Jan. 9, 2010
SEATTLE - No matter the scenario, the Huskies are finding a way to win.
Their star player was not finding her shot. The defense gave up some easy baskets in transition to Arizona. And the Huskies were having difficulty finding openings in the athletic Wildcat frontline.
Yet the Washington women's basketball team responded with a monster second-half rally to down Arizona, 69-59, at Bank of America Arena on Saturday, earning themselves a sweep of the Arizona schools. Playing in front of a crowd of 3,957, the Huskies fed off that energy to propel themselves on a crucial 16-2 run late.
The win moved Washington to 8-6, 3-1 in the Pac-10 Conference. Both totals mirror the overall and conference win totals from all of last season. Arizona fell to 7-7, 1-3 in the league.
Kristi Kingma tied her career-high with 25 points, but it was the overall body of work that was most impressive for Washington. The sophomore set a personal best with five steals, and equaled a career-high with seven rebounds. Despite not shooting well (6-of-17), Kingma worked her way to the line, where she hit 12-of-16 free throws.
Laura McLellan came off the bench to add 15 points, doing so in impressive fashion against Arizona's Ify Ibekwe, one of the best forwards in the Pac-10. Slowly but surely, the Huskies are scrubbing away memories from last season.
"It's completely different," Kingma said. "It was not fun to be on the end of those games going into the locker room. We're just competing really hard (now), and I don't know if the fans feel it, but as a team we feel like we go out there and compete so much harder (this year)."
Such is life now with the streaking Huskies. Even when Sami Whitcomb struggles, other players are there to step up and pick up the scoring slack. Whitcomb finished with just nine, but smartly demurred to her teammates when it was clear her shot was not on.
The Huskies were boosted with the energy off the bench from McLellan, who hit her first shot and seemed to roll from there. With inspired play, McLellan also made some noise on the defensive end, where she swatted an Arizona player's shot into the third row of seats. She also picked up a brace of fouls on Ibekwe, including her fourth, which limited the Wildcat star for the rest of the game.
Afterwards, McLellan thought it was just her day to make an impact.
"I feel like we had people step up (all year)," McLellan said. "We've had Mackenzie (Argens) scoring 21 points, we've had Mollie (Williams) step up. We're really becoming a balanced team."
Trailing 48-40, the Huskies turned the game around when Jackson switched into a full-court zone press. The Wildcats struggled to bring the ball up the floor, and the Huskies took advantage of their opponent's suddenly sloppy play. Kingma, in particular, put Arizona off the ropes with a steal and a layup that had Wildcats coach Niya Butts calling timeout.
Part of the Huskies defensive shift in the second half also included a pack-it-in style of defense, which clogged the passing entry lanes into the posts.
"They were a team that was relentless in driving to the basket," Jackson said. "So we were really creating that cushion so that they couldn't get there. These young ladies really went out there and executed."
For the Huskies, this was their first home sweep of the Arizona schools since the 2002-03 season. But now the team's momentum will carry them down south to the Bay Area, where Cal and No. 2 Stanford await in Palo Alto and Berkeley.