By John Boyle Herald Writer
SEATTLE — If the past two games at Hec Edmundson Pavilion are any indication, Washington women’s basketball home games are going to be anything but boring this season.
Playing their first home game since a thrilling one-point win over Purdue three weeks ago, the Huskies again put on an exciting show in their Pac-10 home opener against UCLA.
On Thursday night, however, the end result was a 59-57 loss to the Bruins despite a valiant comeback effort.
The Huskies trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half, but slowly chipped away at the lead and eventually had a shot at the buzzer to win it.
Trailing by five points with 48 seconds remaining, Sami Whitcomb drained a 3-pointer to pull the Huskies within two, the closest Washington had been since the 3:14 mark of the first half. Lindsey Pluimer, who finished with a team-high 16 points, then made a fade-away, baseline jump shot to put UCLA back up by four.
Whitcomb was fouled driving to the hoop with nine seconds remaining, and made both free throws to again make it a two-point game. Pluimer tehn missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving the Huskies one last shot to tie or win with 7.2 second to go. Emily Florence brought the ball down court, and passed to a trailing Andrea Plouffe, who missed a long 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
“We had seven seconds so Emily just tried to penetrate and everyone tried to spot up around her,” Washington coach Tia Jackson said. “There is really no play to draw up to go the length of the court. We were going to try and do a Cameron Dollar from UCLA back in the day. They are very athletic and they had some people get in front of Emily, so she had her vision blurred. She had Dre trailing and I’ll take that shot any day.”
And despite a close loss that left the Huskies 1-3 in Pac-10 play, Jackson was happy with her team’s effort and second-half comeback.
“They’re fearless,” she said. “These kids are hungry. Anyone that thinks they are going to come in here, or we are going to go to their place and they are going to let us go down 10 and think the game is over; they got another thing coming.”
After staying close for most of the first half, the Huskies stumbled in the second half and watched a five-point halftime deficit quickly grow to 13 points.
Washington stayed in the game thanks to a strong defensive effort, however. The Huskies got back into the game despite their own offensive struggles by shutting the Bruins out for a five and a half-minute stretch that ended with UCLA’s lead cut to four.
It was a freshman from Seattle that eventually ended the drought for UCLA. Christina Nzekwe, a graduate of Chief Sealth High School in West Seattle, ended the scoreless streak with a free throw, and seconds later extended the UCLA lead with a steal and a layup.
Nzekwe ended up scoring six straight points for UCLA as the Bruins maintained their lead over Washington.
“Christina sparked us with her steal and her layup,” said UCLA coach Kathy Olivier. “Christina has done such a great job all year, she’s worked very, very hard. She takes a lot of pride in her preparation, and it was important for her to come back to where she is from and have a good performance.”
Nzekwe finished with eight points, seven rebounds and four steals — one of which came while the 6-foot-4 forward was guarding Florence, Washington’s 5-5 point guard.
Regina Rogers, another freshman from Chief Sealth, had six points and three rebounds for the Bruins.
Washington freshman Katelan Redmon led the Huskies with 19 points — shooting 9-for-13 from the field — and added eight rebounds. Whitcomb added 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Contact Herald Writer John Boyle at email@example.com. For more on University of Washington sports, check out the Huskies blog at heraldnet.com /huskiesblog