Buzz On The Street, In The Dorms For UW's WNIT Run
March 23, 2012
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - When Jazmine Davis walks out of her campus dormitory room these days, she looks up and smiles.
There, posted in the dorm's hallways, are homemade signs trumpeting a Huskies sport.
Not men's basketball, even though those Dawgs are taking their latest March run to New York. And not the ultra-popular UW football team on the eve of spring practice or the third-ranked Huskies softball team.
No, the dorms are sprouting wall messages for Davis' women's basketball team.
That's what Washington's first 20-win season since 2003 plus a run to the quarterfinals of the Women's National Invitation Tournament has created under first-year coach/master rebuilder Kevin McGuff.
"No, that was not happening (in December)," Davis said with a chuckle Thursday, before the Huskies (20-13) learned they were hosting San Diego (25-8) at noon on Sunday at Alaska Airlines Arena in the WNIT's round of eight (1150 AM radio in Seattle and here on GoHuskies.com with another exclusive game chat).
"All of a sudden they see us and it's `Heyyyy!'" the Pac-12 freshman of the year said, imitating with a high-pitched greeting and a giddy wave of her hand. "Yeah, sometimes there are just random people I don't know saying, `Hey, good job on the win,' and they will point to the paper, `Hey, I see you guys had a good game.'"
The Huskies have had three consecutive great ones in this WNIT. The latest was Tuesday night's bruising, steely victory, 55-49 at Oregon State. The Beavers had beaten the Dawgs in the two regular-season meetings but were turned back at the end by the gritty Huskies this time with the season at stake.
These Huskies lost their top scorer and all-conference guard Kristi Kingma during an exhibition tour of Scandinavia in September to a season-ending knee injury. McGuff still does not have his full system installed. His players are running a style that is still somewhat new to them.
Yet they are three wins from a championship that would declare nationally what is already obvious along the West Coast - and in Davis' dorm: Washington women's basketball is zooming back to prominence.
"I'm really happy to continue to have the opportunity to coach this team," said McGuff, who arrived at UW 12 months ago after turning Xavier into a top-10 program, one that in 2010 came within a missed layup of the NCAA Final Four. "And I am really proud of our players for continuing to play hard and prepare for these games. Oregon State was a hard-fought win. I thought our defense was terrific."
So was Regina Rogers - again. The dominant post power had 23 points and 11 rebounds while playing 37 minutes, showing mental toughness that has defined this team while McGuff's hard-nosed system has taken hold in recent months.
"I don't want it to end, my senior year," Rogers said when asked to explain her determination in Corvallis.
Mollie Williams had 12 key points while going 7 for 8 from the foul line at Oregon State. Fellow senior Mackenzie Argens had seven points and four rebounds in limited time because she banged her knee. McGuff said Argens will be OK to face San Diego on Sunday.
The upheaval of a regime change, the new ways to practice and play, the endless running McGuff put them through beginning in August to install his aggressive system, all that is paying off in the final moments of the seniors' college careers.
"I'm really happy for our seniors, first of all, because they have invested so much in this year," McGuff said. "It's really all about them, their leadership and their commitment to making sure this team kept improving throughout the year."
McGuff led Xavier into the postseason in all nine of his years as its coach, and he went to a Musketeers-record five consecutive NCAA tournaments. He was also an assistant on Notre Dame's 2001 NCAA championship-winning team. So he knows more than any other Husky there is a big, fringe benefit to these extra weeks of practices and win-or-else competition.
"For our younger players, our returning players, it's great for them to get experience in March," he said. "Just the idea of you win or go home is something that until you've done it, tried it, is kind of hard to describe.
"As we move forward, they will be able to carry over this experience and will realize you have to have that tremendous sense of urgency this time of year if you want to have success. That is something I hope will really bode well for you in the future."
As the play of Davis shows, it's boding pretty well right now, too.
Washington has grinded out its last two wins, at Oregon State and 52-39 over Utah last weekend at Alaska Airlines Arena, where UW is 13-5 this season. But those were conference rivals that not only knew but had previously defended the Huskies' inside-out game. They knew first-hand how the often-immovable Rogers establishes prime inside position early in possessions, and how energetic Davis either feeds Rogers the ball, darts to the rim herself or pulls up for jumpers.
Sunday will be the first time San Diego has faced the Rogers-Davis duo. The last time UW played a first-time foe was in the opening round of the WNIT on March 14 against Cal Poly.
That went pretty well.
Davis scored 20 of her 25 points in a break-neck first half. Rogers tied her career highs with 27 points and 14 rebounds. And the rampaging Huskies took that 23-point halftime lead before cruising to a 90-71 victory. It was a wildly fun track meet compared to the last two slogs to victory.
"That's why I like playing new teams, because you do get to sneak up on people," Davis said. "You do have to make adjustments, and sometimes adjustments."
Rogers says first-time foes eventually adjust - by halftime.
"First halves are really good for me (in cases like that)," Rogers said. "Second halves are really tough because they start to throw double and triple teams at me."
San Diego of the West Coast Conference advanced to Seattle by beating Texas Tech 60-51 Thursday night in Lubbock, Texas, improving its road record to 10-4. The Toreros held Tech to 27-percent shooting on its home floor while getting 17 points and nine rebounds from senior forward Morgan Woodrow.
Woodrow, averaging 13.1 points per game, is USD's lone, consistent 3-point shooting threat. She's attempted 115 more than any teammate. The Toreros leading scorer is 5-foot-8 senior guard Dominique Connors at 16.8 points per game.
San Diego and Washington have two common opponents. USD beat Cal Poly 69-52 in mid-December. UW beat Seattle University in November 72-53, three days before San Diego won at Seattle U., 82-65.
The winner of Sunday's game will advance to the WNIT semifinals on March 28 or 29 at a site to be determined, against the winner of Sunday's Colorado-at-Oklahoma State game.
At this time last year, Davis was through basketball season and onto spring life at Valley Christian High School in San Jose, Calif. Like most Huskies after 33 games plus that Scandinavia trip she is battered and bruised, feeling a sore hip.
"Yeah," she said, exhaling. "This is a long time. The season is longer than I expected, longer than I thought.
"But I love basketball, so I like it. I like to win. And we keep doing that."