By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — The University of Washington women’s basketball team spent most of Wednesday night trying to figure out how to score points in a rare game when go-to players Kristi Kingma and Jazmine Davis were both struggling at the same time.
Talia Walton provided the answer, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The freshman post player nailed a 3-pointer with 7.8 seconds left, giving UW its first lead of the night while knocking down the game-winning points in a shocking 59-58 win over San Diego State.
Walton scored nine of her team-high 17 points in the final 31/2 minutes, leading an incredible comeback after the Huskies (6-1) trailed by 19 points with 121/2 minutes remaining. From that point on, UW outscored San Diego State 30-10.
“It feels awesome. It feels like Christmas came early,” junior guard Mercedes Wetmore said after scoring 13 points to help engineer the largest comeback in school history and what the UW sports information department was calling the eighth-largest in the history of NCAA Division I women’s basketball.
The Huskies won their fourth game in a row while extending their best start since the 2002-03 season. No victory this season, or in recent memory, was as unlikely as this one.
Davis, the team’s leading scorer at 19.8 points per game entering Wednesday night, needed 19 minutes before she made her first basket, and she finished with just 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Kingma had an even more frustrating night on the offensive end, missing her first six shots before a baseline 3-pointer with 5:15 remaining pulled the Huskies within single digits for the first time since the opening 90 seconds of the second half. That marked her only bucket of the night, as Kingma finished with three points on 1-for-7 shooting.
Kingma and Davis contributed at the right time, finding their stroke during a 21-4 run over a span of less than eight minutes in the second half. Davis’s baseline 3 with 2:52 on the clock pulled UW within two points, at 52-50, before Walton closed strong with nine points down the stretch.
After Wetmore’s 15-foot jumper with 17.3 seconds left got UW back within two points, at 58-56, and San Diego State’s Erimma Amarikwa missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Davis led a transition break toward the left corner and kicked the ball back to an open Walton at the top of the key.
The 6-foot-2 center rose up and hit an open 3-pointer to give UW its first lead of the night with 7.8 seconds left.
“I wanted to faint,” Walton said of the game-winner. “Then I realized there were seven seconds left, and I still had to play defense.”
Walton, Wetmore and Aminah Williams carried the load offensively while UW’s main stars struggled. Davis and Kingma combined for 14 points on 4-of-17 shooting, but the Huskies were able to overcome it because of some unexpected scoring bursts.
“It goes to show how deep we are offensively,” said Walton, who played less than a minute during the 2011-12 season and was later granted a medical redshirt for the year. “Last year, we only had one, two, maybe three players who could score. Now we can all score.”
Wetmore, who was inspired by the presence of her high school coach on the San Diego State bench, kept UW within striking distance during a horrific first half that saw the Huskies shoot 34.6 percent from the field while falling behind 31-23. She finished with 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting in what coach Kevin McGuff called “the best game she’s played.”
Williams had one of her most effective offensive performances while collecting her third double-double in a span of four games. She had 15 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with 1:36 remaining and the Huskies trailing by six.
Walton scored on a traditional three-point play 25 seconds later, then added the game winner in the closing seconds.
“That’s kind of her thing,” McGuff said. “She’s not afraid to take the big shot.”
After an incredible comeback against a bigger, deeper San Diego State team (4-3) that might rank as UW’s most formidable non-conference foe, the Huskies are feeling pretty good about themselves right now.
“We’re feeling really confident about the chemistry of this team,” Wetmore said. “We’re just feeling really good about this year.”