Dec. 4, 2009
TAMPA, Fla. - An 11-0 run by South Florida in the final 3:35 snapped a tie and catapulted the Bulls to a 61-50 win over the Washington women's basketball team at the Sun Dome on Friday night.
On a night when the defending WNIT Champions raised their banner, KaNeisha Saunders led the way with 16 points, while Melissa Dalembert nearly added a double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds. Both players were instrumental for the Bulls in a taut game that featured nine lead changes.
Washington forward Mollie Williams came off the bench and tied a career-high with 12 points. But South Florida's defense used a modified box-and-one to deny leading scorer Sami Whitcomb, who finished with just two points on the evening, a season-low. The loss was the second consecutive for the Huskies (2-4), who also dropped a tight game with Sacramento State in the finale of the Husky Classic on Nov. 29.
This was also the first of seven straight road games for Washington, who won't return home to Bank of America Arena until Jan. 7. The road trip began with a 2,500-mile flight to Orlando, a two-hour bus ride to Tampa and then a day off before the team faced USF (6-2). Despite the jet lag and travel distance, Washington controlled the play for several long stretches in the game.
Afterwards, coach Tia Jackson emphasized the defense and rebounding as two components that pleased her. Coming into the game, the Huskies were a minus-5 in the rebounding category. Against a tall team in South Florida, Washington held the advantage on the glass at 34-31. Defensively, the Dawgs mixed up some zone schemes with some three-quarter court and full-court pressures.
"I think for the most part, that part of our defense was great," Jackson said. "They're a team that presses but doesn't like to be pressed, and we ended up giving them a little taste of their own medicine."
The issue for the Huskies was turnovers, including five in the final three-minute stretch of the game. Overall, UW finished with 27 turnovers, which was a season-high. Tied at 50 late in the game, Saunders put the Bulls ahead with a free throw. A steal from Dalembert - whose brother Samuel plays in the NBA for the Philadelphia 76ers- led to a layup by Jessica Lawson. Dalembert then stretched the advantage to five with a jumper from the free-throw line. With time running out, the Huskies were forced to repeatedly foul the Bulls, who iced the game at the line.
Some other positives for the Huskies included their bench play, which outscored the Bulls 25-6. Nearly half of that came from Williams, who was a terror in the low blocks teaming up with Regina Rogers (11 points).
"Molly was exceptional. I gave her credit in the locker room," Jackson said. "She came out with her `A' game and contributed very, very well. That's why she stayed in the game. She was making things happen defensively, she was crashing the boards and she was making things happen offensively."
Washington will travel to Orlando tomorrow where they'll practice in preparation for Sunday's game against the University of Central Florida (10 p.m. PST). The trip through the Sunshine State is a return home for senior point guard Christina Rozier, who grew up four hours south in Miami.