ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands - Ninth-ranked Arizona was just seconds away from being forced into overtime. Shaina Pellington made sure that didn’t happen.
Pellington hit an off-balance layup at the buzzer to lift the Wildcats past pesky Vanderbilt 48-46 on Nov. 25 in the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam tournament.
With the game tied at 46, Arizona put the ball in Pellington’s hands. She drove from the left wing and her off-balance scoop layup dropped in just before the horn sounded, setting off a celebration under the Wildcats’ basket.
"We were running a different action, but then she saw an open lane because the pass wasn’t open," Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. "She hesitated for a bit, but I thought she was just going to go, she made a great play. "We got lucky, because they should’ve won the game the way they played. ... We should all run out of here and wipe our foreheads because we didn’t deserve to win that game."
Sam Thomas had 13 points and Ariyah Copeland 11 points for the Wildcats (5-0), who survived an upset attempt by the Commodores (3-3).
Demi Washington and Iyana Moore had 10 points each for Vanderbilt, which rallied from going down by as many as 15 points midway through the second quarter.
"Obviously, when you lose a game like that you’re disappointed," said first-year Vanderbilt coach Shea Ralph, a former assistant at UConn. "I felt we could’ve won it, Our defense was so good all game. We just needed one stop at the end, and we couldn’t get it.
"There’s opportunities for us to learn from this. On the flip side, our team has grown so much over the last couple of weeks. There are no moral victories, but I’m happy to see how we’re coming together and maturing."
Arizona led 22-7 with 6:30 left in the second on Lauren Ware’s layup, but the Commodores fought back to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 24-16 at the half.
Vanderbilt then mounted a rally in the fourth quarter, eventually tying it at 46-all on Brinae Alexander’s layup with 7.6 seconds remaining,
Arizona: Not an impressive game for the Wildcats in their first week back in the top 10 of the poll since Feb. 22. It was their lowest-scoring game of the still-early season.
Vanderbilt: Even being a loss, the Commodores gave Arizona all it could handle with its defense, which forced the Wildcats into 25 turnovers.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Arizona was averaging nearly 80 points per game (79.8) entering Thursday’s game, but Vanderbilt held the Wildcats to 31 points below that average.
Arizona: Faces DePaul on Friday in its second of three games at Paradise Jam.
Vanderbilt: Plays three-time Paradise Jam champion Rutgers on Friday.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
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