Upset-Minded Huskies Have Plenty Of Positives To Take Away From Stanford
Feb. 13, 2011
SEATTLE - The Huskies don't deal in moral victories. Tia Jackson is quite adamant it's not an accepted currency on Montlake.
Yes, the Huskies played No. 3 Stanford tougher at Maples Pavilion than any team this season, including 90-game-win-streak Connecticut. Certainly no other Pac-10 team has been able to take Stanford to the wire. But the Huskies still came away with a heartbreaking 62-52 loss to the Cardinal on Saturday afternoon.
"We went out and competed," said senior captain Sarah Morton. "We played with a lot of heart and fight. It boils down to your drive and your hunger, and that's what we brought (against Stanford)."
Of course, the loss stung. Every Husky who suited up came with the intention to win. Before Jackson even entered the locker room to deliver her pregame talk at Maples, the team had already written one word on the whiteboard: Believe.
Yet there are still positives to take away from the game, which can be applied this weekend when the team hosts the Arizona schools at Alaska Airlines Arena. Let's start with the Huskies' performance in both games over the weekend. The Bay Area is arguably one of the Pac-10's toughest trips, and the Huskies were able to impose their will against a pair of quality teams, including one of the best in the country. When Husky basketball is forcing a team like Stanford to make adjustments late in games, that's evidence the team has made a tremendous step in their development.
"One of the main messages that Coach J has left with us all year is that we want teams to feel us," said junior Kristi Kingma. "We want to make it tough for other teams. We're not going to go in there and just finesse our way around. We want to battle and we're going to be physical."
This was a near facsimile of Jackson's message to her team afterwards in a tear-filled postgame locker room. She moved quickly to lift the funereal pall and praise the team for their extraordinary effort. She championed their intensity and execution on both ends.
In other words: be proud that you played Husky basketball.
Efficient scoring is one trademark. In two Bay Area games, the Huskies shot 42-of-87 from the field, nearly 50 percent. The 4,719 at Maples Pavilion were treated to one of the best Kingma shooting displays this year, including a handful of 3-pointers from well beyond the arc. At one point in the second half, Kingma hit four 3's in a row, silencing the raucous crowd as each shot rattled in.
The Huskies are not just Kingma. Against the Golden Bears, Morton led the charge with 18 points and eight assists. Her ability to penetrate opposing defenses frees up shooters - like Kingma - for open looks. And Morton's defense is on-par with some of the more notable players in the Pac-10. The posts are capable scorers, and the addition of Regina Rogers sucks defenses into the paint and away from the perimeter.
The signature for this year's Huskies team is a commitment to defense. In Berkeley, the Huskies shut down Cal's potent inside attack, limiting the Bears into uncomfortable shots from distance. At Stanford, the Huskies showcased their best defensive effort all season. The Cardinal were a paltry 1-of-21 from 3-point range (4.8 percent). Stingy UW defense forced senior point guard Jeanette Pohlen, who is a candidate for Pac-10 Player of the Year, into one of her worst games in a Cardinal uniform. Almost no shot was uncontested, but the physical defense did not always agree with the officials, who flagged the Huskies for 27 personal fouls.
As uplifting as it appears that the Huskies hung with the Cardinal, the loss still counts the same in the L column. And with only five Pac-10 games remaining, the Huskies need to move fast to put themselves into better position for postseason basketball.
"Because we only lost by 10, it doesn't make us any higher in the standings," Kingma said. "But the confidence we took out of that game and the win over Cal, it helps. People are starting to produce, starting to step up. Role players are starting to shine, hit open shots and rebound. People are really finding their roles at the right time and executing."