TUCSON, Ariz. (AP)Arizona went nearly two weeks between games, and the rust was evident for a good portion of its return to the court.
The sixth-ranked Wildcats got a season-high 16 points from Shaina Pellington, 13 apiece from Ariyah Copeland and Cate Reese, and overcame the loss of starting forward Lauren Ware to an injury to beat North Dakota State 59-47 on Thursday night.
Arizona is 8-0 for the fifth time in school history and second time in three seasons but looked like a team playing its first game in 12 days. The Wildcats shot 34.9%, their worst rate in six games, and were 3 of 17 from 3-point range.
”Not the prettiest win, but a win’s a win at this time of year,” coach Adia Barnes said. ”I’m just happy we won.”
Pellington added four rebounds, three assists and four of Arizona’s 16 steals, while Copeland and Reese combined for 24 shots to make up for Ware’s absence.
Ware, a 6-foot-3 sophomore who was averaging 8.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, crumpled to the floor under Arizona’s basket 33 seconds into the game, clutching her right knee and screaming in pain. She was helped off the court and into the locker room, returning to the bench just before halftime on crutches, her right leg wrapped and in a brace.
Barnes said Ware dislocated the knee but medical staff was able to pop it back into place. An MRI is scheduled for Friday and Ware is expected to miss a week or two.
”I’m just so happy it’s nothing bad,” Barnes said.
Ware missed her senior year of high school after suffering a torn ACL in her left knee.
Copeland and Reece helped Arizona dominate NDSU (4-6) in the paint, outscoring it 34-12, and converted 25 Bison turnovers into 27 points.
Heaven Hamling scored 14 points for the Bison, who shot 35.4%.
The Bison went on a 9-0 run to open the fourth quarter as Reneya Hopkins made two free throws to cut the deficit to 47-42 with 6:46 left. Arizona scored the next six, including back-to-back baskets by Pellington off steals to extend the lead to 11.
”We just tried to keep our composure just as best as we could,” Pellington said. ”We just went back to what we know how to do.”
Arizona led 31-21 at halftime and back-to-back transition layups by Reese extended the Wildcats’ advantage to 40-26 with 4:16 left in the third quarter.
North Dakota State: The Bison were picked to finish third in the Summit League, their highest preseason ranking since 2009-10. They’re seeking their first NCAA Tournament appearance since moving up to Division I in 2007.
Arizona: The Wildcats are now in a stretch of four games in 11 days before jumping into the Pac-12 schedule. Before league play begins they will have competed in South Dakota, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Las Vegas.
North Dakota State: Continues a two-game trip with a visit to Wyoming on Sunday.
Arizona: Hosts New Mexico on Sunday, its last home game of 2021.
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