And yet when the short-handed University of Washington women's basketball team inbounded the ball with 26 seconds remaining Friday night, having overcome the worst imaginable start and then given up a double-digit lead down the stretch, Jazmine Davis was out there. With her sprained right ankle throbbing, and her team down to six available scholarship players, she took the ball and didn't give it up until the sophomore point guard floated a 5-foot bank shot over a trio of St. Mary's defenders.
That shot, which fell through with 4.6 seconds remaining, gave UW a 70-68 win over St. Mary's and a rare opening-night victory.
"I was in a lot of pain," Davis admitted after returning from a first-half ankle injury to hit the game-winning shot and give the Huskies their second season-opening win in the past eight seasons. "... It was all mind over matter, being able to push through something like that."
The toughness Davis showed just to return from the injury seemed metaphorical on this night, when a short-handed UW team that gave up the first nine points of the game and eventually fell behind 23-11 battled through it all to shake off St. Mary's in front of 1,567 fans at Hec Edumndson Pavilion.
"It was really gritty of us, to say the least," said senior Kristi Kingma, who scored 15 points in her first official game since suffering a knee injury in Aug. 2011.
Davis returned from the first-half scare to score a team-high 25 points, including the game-winner on a driving bank shot with 4.6 seconds remaining. She scored eight points during UW's 23-4 run to open the second half, giving the Huskies a 54-39 lead that looked safe until St. Mary's rallied down the stretch.
And yet the Huskies' most important run came when Davis was writhing in pain on the UW bench, helpless to her teammates after UW fell into an early hole.
The Huskies missed their first 11 shots and got out-rebounded 12-2 to open the game, eventually trailing 18-6 before senior Kristi Kingma scored UW's first field goal of the night on a 3-pointer with 10:56 remaining before halftime.
The Huskies were behind 23-11 when Davis drove to the basket and turned her right ankle, leaving her crumpled beneath the hoop while trainers attended to her and the Hec Ed crowd looked on in silence. A bad night had just gotten worse, and suddenly UW had just six scholarship players available.
That's when the Huskies came alive, scoring 10 unanswered points before Davis was back on the floor with UW trailing 25-21 with 41/2 to play in the half.
"When Jaz got injured, we rallied together," said Kingma, the former Jackson High School star. "It wasn't anything with her coming out, but we just got into a groove."
UW outscored the Gaels 43-11 over a key 13-minute span to close out the first half and open the second, leading by as many as 15 points before St. Mary's rallied back. The Gaels used a 15-4 run late in the second half to tie the score at 68 on a pair of Danielle Mauldin free throws with 26.2 seconds remaining.
Then Davis came out of a timeout, ran some time off the clock, and drove the ball on a trio of St. Mary's defenders before hitting a short jumper off the glass with 4.6 seconds left on the clock.
"If she was going to get a quality shot, she was going to shoot it," said Kevin McGuff, the Huskies' second-year coach.
The Huskies had to overcome 25 points and 17 rebounds from Gaels star Jackie Nared, whose father Ron, a former UW assistant, was watching the game from a few rows up behind the St. Mary's bench. Nared had a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but her 28-footer from 3-point range bounced harmlessly off the front of the rim.
UW finished the game with just six healthy scholarship players, thanks to a myriad of unforeseen circumstances.
Incoming freshmen Katie Collier (season-ending knee injury) and Heather Corral (broken hand, out six weeks) were out with injuries, while redshirt freshman Deborah Meeks has still yet to return from a knee injury that sidelined her all of last season. Junior Kellie McCann-Smith is away from the team while dealing with a personal issue, so UW went into the game with just eight healthy players -- including sophomore walk-on Kassia Fortier, who was forced into early action in the first half Friday night.
By the end of the game, senior Jeneva Anderson had fouled out, leaving UW with six scholarship players available. Three other Huskies had four fouls, and junior guard Mercedes Wetmore had already logged more than 39 minutes, most of it trying to contain the 6-foot-1 Nared despite a five-inch height disadvantage. Talia Walton, playing only her second game at UW after missing most of last season with a knee injury, played 36 minutes and scored 17 points.
Had Davis missed the shot and the game gone to overtime, the Huskies might have run out of gas -- if not bodies.
"I was really determined to get back out there," Davis said of her first-half injury. "We were short on numbers anyway. Either way, I told the trainer I was going to be back out there."
McGuff, whose wife is expecting their sixth child, is close to having as many healthy bodies in his own house as he does at UW practices.
"I was just proud of the team for the way we battled," he said. "We played really hard; we competed."
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