Arizona Women's Basketball

Cookie Monster Lives: Arizona advances in Pac-12 tournament behind Helena Pueyo

Arizona improved to 17-14 with the win over Washington (Arizona Athletics photo)

The Cookie Monster has made Arizona’s trip to Las Vegas sweet so far.

Helena Pueyo, nicknamed the Cookie Monster because of her propensity for stealing cookies (the ball) from opponents, led No. 7 Arizona to a 58-50 victory over No. 10 Washington in the first round matchup of the Pac-12 tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Wednesday night.

Pueyo finished with five steals and four blocked shots to go with 14 points and five assists.

“We played hard; we played defense,” Pueyo said to the Pac-12 Networks. “We showed it and it was good for us.”

She made two free throws with 27.7 seconds left to give Arizona a 54-50 lead.

Helena Pueyo was pivotal in the second half against the Huskies (Arizona Athletics photo)

After a Washington turnover, Esmery Martinez was fouled and made one of two free-throw attempts to give Arizona a 55-50 lead.

Martinez finished with 14 points, four rebounds and four assists.

Pueyo and Martinez, fifth-year seniors, not only both scored 14 points they each made 6 of 11 shots from the field.

“That’s how we control the game — pressuring the ball, getting the steal and running the floor,” Martinez said to the Pac-12 Networks. “We worked today. That’s why we got so many turnovers (Washington committed 20).”


Dee-Dee Wheeler2002-05124304
Helena Pueyo 2019-24147299
Davellyn Whyte2009-13126266
Sam Thomas2017-21125264
Reshea Bristol1998-01118260
Adia Barnes1995-98121256
Aari McDonald2018-2193235
Ify Ibekwe2008-11116228
Lisa Griffith1997-00122225

Another Husky turnover led to two free throws by Courtney Blakeley with 8.5 seconds left to increase the lead to 58-50.

Pueyo fittingly ended Washington’s last possession with another blocked shot.

“I know Coach Adia (Barnes) trusts me a lot,” Pueyo said. “I’m just trying to like if I had to play the 1 (point guard position), I play the 1. If I have to play the 4 (power forward), I play the 4. I’m just trying to do whatever it takes and I’m just trying to help on both ends. That’s what I’m trying to do every game.”

Arizona (17-14) finished with 13 steals and limited Washington without a field goal in the last 4:01.

Pueyo, an All-Pac-12 selection and two-time All-Defensive Team choice, had two blocked shots in the last 20 seconds.

“Helena Pueyo is the most underrated guard in the country,” Barnes told the Pac-12 Networks. “She plays every position for us. She leads the Pac-12 in minutes. … She’s turned into a phenomenal defender. She makes plays when we really need them.

“She scores and she guards the best players. Without Helena, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

The Huskies missed their last six shots from the field.

The Wildcats play No. 2 USC (23-5) in a quarterfinal game Thursday at 7 p.m., Tucson time.

A victory over the Trojans should clinch an NCAA tournament berth for the Wildcats, who took USC to double-overtime at McKale Center last week before losing 95-93.

Arizona took control of the game against Washington (16-14) in the third quarter behind Pueyo’s six points and three steals.

The Wildcats, who led 29-27 at halftime, expanded their lead to 53-46 at the end of the third quarter behind two transition baskets by Pueyo after steals.

Arizona’s lead mounted to 50-39 with 5:34 left on a layup by Skylar Jones after a steal by Courtney Blakeley.

Washington went on an 11-2 run to cut the lead to 52-50 with 1:15 left.

Jones, a freshman, had 11 points and four steals. Fellow freshman Breya Cunningham had 10 points and seven rebounds.

The Wildcats prevailed despite freshman-sensation guard Jada Williams scoring only two while shooting 1 of 7 from the field.

ARIZONA NOTES: The Wildcats won their first Pac-12 tournament game since 2021. They lost in the first round against Colorado in 2022 and UCLA last year. … After her five steals on Wednesday night, Pueyo ranks second in program history and ninth in Pac-12 history in career steals with 299. She is only five steals shy of Dee-Dee Wheeler’s Arizona record of 304 from 2002-05. She has tallied 97 steals this year, the third-most in a single season in program history. On two occassions this season, Pueyo has recorded seven steals. … One-time Pac-12 nemesis for Arizona — Oregon — lost its last conference game on Wednesday, falling 79-30 to Colorado in the first round of the conference tournament. The Ducks head to the Big Ten next year after finishing their season 11-21. “It’s just tough to watch today’s performance, unfortunately,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “You know, we’ve got some work to do, and we hope to get back to where we’ve kind of been — not in this conference anymore, but back to the program that I am confident that we can be.” … Barnes is one win shy of reaching 150 victories in her career. She is at 149-98. What makes that record even more remarkable is Barnes was 20-40 after her first two seasons at her alma mater. She is 129-58 (68.9 percent) over the last six seasons. … Barnes is 8-4 against USC as Arizona’s head coach.

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