March 8, 2013
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - If only the Huskies' shooting matched their determination and grit.
One night after snoozing into a 22-point hole to last-place Oregon, Washington came out trading bangs and scraps with 18th-ranked Colorado Friday. They led by five early.
But the shooting for the fifth-seeded Huskies never even got lukewarm, resulting in a 70-59 loss to the fourth-seeded Buffaloes in the second round of the Pac-12 tournament at KeyArena.
Jazmine Davis scraped out 17 points despite 5-for-20 shooting and Talia Walton added 13, including a 3-pointer that had UW within four points with 45 seconds left. But Walton was 4 for 13, and Washington (20-11) shot just 28 percent overall.
The perspective and positive attitude the young Huskies showed in the locker room after their conference season ended was even more impressive then their tenacity during the game.
"Colorado has a very intense defense," said Davis, the relentless sophomore who refused to concede she was at all frustrated by her cold shooting. "Their man-to-man is just in you. They play almost street-ball defense.
"It's definitely tough to lose, but this loss will definitely make us hungry. ... I'm sure after tonight we'll be fine. We'll bounce back."
The Huskies, who in the regular-season had 11 conference wins - its most since 2007 - are likely awaiting a second-consecutive bid to the Women's National Invitation Tournament and perhaps multiple home games as top seed in that consolation tournament. They appear to lack the quality wins to make it to the NCAA tournament inside a conference that is likely to send four teams -- Stanford, California, UCLA, and Colorado -- to the bigger dance when that field is announced Monday.
"It's probably going to be a little discouraging if we don't see our name among the 64 teams selected for the NCAA tournament. But at the same time, I've never played in the WNIT," said senior captain Kristi Kingma, who was 2 for 8 for nine points after going 0 for 10 in Thursday's school-record rally past Oregon.
Kingma missed last spring's run deep into the WNIT because she missed the entire year because of reconstructive knee surgery. For her, that "other" tournament is a bonus, an extension of a Husky career she doesn't want to end.
"It's a stepping stone. It's something this program has to go through to get to where it wants to go," she said of the WNIT. "From now on, every game could be my last game. For me -- I don't know how anyone else feels -- I'm excited."
Colorado (25-5) advanced to Saturday night's second semifinal against Stanford. The tournament's top seed won its 18th consecutive league tournament game, 79-60 over Washington State, earlier Friday evening.
The Huskies trailed by 11 early in the second half, just as they did the previous night against Oregon. This time it was from sloppy ball handling and turnovers for easy CU scores. UW coach Kevin McGuff angrily called timeout and got on his Dawgs for the lack of intensity.
Walton responded with a timely 3, Kingma hit two free throws, and Davis completed a 3-point play on a bullish move inside. The 8-0 run got the Huskies back into the game, down 37-34 with 15:30 left. The Dawgs upped their grittiness from there, scrapping for loose balls and rebounds to stay within a half dozen points.
They couldn't get closer than four after that, though.
The Huskies had been regretting for two weeks not hitting free throws late in a seven-point loss to the Buffaloes in Boulder.
Friday night, they regretted not being able to extend their first-half lead while Colorado was scuffling around shooting airballs and bricks - some even at point-blank range - against the Huskies' constant switches between man-to-man and zone defenses. CU's shooting was in the low-20 percent range for most of the half, but the Huskies never led by more than six points.
When the Buffs inevitably warmed, Washington's lead vanished. The Huskies trailed 29-26 at the half, because it made just 9 of 30 shots. Davis missed seven of her first 10 tries. Walton missed four of her first six.
But true to this team's determined nature all season, the Dawgs kept gunnin' and scrappin', forcing two turnovers that led to 3-pointers from freshmen Heather Corral and from Walton. That instantly turn a 10-point deficit into just a four-point game inside the final minute.
"Oh, yeah, I was thinking, 'I've heard of teams scoring 13 points in a minute, and now we might see it,'" Davis said.
But CU's Chucky Jeffery got free inside for two of her game-high 19 points. Walton then missed a rushed 3 for UW. Davis gave the Huskies one last hope with a desperate steal from behind on a breakaway by Jeffery with 38 seconds to go, but Corral missed a 3-pointer from the left wing that could have cut the Buffs' lead down to 3 with 31 seconds to go. Jeffery's ensuing free throws clinched Colorado's hard-fought victory.
McGuff gave Colorado credit for its defense, but bemoaned his undersized and thin team's lack of rebounding at key moments. The much bigger Buffaloes had a whopping 58-36 edge on the glass, including 25-13 in offensive rebounds to negate defensive stops the Huskies were getting.
"They were just more physical and tougher around the basket," the second-year turnaround maestro at Washington said.
"We've got a lot of positive things going on. We need to stay focused right now. We are going to be playing more somewhere (this season). We've got some more opportunities to grow and get better."
The league announced a second-day crowd of 5,452, and it was again lively. In two days, this year's women's tournament has surpassed by about 2,000 fans what it attracted in four days last March at USC's Galen Center. That was before the Pac-12 struck a three-year deal to have its tournament moved to Seattle.