Arizona Women's Basketball

Arizona falls to No. 7 USC in double-overtime thriller

Isis Beh, Jada Williams, Esmery Martinez, Helena Pueyo and Skylar Jones during Arizona’s double-overtime loss to USC. (Arizona Athletics photo)

Riding the momentum of knocking off then No. 3 Stanford in Pauley Pavilion for the first time since 2001, Arizona fought until the end, leaving everything on the court before falling to No. 7 USC in double-overtime 95-93 on Thursday night at McKale Center.

“The difference in the game was rebounding and fouls,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “I can’t fault us, they played hard. We had a chance to win and Jada’s shot almost went in. I’m proud of our players.”

Arizona (16-13, 8-9 Pac-12) came out with energy and played tenacious defense, holding USC to 16 points in the first quarter, 15 in the second quarter and 15 in the third quarter.

The Trojans, who kept chipping away at Arizona’s lead of up to 10 points, outscored Arizona 25-18 in the fourth quarter, tying the game and sending it to overtime.

USC freshman sensation JuJu Watkins fouled out with 1:41 left in regulation.

Watkins had 20 points but also commited four turnovers.

Arizona led 67-58 with 3:11 remaining in the game.

USC went on a 5-0 run getting Arizona’s lead down to four points.

Arizona held a three-point lead with 0:07 left in the game when USC’s Kayla Padilla hit a second-chance three for the tie.

Padilla missed her first attempt at a three, but Kaitlyn Davis grabbed the rebound and fed Padilla who made her second attempt.

Arizona had a chance to win in regular time when Helena Pueyo shot a jumper that fell short sending the game into overtime.

USC had 18 second chance points off of 18 offensive rebounds with 11 of those points coming during their late fourth quarter comeback.

Both of Arizona’s starting forwards fouled out in the first overtime. Breya Cunningham fouled out with 4:49 left and Esmery Martinez left thirty-eight seconds later.

With Arizona having eight active players available for the game, that left newly acquired walk on Brooklyn Rhodes as the lone sub on the bench.

Isis Beh collected her fourth foul at the 2:35 mark in the second overtime.

It was looking like Rhodes may get the call. Fortunately, Beh was able to avoid that fifth foul and stayed in the game so Rhodes wasn’t needed.

“She’s not prepared to come in. If I have to play her I’ll play her, but she hasn’t really been in practice, she’s been in like one. And so she doesn’t know our defensive strategy, philosophy,” Barnes said. “It’s not her fault, she just hasn’t been there. So I was worried about that.”

With Martinez and Cunningham fouling out, the Wildcats had to go small for the rest of the first overtime and all of the second.

With 20 seconds to go in the first overtime, Arizona trailing by three, Jada Williams hit a clutch 3-point shot to send the game into double-overtime.

USC took the lead in the second overtime and never looked back.

A missed 3-point shot by Williams with 4 seconds to go hit the back of the rim and didn’t fall, giving the Trojans the win.

“I feel good about us, I feel good about how we are playing, I think the whole country knows by now that we’re an NCAA tournament team, if not, it’s just not fair. I think there is no doubt, I think we’ve shown that towards the end of the season,” Barnes said regarding Arizona’s hopes for making the NCAA women’s tournament. “I think we know that we can play with anybody in the country.”

Pueyo, who played 50 minutes, came close to a triple double with 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. She also added three steals to her numbers.

“I’m just going to do whatever it takes to win,” Pueyo said about playing different position and extended minutes.

As a bonus, Pueyo’s Mom and Brother arrived from Spain and were in McKale to see her play. They will also be present for Saturday’s senior night festivities.

Freshman Skylar Jones played an inspiring game, causing havoc on defense, but also driving the lane to get fouls.

Jones finished with 19 points shooting 5-for-8 from the floor, making her only shot from beyond the arc, had six rebounds, two assists and three steals.

“Don’t get backdoored,” Jones said about her mentality around the elevated defensive play.

Williams had 14 points, five assists and a steal.

Beh ended the night with 16 points, three assists, six rebounds and a steal.

Courtney Blakely added 11 points, three rebounds and one assist.

McKale was rocking all night as the 7,594 Arizona fans in attendance stayed on their feet and were loudly letting their support be heard.

Arizona hosts No. 8 UCLA on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. for Senior Night.

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