(Tucson, AZ) After disposing of the Trojans on Friday night, the Cats set their sights on UCLA.
Generally Sunday games haven’t been kind to Arizona this season, where they’ve lost three in a row.
UCLA came in tall and athletic and a misleading 10-9 record. Both teams have four conference losses.
Arizona began the game going big, with 6’5” Semaj Smith starting at center. This countered the Bruins size in the front court.
The Cats held a two point lead at the first break 12-10.
Both teams never had more than four point lead. Arizona outrebounded the Bruins 13-9 but had six turnovers to UCLA’s two.
UCLA at the midpoint mark of the second quarter strung together a modest 5-0 run, but the Cats came back with a quick three points which included a free throw, 24-22 at the second media timeout.
Sam Thomas hit a baseline three pointer to put the Wildcats back up 27-26 with 3:32 left in the half.
The crowd was treated to a half court scrimmage on both ends of the floor by Tucson Fire vs Tucson Police.
Towards the end of the first half, things got physical. A blocking foul was called against Destiny Graham where the replay showed a clear charge. After the Bruin free throws, Arizona inbounded the ball and ran UCLA’s Alana Smith hard into a Graham screen at miscourt.
Using all the shot clock, Zona’s Lucia Alonso drove right with Bruins all over her and scored a layup with 35 second left. UCLA has their shot blocked to end with the half Cats ahead 33-30.
Aari McDonald and Cate Reese led the scoring with six points apiece. The Bruins were paced by Japreece Dean with nine and Kennedy Burke with seven points.
All week Coach Barnes worked tirelessly on boxing out and saw it quite improved as Arizona outrebouded USC and led in rebounds in the first half 26-18 including nine offensive boards. Things would change later in the game.
Both teams traded three pointers to start the third quarter. The Wildcats had their biggest lead of the game at 38-33 with 6:12 left in the third quarter.
Fouls became a factor halfway through the third quarter when Reese, and McBryde picked up their third and fourth fouls respectively. Arizona normally goes only goes seven players deep. With transfers and defections, the bench is thin at best for the Cats.
Each team hung tight to the other never letting the other team get too far ahead.
Throughout the game, pushing, bodies flying and uncalled punches were the recipe of the day. To say the refs were letting them “play” was a huge understatement. McBryde fouled out with 4:27 left in the 4th.
With 5:09 left in the game, UCLA regained the lead 53-52, just to have Alonso can a jumper to give the Cats back the lead.
Out of the media timeout, the Bruins hit a couple of free throws and Sam Thomas came back with a jumper.
At the 1:33 mark, Alonso hit a baseline three pointer to put Arizona up 61-59.
The Bruins tied the score at 61 with a second chance put back with 3.3 seconds left. With only four team fouls, UCLA fouled twice on the Cats inbound plays. No free throws and the game ended in regulation tied at 61.
Alonso once again hit a baseline three to give the Cats a short lead but Lajahna Drummer pounded the offensive glass and put it back in. The Bruins hit another shot to take a 67-64 lead with 2:47 left in overtime.
With 1:57 left, Tee Tee Stark hit a streaking Thomas for a layup and the foul. She converted the free throw to tie it at 67.
The Bruins turned the ball over and McDonald took it to the hoop and was fouled. With the free throw Zona led 70-69. UCLA had a shit clock violation and gave the Wildcats back the ball with 22.8 seconds left to go.
Bruin’s Kiara Jefferson fouled out with 21.7 seconds left as Thomas sank one of two free throws to extend Arizona’s lead to 71-69
UCLA went over the top of Reese to score and tie it back up at 71-71. The Cat’s shot at the buzzer was no good. Overtime #2.
Japreece Dean opened up the second overtime with a baseline three pointer to put UCLA up 74-71.
Trading baskets he Bruins still held on to a 76-73 lead with 2:40 left. McDonald hit a three pointer off the glass and followed with a steal and layup, just like that the score was tied again at 78-78.
McDonald only converted one of two free throws to make the score 90-79.UCLA manhanded the Cats on the offensive glass in overtime and made both their free throws after Thomas fouled out.
The Cats got the ball back with 16.2 seconds left for a final chance to send the game into a third overtime. Barnes opting to go down low to Reese got a quick hoop but still trailed by one 82-81.
After a quick foul on the UCLA inbounds, the Bruins made both free throws to give them a 84-81 lead and only 4.8 left.
Magic struck again for Zona as McDonald sunk a three off the right wing a the McKale crowd went wild. Overtime #3.
McDonald picked up where she left off in the second overtime and hit another three from the same spot to open up the scoring.
With a minute and a half left UCLA had a 90-89 lead. A Bruin three and a Arizona two by McDonald put the lead at 93-91 now at the 1:03 mark.
The game might have been over if Arizona would have hit their free throws. They were 9-21 at that point. With a chance to redeem, Destiny Graham went to the line with 28.1 seconds left and missed both shots.
Once again, Arizona went to the line, but this time Alonso sank both free throws. 95-93 Bruins with the ball and 25.6 seconds left.
UCLA made both their free throws to go back up by four 97-93 with 15.6 seconds to go.
McDonalds hurried three point attempt was long and back to the free throw line went the Bruins who hit one of two and a five point lead 98-93 which turned out to be the final score.
In the end, what sunk the Cats was poor free throw shooting 11-27 (40.7%) and allowing UCLA 27 offensive boards. Another huge factor was not having Thomas and McBryde who fouled out available in the overtime’s.
Coach Barnes said in the post game press conference she was proud of “no quit” agrressive play this young team showed, but once again back to the drawing board with working on rebounding.
Next up, Arizona/ASU Part II in Tempe at Wells Fargo Arena on Friday February 1st at 7 pm.
Today’s announced attendance was 2,337 and at halftime and throughout the game honored both Tucson Police and Tucson Fire Departments.