Huskies Soldier On To Salt Lake City
Nov. 30, 2010
SALT LAKE CITY - Circumstances and injuries may have dealt the Huskies an unsavory hand at times this season. But Huskies' coach Tia Jackson isn't about to waste her time dwelling on misfortune.
The fourth-year Washington coach sees only the task at hand - pulling out a win against Utah at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Wednesday night. It's the type of game that could define the team's young, but so far uneven, season to date. This was one of the reasons Jackson gathered her team at midcourt of the Utes' court during practice and made sure their minds were dialed in.
Washington breezed into the Beehive State Tuesday morning on the wind of two encouraging performances at the Great Alaska Shootout. Although the Huskies had split results in those games, the extended time in Anchorage allowed for a thorough self-audit of strengths and weaknesses. The team returned home for the Thanksgiving break refocused and more comfortable in its skin.
Reinforcements are also on the way.
Sarah Morton traveled with the team to Salt Lake City and will start against the Utes. Her presence gives the Huskies their point guard, their senior leader and a calming influence against the physical, agitating style the Utes like to impose.
Having Morton in the starting lineup allows Kristi Kingma to play the off-guard spot, freeing the junior to focus on the role she feels more comfortable in. Minus Morton, Kingma acknowledged it was difficult to be a scoring threat as well as a traffic cop for younger teammates still learning the team's offense. Installed as the point guard in the Alaska games, Kingma erupted for 44 points.
"She has a different scoring mindset when she's in that off-wing compared to point guard," Jackson said. "You see when we have Mercedes Wetmore out there, she goes for 30."
Kingma didn't feel overly concerned about the Huskies' injury woes, or with the news Regina Rogers (hamstring) would miss her fourth straight game. Whenever she feels as if her team is unlucky, she chats with friends from around the Pac-10 and learns their teams are dealing with similar issues.
Jackson isn't worried either. She noted Utah would be without its star forward in Taryn Wicijowski, who tore her ACL in practice prior to the Utes' trip to Cancun last week.
Injuries are the unfortunate reality of college basketball.
"We're going to play the cards we're dealt," Jackson said.
Although wounded, Utah still presents a tougher challenge than what the Huskies faced in Anchorage. The Utes' frontcourt is long and athletic, and the addition of Stanford transfer Michelle Harrison has given the team another reliable scoring option out of the wing position. Point guard Janita Badon will present matchup problems with her ability to create offense (12.5 ppg) for herself or her teammates (4 assists per game). Altitude also plays a factor at the Huntsman Center, which resides more than 4,000 feet above sea level.
Jackson shrugged off the geographical hazards. Washington had its warm-up test to the altitude two weeks ago in nearby Provo against BYU.
The bad break for the Huskies in this matchup was that it was originally scheduled to be played at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. But the Utes could not find a date to travel, so the Huskies changed course and agreed to fly down to Salt Lake City. What was supposed to be a home-and-home series, though, changed with the news Utah would join the newly formed Pac-12 Conference. So the Huskies are now in need of a non-conference dance partner next season.
"We definitely would have wanted to have them at home," Jackson said. "And now we don't get that return game because they're in the Pac-12. It's just what it is. There are enough schools out there for everybody."