TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Shaina Pellington made 11 straight shots on her way to scoring a career-high 35 points, leading No. 18 Arizona over No. 4 Utah 82-72 on Friday night.
Cate Reese added 16 points for the Wildcats (20-6, 10-5). Helena Pueyo had 12 points, including four free throws in the final 90 seconds.
“I started off on fire,” Pellington said. “I feel like when I saw the first one go in, the second one go in, the third one go in. ... It just kept going and going and going. I also wanted to make sure that I was making sure that I was taking shots that made sense in the flow of the game.”
Arizona broke the Utes’ seven-game winning streak and avenged an 80-79 loss in Salt Lake City a month ago.
Allison Pili scored 26 points, Jenna Johnson had 19 and Gianna Kneepkens 13 for the Utes (22-3, 12-3), who entered with the highest ranking in program history.
“To lose it with 1.5 seconds left there on free throws, that was tough to swallow” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said of the game in Salt Lake City. “We really were focused at home and we need these wins. Everybody needs these wins. We’re all chasing the top four in the Pac-12 tournament. We’re playing for postseason standings.”
Pellington had 23 points in the first half when she made all 10 field goal attempts. She made her first shot in the second half before missing.
Pellington finished 13 of 18 with eight rebounds and five steals.
“This game will help us in a lot of ways,” Barnes said. “Came out and battled against a very good Utah team. We’re starting to peak at the right time.”
Utah trimmed a 10-point deficit to 76-72 on Pili’s three-point play with 1:08 remaining before Madi Conner made two free throws for a 78-72 lead with 48.4 seconds remaining after Utah was called for an intentional foul. The Utes missed a 3-pointer on their next possession and were 4 of 19 from distance.
“That’s what it came down to,” Utah coach Lynne Roberts said. “We missed shots. That’s just how the game goes sometimes. This game was not a must-win. Our backs were not against the wall. It was an incredibly physical game. Our offense is predicated on ball movement and player movement. It was hard to do. We couldn’t even cut.”
Utah, sixth in Division I in scoring, was held 12.7 points below its average. Arizona beat its fourth ranked team this season after wins over Baylor, Oregon and UCLA.
AN INCH OF SEPARATION
Utah beat the Wildcats on Jan. 15 when the lead changed hands twice in the final two seconds. Paris Clark’s steal and layup gave Arizona a 79-78 lead. After a Utah timeout, Pili was fouled after catching a long pass and made two free throws with one second left.
The Wildcats drew 8,238, the second-largest this season after drawing 9,868 against Stanford last Friday. The largest crowd the Utes had seen this season was 6,289 at Oregon.
Utah: The Utes’ only other losses are to ranked Pac-12 teams No. 3 Stanford and No. 21 Colorado. With a strong finish, they could capture one of eight host sites in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, which would be another program first.
Arizona: The Wildcats can bank on their third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament, and the victory over the Utes helps make the journey one step easier.
Utah: At Arizona State on Sunday.
Arizona: Hosts No. 21 Colorado on Sunday.