Arizona Women's Basketball

Kailyn Gilbert returns but Arizona struggles with shooting & rebounding in loss at No. 9 UCLA

Jada Williams finished with eight points on 2-of-11 shooting from the field in the loss against No. 9 UCLA (Arizona Athletics)

Arizona’s game Friday night at No. 9 UCLA had the pre-game drama of sophomore point guard Kailyn Gilbert possibly returning for the Wildcats after being out the last couple of weeks and Bruins’ sophomore center Lauren Betts maybe finally come back after missing five games.

Both made their return from their undisclosed absences and played significant roles.

Arizona and UCLA played through the game with eight players available for each team.

The Wildcats’ cold shooting and rebounding woes were the difference in the 66-58 loss at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.

“What killed us was (UCLA’s) offensive rebounds,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said during the postgame radio show on 1290-AM. “We gave them 18 and their average is 15, and turnovers that led to transition especially in the first few minutes of the second half. That’s really hard. I mean, you’re not gonna win like that.”

Arizona (12-11, 4-7 Pac-12) was outrebounded 48-27 with UCLA’s Gabriela Jacquez pulling down 15 while scoring 21 points.

“We gave Jacquez, a guard, 15 rebounds,” Barnes said, incredulously. “We contained their stars, or big dogs, and we let someone else come in and go off.”

Starting forward Christine Iwuala had only two points and six rebounds and guard Charisma Osborne went 1 of 7 from the field and had eight points with five rebounds.

Arizona shot 33.3 percent from the field, including 26.9 percent in the second half.

Betts had nine rebounds in 27 minutes for UCLA (18-4, 7-4).

Gilbert came off the bench for 15 minutes and contributed 14 points while shooting 4 of 8 from the field. She also made one of Arizona’s two 3-pointers in the game (the Wildcats only converted two of 10 from beyond the arc).

Jada Williams, Helena Pueyo and Esmery Martinez combined to shoot 11 of 36 from the field, 1 of 7 from 3-point range.

Martinez led Arizona with 16 points and eight rebounds.

“We were a little hesitant on offense,” Barnes said. “Turning it over, they were not efficient. They were a little fatigued. That’s not an excuse. Just kind of stagnant. We’ve got to do better.”

Arizona had seven of its 10 turnovers in the second half.

UCLA had more turnovers overall with 12, but in addition to their rebounding dominance, the Bruins topped Arizona in points in the paint (12-6) and fast-break points (14-3).

“Just a little bit better, smarter decisions, smarter passes, not forcing things, because they were killing us in transition,” Barnes said.

What proved to be the difference in the game was UCLA’s 9-0 run early in the third quarter that opened a 40-32 lead.

Arizona managed to cut the lead to three points at one point but the Wildcats never led after the run.

Six unanswered points trimmed UCLA’s lead to 52-49 with 4:40 left, but the Bruins responded with a 7-0 run that put the game out of reach.

Arizona has an extra day of preparation in Los Angeles ahead of its next game at USC. The game will not be Sunday because of the Super Bowl. The teams will meet Monday at 7 p.m.

The Wildcats return to McKale Center next weekend to host the Washington schools.

“(The extra day to prepare before the USC game) helps us because we get to rest a little bit,” Barnes said. “I’m not upset with the way we played. I think we did some great things. It’s the little mistakes in bunches and coming out flat in the second half, those are daggers.”

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