Michelle Smith: Shaina Pellington doing a lot right for Arizona women's basketball
Shaina Pellington has had a lot of media requests this week. The Arizona point guard must be doing something right.
It’s been a heady few games for the senior from Ontario, Canada, who transferred to the Wildcats program from Oklahoma in 2019.
A buzzer-beater on January 13 at Oregon State. Twenty-eight points on Sunday against Colorado in a critical win, and then 20 points on Wednesday at UCLA, pushing the 'Cats to a 4-2 conference record heading into Sunday’s national championship rematch against Stanford at Maples Pavilion.
“We are prepared for it,” Pellington said. “This is a tough stretch coming up and it will be a good test, but I think we are in a good place. I think we can potentially come out of both games with a win. There is no telling our limits.”
Pellington’s elevated play is elevating Arizona on both ends of the floor. Her scoring average is up to 10.2 points a game.
“She’s been great, playing at a high level,” said Arizona coach Adia Barnes. “She’s made some important baskets for us, and one-on-one she’s incredibly hard to guard.”
Before the season began, with the departure of All-American Aari McDonald, Barnes said she talked to Pellington about the role she would play on this year’s team.
“I talked to her about getting better every day,” Barnes said. “I didn’t want to put her in a box. I want her to be vocal, and work on her outside game, and get ready to be a pro. I didn’t want to put a lot of expectations on her, but that is what she has been doing.”
Pellington missed nearly a month from mid-December to mid-January with an undisclosed injury and came back to hit the game-winner against the Beavers, a foul-line jumper with 0.5 seconds on the clock.
Pellington said she has gotten a lot of motivation from the fact that the No. 8 Wildcats were not given the ranking or attention they felt they deserved after their run last spring to the program’s first national championship game.
“We are no underdogs,” Pellington said. “We are proving that we are a successful team with the people we have back.”
Pellington said she felt responsibility to fill the gap in both scoring and leadership left by McDonald.
“I’m trying to do that in the best way I can,” Pellington said. “But everyone has taken responsibility.”
Pellington improved her offensive game over the summer, became a better shooter, and after a difficult start, she has become a much more solid free-throw shooter, which is important for someone who has no fear when it comes to driving to the rim.
“It’s not repetition, it’s a mental thing,” Pellington said. “I know these are the things that are the difference between being good and great.”
Barnes said that Pellington is “showing up big” right now and expects that to continue as the schedule barrels toward the all-important postseason.
“She is showing how athletic she is, she is finishing, she is hitting her free-throws,” Barnes said. “I’m hard on her sometimes because I need to be, but she has gotten better at everything I’ve asked her to do in the last three years and her work is paying off.
“The way she is playing now is how I expect her to play.”