Tucson, Ariz. ?- Arizona rallied to overcome an eight point halftime deficit and hung on down the stretch for a 59-57 win over Washington State (5-11, 1-5 Pac-10) on Saturday in McKale Center, despite missing eight consecutive free throws in the final 32 seconds. The win improves Arizona to 7-10 overall and 1-4 in the Pac-10, and snaps a five-game losing streak for the Wildcats.
Arizona led 59-53 with 50 seconds left in the game, but could not put the Cougars away from the free throw line down the stretch. WSU made two-straight layups to cut the UA lead to 59-57 with 23 seconds left, but missed its last two three-point attempts to allow Arizona to escape with the win.
“I really thought today was a tale of two halves,” head coach Joan Bonvicini said. “The first half wasn’t a very good half for us. In the second half, we locked down more defensively and got into more of a rhythm on offense.”
Individually for Arizona, senior Joy Hollingsworth led the team with 18 points (7-17), and sophomore Amina Njonkou added 13 points and nine rebounds. Junior Ashley Whisonant finished with 11 points and a career-high seven rebounds.
Sophomore guard Katie Appleton scored a game-high 22 points to lead Washington State.
Arizona shot 40.0 percent (20-50) from the floor in the game, 33.3 percent (4-12) from three point range, and 53.6 percent (15-28) from the free throw line. Washington State finished the game shooting 34.6 percent (21-61) from the field, and out-rebounded the Wildcats 40-39.
Arizona jumped out to a 6-0 lead at the start of the game, holding WSU scoreless for the first 3:26. The Cougars responded with two-straight treys by Appleton which sparked a 10-0 scoring run over the next 4:26 to give the Cougars a 10-6 lead. A Hollingsworth three pointer gave UA a 13-12 lead at the 9:03 mark, but WSU countered with a 15-3 run over the next 4:51 and led 27-16 with 4:14 left in the first half. The Cougars went into halftime with a 32-24 lead, as Arizona shot 33.3 percent (8-24) from the field, compared to a 38.2 percent (13-34) mark for WSU.
Arizona opened the second half with an 8-0 run to tie the game at 32-32 with 13:14 left to play. The Wildcats held Washington State scoreless in the second half for the opening 7:42, as the Cougars shot 0-of-8 from the field. Two free throws by Njonkou gave Arizona a 36-35 lead at the 11:29 mark, the Wildcats’ first second half lead in four games.
Arizona led 57-51 on a Hollingsworth layup at the 2:04 mark, and was up 59-53 with 50 seconds left in the game before going cold at the charity stripe. Washington State cut the deficit to two points, but could not capitalize on Arizona going 0-of-8 from the free throw line in the final seconds.
Arizona will next travel to Eugene, Ore., to take on the Oregon Ducks on Thursday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. (PST).