Feb. 2, 2010
By Michael Jeremiah
SEATTLE - The organization of the Pac-10 schedule leads to a surprise on the first weekend of the second rotation. With games against the four naturally paired opponents and rival Washington State, Washington completed the first half of the conference season with a record of 4-5. Their road trip to the Arizona schools this weekend comes just four weeks after they swept their desert opponents at the Bank of America Arena.
During the second weekend of conference play, the Huskies showed they were going to be players in the conference race by beating the Sun Devils 62-56, before downing Arizona, 69-59. Washington hadn't swept the Arizona schools at home since the 2002-03 season.
The Huskies have two teams ready to take revenge for losses in their first meeting, but Coach Tia Jackson is more worried about her own team than anything coming from the opposing bench this weekend.
"This weekend is extremely important," said Jackson. "We know that it is going to be a payback situation for the Arizona schools. We anticipate that."
"It's not for us to lose sight of things that we are trying to do to get ready for that game. Not make it them against us. It's just us going out there and doing what we need to do to take care of business."
It's been a struggle at times for Washington to take care of business in the first half of conference play. The weekly injury report at press conferences is usually full of players sitting out of practice, or the announcement that someone else needs to have season-ending surgery.
After playing without sophomore guard Kristi Kingma against Washington State last weekend, the focus was on the status the Huskies second leading scorer. Although she didn't practice yesterday, Kingma is cleared to practice the rest of the week and is expected to play Thursday.
In her absence, it was up to a pair of seniors to pick up the slack against the Cougars last weekend. Sami Whitcomb scored a career-high 32 points in Pullman, and senior guard Christina Rozier brought her play to another level to secure a tough road win.
"[Rozier] has really been playing really well as of late," said Jackson. "She's found her niche."
Her niche against Washington State was to close the game. In the overtime period, Rozier scored all 8 of her points. The Huskies outscored Washington State 14-8 in the extra period to win 76-70.
As injured players like Kingma come back this weekend, the Huskies will enjoy her presence along with the added confidence from Rozier from her dominating overtime performance last weekend.
"We find ourselves tweaking and fixing because we have been down bodies," said Jackson. "I do think that we are steadily improving."
The Huskies will need a strong team performance if they hope to complete the season sweep of Arizona State on Thursday.
The Sun Devils have won five of their last six games, with their only loss coming to second-ranked Stanford. Danielle Orsillo is leading the way for Arizona State with 14.5 points a game. Orsillo is helped out by Becca Tobin, who averages 10.5 a game.
Whatever the outcome is Thursday, each game for the rest of the way will be a rematch for the Huskies. Matchups will be a little more comfortable, and opposing players won't be as big of a surprise the second time around. Knowing your opponent better should lead to exciting games, a sentiment that Jackson agrees with. "The second half of Pac-10 is always fun," said Jackson.
To follow the Huskies action in Arizona this weekend, visit GoHuskies.com.