By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — When the buzzer sounded at halftime Wednesday night, University of Washington freshman women’s basketball player Jazmine Davis dropped her arms onto her hips and practically dragged herself off the floor at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. A few steps behind her, teammate Regina Rogers walked with a limp while taking her time as well.
It figured. The Huskies’ dynamic duo carried almost the entire load for 20 minutes.
And that’s really all UW needed in its return to postseason basketball Wednesday night. Paced by 35 combined points from Davis and Rogers, the Huskies bullied their way to a 51-28 halftime lead and never looked back.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, UW went for a season high in points in a 90-71 laugher in the first round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
“Take away the first 61/2 minutes of the second half, and that was the best offensive game we’ve played all year,” Huskies coach Kevin McGuff said after the program’s first win in one of the two major postseason tournaments since 2005-06.
The Huskies (18-13) could thank their 1-2 punch for delivering this knockout performance on the offensive end.
Not the visiting Mustangs, nor exhaustion, nor even a leg cramp that left Davis rolling around on the court seven minutes into the second half could slow down UW’s two leading scorers. Davis and Rogers combined for 52 points to help overcome a game-high 28 from Cal Poly’s Kristina Santiago.
Rogers, who twisted her ankle just before halftime but still played 33 minutes in the fast-paced game, drew double duty in that she had to defend Santiago.
“For me it was a hard having to guard Santiago and having to score at the same time,” Rogers said after recording her 11th double-double of the season with 27 points and 14 rebounds.
Davis also labored through the game, due in large part to an up-tempo pace and a cramp that attacked her right calf seven minutes into the second half. But she still played 35 minutes, scored 25 points and made five of seven shots from 3-point range.
Afterward, she admitted that the game took its toll.
“We just hadn’t played in awhile,” said Davis, who also broke the school record for 3-pointers by a freshman in a season (65) and joined Rogers in becoming the first two players since 2006-07 to surpass 500 points in a season. “Going in with such short notice, it was definitely exhausting — especially against a team like Cal Poly that’s really good in transition.”
The drama of Wednesday’s game lasted just about 21/2 minutes. Cal Poly jumped out to an 8-2 lead, forcing a quick UW timeout to regroup. The Huskies returned to the floor and promptly scored 12 unanswered points. Rogers and Davis scored all of UW’s first 14 points and took all but one of the Huskies’ shots in that stretch. The lead continued to swell, finally settling in at UW’s highest first-half total of the season.
Along the way to that 51-28 halftime lead, the Huskies made 21 of 32 shots and went 6-for-7 from 3-point range. Davis made four of five shots from 3-point range and eight of 12 overall. UW’s high-scoring duo combined to make 15 of 21 shots — the rest of the Huskies went 6-for-11 from the field.
“When they get playing like that, we want to get the ball in their hands as much as we can,” McGuff said. “And I thought the team overall did a good job recognizing that and really played to our strengths.”
Behind Santiago, the nation’s sixth-leading scorer, the Mustangs (17-15) put up a bit of a fight early in the second half, pulling to within 15 points at 58-43. Santiago scored eight of her 28 points during a 15-7 run to open the second half.
But the score seemed secondary a few minutes later, when UW’s Davis went down in a heap with 13:08 remaining. She writhed around on the floor in pain before being carried off the court by two team trainers.
Fortunately for the Huskies, it was only a cramp in her right calf that sidelined the workhorse guard. Less than 21/2 minutes later, Davis was back on the court.
Cal Poly never got closer than 13 points in the second half, eventually going quietly into the night.
For the game, the Huskies shot 55 percent, making 38 of 69 shots. They went 7-for-13 from 3-point range and out-rebounded Cal Poly 42-25. Freshman Aminah Williams had her first career double-double, with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
That leaves UW with a second-round matchup with either Utah or Utah State, possibly right back at Hec Ed. The Utah schools play tonight in Salt Lake City, and tournament officials will decide after that game where the second-round matchup will take place this weekend.
The Huskies probably wouldn’t mind another shot at Utah, which handed UW one of its most stunning defeats of the season earlier this year. The Utes hit a 3-pointer to tie the score in the final seconds, then dominated overtime to beat UW 49-36 on Jan. 7.
Rogers missed the final 17 minutes of that game with a hamstring injury.
“That was a tough one,” Davis said. “We all took that one personally. We definitely have not forgotten about that one.”