Senior Day Another Test For Hardened Huskies
March 2, 2012
By Gregg Bell
Saturday's 2 p.m. regular-season home finale against UCLA (UWTV, 1150 AM radio in Seattle and here on GoHuskies.com with the live game chat) is also another test of resolve for these hardened Huskies.
Washington (15-12, 7-10 Pac-12) is trying to secure more games beyond the Pac-12 tournament that begins Wednesday in Los Angeles, after losing 62-55 at home to USC on Thursday. The Huskies are currently in eighth place in the league and would face Oregon (15-14, 7-10) in the conference tournament next week if the standings remain the same through the weekend.
Whatever shakes out for L.A. next week, the Huskies already have their first winning season since 2006-07. It's been a successful debut for first-year coach Kevin McGuff since his arrival from building a top-10 program at Xavier - led by the seniors.
The winning record has Washington eligible to appear in the postseason Women's National Invitation Tournament for the second time, and first time since the Huskies won two games in that event in 2002 under June Daugherty.
"We have a chance. We still have the Pac-12 tournament, and we have this game against UCLA," Rogers said immediately after Thursday night's 62-55 loss at home to USC.
"So we are keeping hope alive ... We still have time."
His tough seniors deserve that time.
They have endured a jarring coaching change - or two, as Argens was recruited by Daugherty before Tia Jackson replaced her as UW's coach in 2007.
They have sustained major injuries. Rogers missed much of last season with a bad hamstring that only recently got healthy, before she hurt her other one. Argens shredded her knee in practice in November 2007, during a debut season she ultimately redshirted. Williams has missed games with a concussion. Barlow, UW's best perimeter defender, has missed time with a recently sprained ankle.
The Huskies will also honor Lay with this senior class. The forward from Oklahoma City was medically disqualified last season because of multiple knee injuries, after playing in 23 career games over two seasons.
Plus, Rogers endured a transfer from UCLA and sitting out a full season in 2008-09. She said last month she was so lonely as an outsider on her first Huskies team, she had to go home across town in her native Seattle to find friends for offseason workouts at the gym.
Yet these seniors have trudged on. They have successfully implemented McGuff's new program, one that now has the Huskies primed for a revival in future seasons.
"We wouldn't have had any success at all had they not bought into what we were doing in terms of trying to change some things in the program," McGuff said. "They've been eager to learn, and really a fun group to work with.
"I've enjoyed getting to know them as people, as basketball players. Hopefully we can continue to be in position to win some games here down the stretch."
A win Saturday over talented but injury-wracked UCLA would likely mean bonus ball in the WNIT this month.
The Bruins (14-14, 9-8) are trying to secure the fourth seed in the Pac-12 tournament.
UW's Jazmine Davis, a candidate to win the conference's freshman of the year award, scored 23 points and Rogers had 21 points and 12 rebounds in 31 minutes the last time the Huskies met the Bruins, in a 79-73 loss in Los Angeles Feb. 2.
"We played really well against them until probably the last two or three minutes," McGuff said.
It was one of 18 times either Rogers or Davis has had a 20-point game this season. More than 50 percent of UW's scoring this season has come from the inside-outside duo. Davis entered the week as the fourth-highest scoring freshman in Division I at 16.1 points per game.
What had been the Washington's strengths for most of this season - rebounding and taking care of the ball - became liabilities against USC (17-11, 11-6). That doomed the Dawgs' rally from a slow start Thursday.
"We played really good defensively ... but they really beat us on the boards and we had too many turnovers (19)," McGuff said of the Trojans.
But, as the coach said earlier this week, "One thing I like about them is when we have a tough loss, they bounce back."
These resilient seniors have had plenty of practice doing that.