By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Revenge isn’t the only thing on the minds of the University of Washington women’s basketball team.
For the Husky women, today’s Women’s National Invitational Tournament game against Utah is more about extending a memorable season — and seeing just how far they’ve come.
“It’s not about revenge,” senior Regina Rogers said Friday. “It’s just about us wanting to win. I really wanted to play them again.”
The Huskies (18-13) got their wish on Friday night when Utah beat Utah State and set up today’s rematch between the Utes and UW. The second-round game of the WNIT tips off at noon at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
It’s a game the UW women wanted, a chance to reverse one of the most memorable finishes — and forgettable performances — of the Huskies’ regular season. Utah came to Seattle on Jan. 7 and came out on top in a defense-heavy, low-scoring and downright ugly game that saw the Utes make just two second-half shots but end up hitting one of them at the end of regulation and then dominate overtime.
That game, a 49-36 Utah win at Hec Ed, stuck with the Huskies for a long time.
“I think our team has progressed in all categories — intensity, offensively, defensively,” UW freshman Jazmine Davis said. “We’re not the same team that we were. The mistakes that we made during that game won’t be made again.”
What is remembered about the overtime loss to Utah is that UW completely shut down the Utes’ offense for 39 minutes and 56 seconds before a 3-pointer by Janita Baden with 3.9 seconds left tied the score and eventually sent the game into overtime. What might be forgotten was that the Huskies had to play the final 12 minutes without Rogers, whose hamstring injury sent the UW offense into hibernation as the Huskies saw an eight-point lead with seven minutes remaining disappear as they scored just one point the rest of the way.
With Rogers back and healthy, the Huskies are knocking on wood and hoping that having the workhorse for a full 40 minutes will kick-start the offense.
“It certainly impacted the (Jan. 7) game,” first-year coach Kevin McGuff said. “Hopefully she can play more minutes in this game and have more of an impact.”
Utah will be without Baden this time, which affects the Utes on both ends of the floor because she helped limit UW’s Davis to one of her worst second halves of the season. The Huskies also feel like they’ve grown so much as a team that they don’t have to rely on Rogers as much anymore.
“It was an adjustment we didn’t make in that game,” Davis said. “We’ve learned to trust in each other. Instead of just putting all the weight on Regina, or any other player, we’ve learned to take that all equally.”
With a 4-2 record over its past six games, the Huskies are finding their stride at the right time and want to keep it going. Today’s rematch will be a good measuring stick, and McGuff expects a different game.
“I hope we’re both better,” McGuff said. “That was not the prettiest game that I’ve ever been a part of. In all seriousness, I think we’re both playing better. I think both Utah and us have both played our best basketball at the end of the year.”
The UW women have certainly been hitting the right notes, and people are starting to take notice. Men’s coach Lorenzo Romar attended the WNIT opener on Thursday night and said the Husky women are “absolutely” headed in the right direction, adding: “They’re doing a great job.”
McGuff said he hopes that whatever momentum the Huskies have will be reason enough for basketball fans to take a couple hours out of their March Madness television schedule to cheer on the UW women today.
“We’re playing our best basketball, our kids are playing really hard, and it’s been fun to see,” he said Friday afternoon. “As we grow as a program, we need the fans to continue to show up and we need to add to those numbers.”