If one more player fouled out Arizona women's basketball coach Joan Bonvicini might have started recruiting from the stands at Gill Coliseum.
In the final minute of a double-overtime away game against Oregon State last Thursday, Arizona's Beatrice Bofia and Sarah Hays were the only two Wildcats left on the court after a series of injuries and other issues left Bonvicini with just six players available at the start of the game. Despite a 16-point lead with 11:14 remaining, the Wildcats lost 94-88 after two players fouled out in regulation and two more were disqualified in overtime.
"We went from five to four to three to two players on the floor against five," said Hays. "It was hard for us because neither Beatrice nor I play point guard so we're not used to dribbling the ball down court."
Arizona's Ify Ibekwe was out with an eye injury for the fifth straight game. Jessica Arnold missed the game with a concussion she suffered in practice on Dec. 7. Twin sisters Rhaya and Rheya Neabors were out due to personal reasons and academic troubles, respectively. This left Arizona, which received 21 votes in last week's Associated Press poll, at half its normal size before the game started.
It was a lucky break for Oregon State, who despite a series of recent victories, likely wouldn't have had a strong enough defense to stop the Wildcats this year. In the first overtime, Arizona took a 73-67 lead despite having just four players at that point.
"I've never seen a game like that on television, in person, or from the sidelines in all my years of coaching," said Oregon State coach LaVonda Wagner. "We are very fortunate to come out of here with a win."
Arizona's Ashley Whisonant scored a career-high 34 points but fouled with 1:01 left in the second overtime, leaving Bofia, a 6-7 center, and Hays, a 6-1 forward who had started just six games this season, to hold off a full OSU team. The two left standing combined for 16 points and 28 rebounds, but were unable to stop the Beavers from scoring five points in the final minute.
"I was like, jeez there are four people on Beatrice and one person on me. How are we going to do this?" said Hays. "Luckily my teammate is 6-7 so we were still getting the ball past half-court even against five people."
The sad part is, OSU played well, and still had to put up a fight to get past the disappearing Wildcats. With just four players, Arizona was able to build a six-point lead in the first overtime, despite a career-high 30 points from Oregon State's Brittney Davis and 29 from Ashley Allen.
"I though they did a fabulous job and they attacked us from the start," said Wagner. "We were in a fight."
It's hard to imagine that OSU can feel good about a win at the hands of a team that was half OSU's size by the end of the game. The victory over Arizona certainly wasn't the players' fault, but for college-level competitors, it might come with the same satisfaction as watching Kobe Bryant dunk against a sixth-grader.
"It was a win," said Allen, "But it was an ugly win that we probably were not worthy of."