekend with games at Washington on Friday and Washington State on Sunday. The travel between both trips means limited practices for the Wildcats.

Barnes on addressing the need to work on boxing out in practice: “How do you do that when you’re not able to practice? That’s something I need to figure out, but I’m going to figure it out, I’ll tell you that.”

Arizona scored eight unanswered points to cut Oregon’s lead to 52-49 with 7:31 left.

Oregon responded by building the lead to 57-49 after a 3-pointer with 5:44 left by Sammie Wagner (her first attempt from beyond the arc in the game).

Williams then answered with a 3-pointer on Arizona’s ensuing possession.

She was 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, 9 of 14 overall, in her best game as a Wildcat with 23 points.

The teams proceeded to trade scoring possessions with Martinez fouling out with 2:34 remaining and Oregon leading 62-59.

Cunningham’s shot inside cut Oregon’s lead to 68-65 with 1:37 left.

After an offensive foul was called on the Ducks, Arizona had a chance to tie the game but Pueyo’s 3-point fell off the front rim.

Two free throws by Grace Vanslooten with 19 seconds left gave Oregon a 70-65 lead.

Arizona tried desperately in the end to overcome Oregon but the Wildcats couldn’t get over the hump.

The Ducks led throughout after starting with a 12-6 lead to end the first quarter when Arizona had more turnovers (seven) than points.

“We came out really flat,” Barnes said. “I think sometimes that happens, too, after we lost a game (against Oregon State) in which we exerted a lot of energy. It’s not an excuse by any means but we were very flat today.”

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 in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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