Pac-12 WBB roundup: Four ranked teams roll, Arizona rises up and Utah bemoans how teams “just beat the crap out of” Alissa Pili

Pac-12 WBB roundup: Four ranked teams roll, Arizona rises up and Utah bemoans how teams “just beat the crap out of” Alissa Pili

Don’t think about coming to Tucson with less than your A game.

That historic tradition on the men’s basketball side has become similarly daunting for women’s teams as eighth-year coach Adia Barnes built her program. Even in a season when the Wildcats aren’t nationally ranked thus far, they are dangerous at home and still a contender for a fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.

Arizona beat No. 15-ranked Utah in overtime Sunday after losing by a point to fifth-ranked Colorado on Friday. The Utes’ second loss in three games was the only blemish last week (in 10 games) for the conference’s quintet of nationally-ranked teams.

“This is a basketball town,” Colorado coach JR Payne said after escaping with a 75-74 win. “They love their basketball. They’re very knowledgeable basketball people. They know when to cheer and when to get crazy, when to get loud. And they have a home-court advantage with that.”

Arizona drew more than 7,300 for both games, further solidifying its top-10 ranking nationally in attendance (and the top figure in the Pac-12).

The Wildcats missed two shots for a lead in the final minutes of the loss to Colorado. Against Utah, Kailyn Gilbert made two free throws with a second remaining in overtime for a 71-70 victory after both teams failed to score over the final two minutes of regulation.

“We made so many mistakes, but we played hard and got 50-50 balls and made up for some deficiencies,” Barnes said Sunday. “I’m so proud of them and their fight and hustle.”

Utah led by as many as 10 points in the third quarter. Over the final six-plus minutes of regulation and all but 29 seconds of overtime, neither team led by more than three.

Arizona guards Gilbert and Helena Pueyo combined for 42 points (on 6-of-9 3-point shooting).

Alissa Pili returned from an injury — it kept her out of the second half at Arizona State on Friday — to lead the Utes with 18 points, a tick below  her average of 22.9 ppg.

“Teams (craft their) game plan to just beat the crap out of Pili,” Utah coach Lynne Roberts said after a 58-41 win over ASU.

“That’s frustrating, because it’s the second game in a row she’s gotten hurt. Our officials need to protect her. Just because she’s a big kid doesn’t mean she’s not getting the crap beat out of her. As a league, we’ve got to do better.

“We’ve got WNBA people here to watch her and she gets hurt because they’re just kicking the crap out of her. That’s not right. That’s got to get fixed.”

Four one-possession games

In addition to Arizona’s games, two others were decided by one possession: No. 9 USC over Oregon State 56-54 on Friday and Cal’s 73-72 overtime victory over Washington State on Sunday.

The Bears also beat Washington 70-57 on Friday for their first sweep of the Washington schools since 2018-19. They are 12-3, the program’s best start since 2016-17.

Michelle Onyiah was Cal’s star in overtime as she converted three offensive rebounds into layups, including the winning basket with eight seconds left. Ionna Krimili averaged 21 points for the weekend, and the Bears ended a six-game losing streak against Washington State.

“We showed our growth in this game,” Cal coach Charmin Smith said. “We had a stretch there where we kind of were lulled to sleep a little bit, but then we bounced back and really fought and showed a ton of grit.”

USC led Oregon State by five points with 2:17 left but didn’t score again and had to fend off three Beavers shots in the final 10 seconds that could have, at minimum, forced overtime.

“It felt like more of an Oregon State game that we happened to win,” USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb said of the low-scoring outcome.

USC completed a weekend sweep with a 68-54 victory at Oregon while the Beavers lost 65-54 at second-ranked UCLA. The losses in L.A. were the first defeats of the season for OSU.

Five teams with 2-0 weekend

UCLA and No. 8 Stanford also went 2-0 during weekend play, along with Colorado, USC and Cal.

The Bruins had little trouble with Oregon in a 75-49 victory while Stanford beat WSU 74-65 and Washington 71-59.

Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer now has 1,200 career wins and is just three away from breaking former Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski’s overall college record. The Cardinal play at Utah and Colorado this week — neither game is a guaranteed win — then returns home to face Oregon on Jan. 19.

Cameron Brink had two double-doubles to lead Stanford, with substantial help from Kiki Iriafen and others.

South Carolina, UCLA and Baylor are the only remaining undefeated teams in Division I teams after No. 3 North Carolina State lost for the first time Sunday.

Stanford is 14-1 and on a six-game winning streak since losing at No. 18 Gonzaga in early December. Colorado beat ASU 81-68 on Sunday for its seventh straight win since a loss to North Carolina State just after Thanksgiving.

“This conference is so good,” UCLA coach Cori Close said Friday. “Even when you shoot as poorly as we did tonight (and win), you should be thankful. That’s why you build your backbone on defense and rebounding, because sometimes these nights come.”

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The Bruins shot 40 percent against both Oregon schools but gave up more than 15 points in just one of eight quarters.

Vonleh fuels Colorado vs. ASU

After their close call in Tucson, the Buffaloes dominated ASU 50-25 in the first half Sunday.

Aaronette Vonleh had 14 points (7-of-9 shooting) before suffering a sprained ankle with 1:14 remaining in the first quarter. She returned at 7:26 of the second and finished with 20 points (only two in the second half).

Vonleh said she was “focused from the jump, going into the game knowing how I wanted to impact it and just doing that. I was a little bit slower, putting weight on my ankle hurt a little bit. But a sprained ankle is not anything too serious so I was able to push through that and keep playing well.”

ASU clawed back to within 10 points with 2:05 left thanks to Louisville transfer Jalyn Brown, who scored a career-high 35 points.

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