TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — With a distinct size advantage over most teams, No. 6 Arizona hasn’t made the 3-point shot a big part of its offense so far this season. But with one frontcourt starter hurt and their opponent turning to a zone, the Wildcats had to rely on it more than ever before.
“I think that’s a record,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said of her team’s 36 3-point attempts, 12 more than in any other game this season, in Sunday’s 77-60 victory over New Mexico.
The Wildcats improved to 9-0 for the fourth time in school history and second time in three seasons by making 13 of those 3-pointers. Nine came from their bench, which produced 35 points.
“We’ve had to gut out and just find different ways to win,” Barnes said.
Freshman Madi Conner came off the bench to score a career-high 15 points, hitting 5 of 10 3-pointers, while Helena Pueyo was 3 of 7 from long range and finished with 11 points.
“My team was finding me in the right spots and it was just my job to hit them,” said Conner, who is hitting 40.6% from outside. “I’m here to knock down open shots.”
Neither team led by more than six points until Arizona scored 10 in a row to lead 54-42 with 43 seconds left in the third quarter. New Mexico (8-4) went more than five minutes without a field goal in the third, shooting 38.2% for the game.
Arizona missed eight of its first nine 3-point attempts before Taylor Chavez drained back-to-back triples to put the Wildcats up 16-13 with 1:30 left in the first quarter. New Mexico used a 7-0 run to go up 20-16 early in the second quarter, repeatedly using a backdoor cut to get easy shots at the rim.
“We couldn’t really guard them in some situations,” Barnes said.
The Lobos started 6 of 10 from inside the arc before Arizona started filling the passing lanes while its own offense began figuring out the zone. The Wildcats outscored New Mexico 16-7 during a 6-minute span in the second quarter to build a 35-32 halftime lead.
Cate Reese had 14 points and 12 rebounds and Sam Thomas added 13 for Arizona.
New Mexico was led by freshman Paula Reus’ career-high 15 points and 14 from LaTora Duff.
Arizona was playing its first game without Lauren Ware, who dislocated her right knee in the first minute of Thursday’s home win over North Dakota State.
New Mexico: The third quarter has been the Lobos’ nemesis this season. They’ve gotten outscored then 225-196, including 22-13 on Sunday. New Mexico has outscored its opponents by 170 points in the other three quarters.
Arizona: Another long stretch between home games is on the horizon for the Wildcats, who don’t play at McKale Center again until their Pac-12 Conference home opener on Jan. 7 against Washington State. Arizona plays only 14 home games this season.
New Mexico: Heads home for its final nonconference game on Dec. 19 against UTEP.
Arizona: Visits in-state rival NAU 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