By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Tia Jackson isn’t afraid to dream the improbable dream, one that most would deem impossible.
In her private moments, Jackson can see the University of Washington fans storming the court tonight after the Huskies shock the women’s basketball world with a monumental upset of No. 2 Stanford.
“It would be remarkable,” Jackson said when asked what it would mean to beat the mighty Cardinal tonight. “It would be great for the city of Seattle and our fans. It’s something that’s been long-awaited. Our kids could really take that and hang their hats on something. It would be remarkable.
“Man, I could see the floor being rushed right now. I’m getting chills just thinking about it. It would be great for our program in general and for all of our fans.”
These Huskies? Knock off the mighty Cardinal?
As tall tasks go, UW is Jack looking up the beanstalk right about now.
Since losing to top-ranked, unbeaten Connecticut on Dec. 23, Stanford (21-1 overall, 11-0 in the Pac-10) has rattled off 12 consecutive victories by an average of 21.3 points. The Cardinal has beaten each of its past eight opponents by 15 points or more.
But therein lies the Huskies’ source of hope. In those eight most recent blowouts, UW is the only Stanford opponent to be within 19 points of the mighty Cardinal. Just the Huskies and UCLA Bruins — Stanford beat them 65-61 on Jan. 10 — have been able to stay at or below 15 points of the Cardinal since Pac-10 play began.
If ever a 15-point loss gave reason for hope, it was in UW’s 66-51 defeat at the hands of the Cardinal four weeks ago.
“It just shows us how well we can match up with them and what we’re capable of doing when we follow our game plan defensively,” said UW senior Sami Whitcomb, whose Huskies were within eight points of the Cardinal when teammate Sarah Morton hit a 3-pointer with 7:55 remaining. “On offense, we struggled a little. But we were able to hold them, at least, and I think that was big for us.”
The Cardinal used just seven players in that game because of injuries to Jeanette Pohlen and JJ Hones, but it didn’t hurt that three of the participants — Kayla Pedersen, Jayne Appel and Pac-10 player-of-the-year favorite Nnemkadi Ogwumike — are All-America candidates.
Pohlen and Hones are back in the rotation, and the Cardinal have been rolling over opponents for the good part of the last month.
The same can’t be said for the Huskies (9-12, 4-7). They have lost six of their past seven and hit a season lowpoint with a 30-point loss at Arizona over the weekend. Jackson said UW looked lethargic from the start of that game, although she couldn’t pinpoint why.
Asked whether the blowout loss would have any effect on tonight’s game, Jackson said: “I don’t know if it’s ever a great time to face the No. 2 team in the country, but it’s a great challenge for us.”
A few minutes later, after the conclusion of Jackson’s weekly press conference, she stopped abruptly and joked that she had misspoken.
“I said it is always a good time to face the No. 2 team in the country,” Jackson said, smiling.
The third-year coach has tried to keep her players light this week, saying that the Huskies need to focus on their game plan rather than “the Stanford across their chests.”
And if everything falls just right, UW might actually knock off the mighty Cardinal for the first time in nine meetings.
If it happens, Jackson would lead the post-game celebration.
“I know I’m rushing the floor — heels in hand,” she said. “I’m throwing those puppies off.”
UW got a big boost from the return of wing Sara Mosiman last weekend. The senior was supposed to be out until at least March after undergoing surgery to ease the effects of shin splints. Mosiman played 11 minutes off the bench in last Saturday’s loss to Arizona, marking her first action since Dec. 4. … Starting center Regina Rogers practiced this week after sitting out the Arizona game with a bruised knee, and she is expected to be available for tonight’s game.