After losing four straight games, the Arizona women’s basketball team came out aggressive Sunday afternoon, ready to start a new winning streak.
Unfortunately, they ran into a San Diego State team that always seemed like it had an answer and held off the Wildcats 78-67 at McKale Center.
The Wildcats (2-5) came out ready to fight and kept it close, trailing 21-20 at the end of the first quarter.
“The past few days in practice we have been working hard on our defense and getting on it,” said UA junior Destiny Graham, who scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds. “We’ve been scrappy and aggressive and that translated from practice to the game.”
The Wildcats had 11 second-chance baskets and were winning the 50-50 balls. However, they shot only 37.5 percent.
In the second quarter, UA went nearly five minutes without scoring. With 7:15 left in the half, Sam Thomas was fouled and made two free throws, closing the gap to 26-25.
Then the scoring drought started. The Wildcats were down by as much as 11 points before cutting the lead to 41-34 at halftime.
“Every time we tried to get a stop, they’d score late in the clock,” said UA coach Adia Barnes. “They got it like a dagger. Their players scored above their average. They shot 25 free throws to our nine.”
And, the Aztecs also sank their three-pointers. Every time the Wildcats were getting close, another San Diego State player would let one fly. The Aztecs hit 52 percent of their threes while UA was only at 28 percent.
“It was uncharacteristic of them to shoot that well from three,” Barnes said. “And for Lucia (Alonso), it was uncharacteristic to go 0-for-8 shooting and 0 for 5 from the three. She usually makes those.
“But, what killed us was missing five layups in a row. If we had made those we would have been up by six. If we had made those layups it would have been a different game.”
UA’s Sammy Fatkin did manage to hit 3 of 5 from long range en route to scoring 11 points in 17 minutes.
“Today Sammy played like I know she can play,” said Barnes. “Off the bench she was incredible.”
After being down by eight heading into the fourth quarter, the Wildcats climbed back to a two-point deficit at 69-67 with 3:05 left, but the shots didn’t fall the rest of the way.
During the comeback, senior JaLea Bennett took over and scored on three consecutive layups. She led the Wildcats with 23 points.
Sam Thomas added 12 points for UA.
“We’re getting better; it’s tough to lose a game like this,” said Barnes. “We played well, just not for the full 40 minutes. We really took a big step on ball pressure and boxing out. Having a consistent effort is important.
“We will continue to get better and the wins will come.”
Another UA opponent was not on the court during the playing of the national anthem. The Aztecs came out a few minutes later and wore warmup T-shirts that were black with the word “Equality” on the front.