Dec. 22, 2009
KALAMAZOO, Mich. - In a tale of two halves Tuesday night, the Washington women's basketball team ended the non-conference season with a strong statement.
Leading by just one after a sloppy opening half, the Huskies (5-5) exploded late to thump Western Michigan, 71-63, at University Arena. It was the type of performance the Huskies desperately wanted as the final dress rehearsal before they take on Pacific-10 Conference opponents, beginning with a New Year's Day matchup against Oregon in Eugene. Sami Whitcomb led all scorers with 20 points, 18 of which came in the second half. But Washington was propelled by a career night from Mackenzie Argens, who posted career-highs in points (16) and rebounds (eight).
Their response to a sluggish start prompted praise from one observer.
"Our kids, in a pretty fun environment, persevered," said Huskies coach Tia Jackson.
So puts an end to the Huskies six-day adventure in Michigan, which opened with a tough loss to No. 16 Michigan State in East Lansing. Practices the next two days helped the Huskies develop additional areas of their game, and in the second half against the Broncos (4-6) those lessons began to jell.
Leading 23-22, the Huskies took over when their senior captain, Whitcomb, exploded offensively. The Ventura, Calif., native scored 11 consecutive points for the Huskies in one stretch, including an eight-point burst in a 30-second span. Whitcomb began the series with a layup plus the foul. She then converted a Kristi Kingma steal into another layup. A split-second later, Whitcomb stole the ball, scored and was fouled. The Huskies bench erupted in applause at the sequence.
Part of the reason Whitcomb was able to find space offensively was because of Argens, who was scoring at a similarly blistering pace. The sophomore forward went 8-of-10 from the floor, and began to attract increased attention from the Broncos, who doubled her at every opportunity.
"Mack answered a pretty important call after the last couple of days of practice," Jackson said. "She established some physical play down low...It was pretty fun to watch. Mack just took the bull by the horns and ran with it."
Washington also solved its turnover problems after halftime. The Huskies had 17 in the first 20 minutes and just five the rest of the way, despite facing an intense full-court press from the Broncos, who were desperate to get back in the game. UW's defense also had an impact, holding Western Michigan to just 33 percent from the floor. The Huskies, meanwhile, shot 48 percent - including 60 percent in the second half.
With the holidays upcoming, the team will have the next five days off to spend time with their families. Lydia Young, who is from Michigan, remained in the state. The break gives the Dawgs a chance to rest their legs, considering they will need them for a highly anticipated track meet with Oregon, which is among the NCAA leaders in scoring per game.