Arizona is 1-4 in its last five games, three of them on the road, with an average margin in those games of only 1.4 points.
The latest heartbreaker for the Wildcats was a 62-60 loss at Washington (12-4, 2-3 Pac-12) on Friday night after Arizona showed some grit by rallying from a 12-point deficit in the third quarter.
Arizona (10-8, 2-4) has lost its three road games in the last two weeks by scores of 73-70 in double-overtime against Oregon State, 70-68 against Oregon and then Friday night’s result.
The week before at McKale Center, Arizona lost 75-74 against Colorado and beat Utah 71-70 in overtime.
“I think just learning and understanding that these are possession games,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes told Derrick Palmer in the 1290-AM postgame interview. “So it’s never that last play. It’s the offensive rebound. It’s the accumulation of things throughout the game that we have to learn.
“To be so close, I’m optimistic that we can get over the hump, but we have to find a way to do that. Right now, we’re not able to find that way. We will but hopefully it’s not going to be too late in the season. We just have to get better.”
The Wildcats next play at Washington State (13-5, 2-3) on Sunday at 1 p.m. before returning to McKale Center next Friday to play California.
The last couple of sequences against Washington in the final 10 seconds hurt the most for the unlucky Wildcats.
Kailyn Gilbert, who had all 18 of her points in the second half, had a driving attempt to the basket with 9 seconds left blocked by Dalayah Daniels and the Huskies gained possession.
Washington called timeout but after the ball was inbounded and a dribble took place before the timeout was called. That meant the Huskies were forced to inbound the ball on the opposite end of the court, rather than on their half of the court.
Barnes knew Arizona had three fouls to give and wanted the Wildcats to use them to widdle down the clock and not allow Washington to take a shot.
“We were fouling on that possession and we didn’t do it,” Barnes said.
Washington broke Arizona’s full-court press and Lauren Schwartz was left wide open for an easy layup with 2.3 seconds left, putting the Huskies ahead 62-60.
After Barnes called a timeout, the ball was inbounded in front of Arizona’s bench. The pass went to Jada Williams, who attempted a guarded, off-balance 3-pointer that banged off the backboard as time expired.
Williams also experienced tough luck with a missed 3-pointer at the buzzer at Oregon State last week.
“That’s very tough; I’ve gotta look at film but something happened,” Barnes said of Arizona not fouling before Schwartz’s layup. “We rotated … but we were fouling, because we had three fouls to give. It was a very bad mistake, which I have to teach.
“We helped them and got beat backdoor. We’re a young team and these are things that we have to learn because with three fouls to give, you cannot … absolutely cannot … give up a layup in transition, full court.”
The Wildcats can take solace that they again did not crumble when things looked bleak after the third quarter.
Early on in the fourth quarter in this road swing of the Pacific Northwest, Arizona trailed Oregon State by five points, Oregon by 11 points and Washington by eight.
“Overall, our start to games and intensity … I have to correct,” Barnes said.
Washington led 49-41 to start the fourth quarter after leading by as many as 12 points in the third quarter.
A 13-3 run for Arizona to start the fourth quarter gave the Wildcats a 54-52 lead with 3:58 left.
Washington took a 57-54 lead with 2:40 left on a 3-pointer by Hannah Stines.
After Gilbert made a jumper in the lane, Skylar Jones converted a steal into a layup to put Arizona ahead 58-57 with 1:57 remaining.
Stines answered with another 3-pointer with 1:21 left.
Williams, who finished with nine points, made a driving layup with 1:06 remaining to tie the game at 60.
The teams traded failed shots in the next two possessions leading to Schwartz’s layup with 2.3 seconds left.
Gilbert also had seven rebounds and made all six of her free-throw attempts.
Arizona outrebounded Washington 38-34, which is the first time the Wildcats have produced more rebounds than their opponent since their 89-52 win over Seattle on New Year’s Eve.
Esmery Martinez had her third double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
They were outrebounded by an average of 16 a game against Colorado, Utah, Oregon State and Oregon.
Helena Pueyo again struggled offensively with two points on 1-of-6 shooting from the field. She went scoreless while trying only three shots last week at Oregon State.
The Huskies had 17 assists compared to seven (three by Gilbert) for Arizona.
Washington’s Elle Ladine scored 18 of her 22 points in the first half and finished with six rebounds and four assists
Stines had 16 points and eight rebounds.