After 19 days on the road, that resulted in four losses, Arizona (11-9) needed to get back in the win column and that’s just what the Wildcats did.
In their return home to McKale Center, the Wildcats put together a solid effort on both sides of the court resulting in a 66-55 win over California (13-7).
On their brutal road swing, the Wildcats lost by a combined total of seven points in matchups against Oregon State, Oregon and Washington before losing by 21 points against Washington State.
In the 21-point loss to the Cougars, the Wildcats hung with Washington State for three quarters until fatigue got the best of the team and the Cougars pulled away.
“I think we’ve had a really tough road stretch which is, I’ve never had four games on the road in the Pac-12.” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. “Some of my friends who’ve coached in the league for over 20 years had never seen that. Unfortunately, we were the culprits of that.”
With the team’s leading scorer Kailyn Gilbert, who averages 16.7 points per game, sitting on the bench, Arizona was working with a seven-person rotation against the Golden Bears.
“She wasn’t available today. Just the decision not to play her. I could have tried to possibly but it would risk injury,” Barnes said about Gilbert not playing. “It was hard — we had one post sub and one guard sub.”
In her first start for the Wildcats, freshman guard Skylar Jones had a solid game.
Jones had six points, going 2 for 2 from the field, three assists and two rebounds in 25 minutes of play.
Jones found out she was going to start during shootaround before the game.
“I was nervous, not gonna lie.” Jones said about getting her first start.
Junior guard Courtney Blakely, who transferred to Arizona before this school year, played 26 minutes, and had seven points, including a 3-point shot, with one steal.
“Courtney played the way Courtney can play today,” Barnes said. “She didn’t take as many risks defensively. I thought she was super tenacious on the ball. Great energy good finishes some brilliant plays like she kind of bobbed and weaved like Aari.”
In the second quarter, an interesting call by the refs had all 7,268 fans in McKale voicing their displeasure.
As two Cal players were fighting for a rebound, the ball squirted out of bounds. It was obvious the ball went off of the two Golden Bears, but somehow, the refs gave the ball to Cal.
Arizona’s defense was sharp all game, disrupting Cal and creating 23 turnovers that resulted in 20 points.
In the fourth quarter, there was a scrum for the ball that ended in a player pile. Jump ball was called. At the bottom of the pile was Blakely who appeared to be hurt. As Blakely rolled over to sit up, Esmery Martinez picked her up in a cradle hold. Blakely patted Martinez on the arm to be let down. Blakely remained in the game.
Martinez, the “Bang the Drum” player of the game, had a season high 20 points with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Arizona’s next game is a big one. The Wildcats host No. 6 Stanford (18-2) on Sunday at 12:00 p.m.