When Helena Pueyo is in the groove, finds her spot in the corner and lets it fly, she hits nothing but net.
On Wednesday afternoon, the UA sophomore put on a clinic — swish, swish, swish, swish — in the first half to help the Wildcats take command early and thump Idaho 96-42 at McKale Center.
The Wildcats (7-0) head into January undefeated for the second consecutive year. They’ll face No. 1 Stanford on New Year’s Day.
“Our defense is improving; our offense is getting better. The things that we’re working on, I’m able to see us apply them. So that’s the positive for me as a coach,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. “We still have a lot of things to work on and get better at, but we will get better at them in the next month — we’re addressing them, and we are improving.”
Pueyo’s shooting touch ignited the Wildcats in the second quarter. She hit all four of her 3-point attempts, with two of them coming during a 14-0 run in the last 3:20 of the half.
“I think there was some fire a little bit,” said Pueyo, who also grabbed five rebounds, had a block and three steals.
Arizona scored seven points in less than a minute in the second quarter. Pueyo started it with a 3-pointer, Trinity Baptiste had a putback for a bucket, and Lauren Ware came up with a steal and a dish to a speedy Aari McDonald.
The Wildcats took a 24-point lead into halftime and never looked back. In the third quarter, they extended their lead to 44 points. They held the Vandals to just eight points — all coming from junior guard Gina Marxen.
Four of Pueyo’s teammates scored in double figures. Shaina Pellington led all scorers with 16 points, and Cate Reese added 12 points and eight rebounds. Ware posted the second double-double of her career, scoring 10 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and adding three blocks and one steal.
McDonald rounded it out with 11 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals. She moved into fifth place in UA career points with 1,627 points.
Tara Manumaluega tried to match Pueyo, hitting back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers late in the game. She finished 3 of 4 from beyond the arc for nine points.
“I love to see Tara come in and hit 3s,” Barnes said.
“It’s difficult when you’re sitting along time — you’re cold and come in and just nail a 3. She does that. … What was more impressive about it was to see her teammates, jumping, yelling and cheering. Even in a locker room saying, ‘Give me your hands; give me some of your shooting touch.’ It was really, really awesome to see. That’s how our culture and our team is. I love that.”
Arizona’s bench finished with 58 points — more than the Vandals scored as a team.
“We have never had 58 points in all the years I’ve been here, and hopefully we’ll have it again,” Barnes laughed.
“Fifty-eight is a lot. Then we had 56 points in the paint — that’s off of penetration. Those are stats that are just really are glaring to me and they’re good for us. Even if the number was down a little bit, just the way that we’re doing the things it’s the right way.”
Arizona shot 53% from the field while holding Idaho to 26%. The Wildcats out-rebounded the Vandals 54-28.
The Wildcats, not known as an offensive rebounding team, finished with 21 of them — turning them into 25 second-chance points.
“I think we played great,” Barnes said. “I think it was a very good game. I think that our players applied the stuff we did in practice last week and our emphasis on taking good shots and playing for each other. I think that was evident today with 19 assists, eight turnovers.
“We hit shots. It’s hard playing against a zone for 40 minutes. It’s really difficult guarding a team with a bunch of guards — basically, it was five-out a lot. Their post player is versatile and can shoot the three and drive it. I thought we did a really good job of guarding our person not rotating a lot — just a good game, despite what the score was.
“For us, that was a good offensive game. It was a good defensive game. It was a good game to give us momentum going to Christmas break.”
- There was a familiar face on the other side of the court on Wednesday. Idaho freshman guard Paris Atchley is the younger sister of former UA graduate manager Alexis Atchley.
- Arizona finished with 11 steals and six blocked shots.
- UA scored 22 points off 16 Vandals turnovers.