The first round of the NCAA Tournament consists of some of the most exciting basketball games. When all of the leagues mix to compete for the title, anything can happen.
Who will be this year’s Cinderella story? Who is going to make a perfect bracket?
The Arizona women’s basketball team is the No. 7 seed playing West Virginia University, who are the No. 10 seed, on Friday, March 17, in College Park, Maryland to help kick off St. Patrick's Day.
Arizona’s starting lineup consisted of Shaina Pellington, Cate Reese, Esmery Martinez, Jade Loville and Lauren Fields. Reese won the tip-off, passing the ball to Pellington for Arizona's first possession. Loville shot after getting the ball but missed. She then made a nice jump shot to make the first points of the game for Arizona.
West Virginia responded by putting 2 points on the board for themselves.
Arizona's passing has been extremely fast and accurate. Pellington scrapped for the ball then fake shot it before passing it to Reese who put it in the basket. West Virginia called their first timeout with 6:56 left in the first quarter the score was 11-4 Wildcats.
Pellington did a great job of controlling the court, forcing her teammates to be on the move. Pellington had a fast break that resulted in her making a nice layup. West Virginia sank a 3 with 3:05 left in the opening quarter. With three seconds left, Fields was fouled and she missed both free throw opportunities.
The score going into the second quarter was 28-17 Arizona. With 8:15 left in the second quarter, the Mountaineers were only trailing behind Arizona by 7 points. Pellington dominated West Virginia with phenomenal ball control and she did a great job finding her open teammates. West Virginia started to close the gap with a fast break layup by Ja'Naiya Quinerly. The half ended with Arizona up 40-33.
West Virginia made the first points of the second half. Reese was fouled with 8:33 left in the third, and Helena Pueyo put the ball in play, giving it to Pellington who was fouled. Pellington made both free throws to give Arizona a 5 point lead.
The game began to get scrappy, many players were getting in each other's faces. Pellington had to come out because she had four fouls with 7:43 left to go in the third quarter.
Arizona had a lot of success in the paint this game. Reese sank a nice jump shot making the score 46-41. West Virginia fouled Reese which sent her to the line and she made both free throw attempts. The ball was stripped from Pueyo by Quinerly who took the ball down the court for a layup. The Mountaineers continued to trail behind the Wildcats by a few points. Kailyn Gilbert sank a nice jumper after beating two guards with 3:10 left in the third.
At the media timeout with 4:39 left in the third quarter, the score was 52-47 Arizona.
To start off the fourth quarter, Arizona was winning 61-51, but the Wildcats had a hard time putting West Virginia away.
Martinez made a good layup gliding through WVU's guards. Martinez later passed the ball down the middle to Reese who then drove the ball to the rim. Arizona was fouled and Gilbert made a free throw to put them ahead 68-51 with 7:01 left in the game.
Pellington and Reese were a dynamic duo in the game, constantly passing back and forth and rising up as leaders. Arizona ran away with the lead in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. With 1:30 left in the game, the Wildcats had a 16 point lead. West Virginia gave its last efforts to try to catch up to Arizona, but it just wasn’t enough. The Wildcats beat the West Virginia Mountaineers 75-62.
“I am really proud of this team. We did a really good job coming on the road and beat[ing] a good team,” head coach Adia Barnes said in the postgame press conference.
“I think we played like a team and it was really great seeing the ball movement and you know just dominating in the post,” Reese said after the game.
Arizona will advance in the tournament to play again on Sunday, March 19, against whoever wins the Maryland vs. Holy Cross game.
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