By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Regina Rogers knew the odds would be against the University of Washington women’s basketball team this season. But the Huskies’ senior star was still shooting for the moon.
And now, with three regular-season games remaining and a key home matchup against rival Washington State this afternoon, Rogers and the Huskies are still able to cling to dreams of finally playing in a postseason game.
“It’s great,” Rogers said as the Huskies take aim at their first major postseason national tournament in five years. “We haven’t really been since 2006(-07). Like I’ve said, one of the things that I wanted to do, and one of the things all the seniors wanted to do, was leave a legacy. Even if we don’t reach postseason play, just the record alone is something that shows we’re doing that.”
With an overall record of 14-11, the Huskies are probably one win away from clinching a winning record for the first time since 2006-07, when then-coach June Daugherty — she’ll be on the other bench today coaching WSU — led UW to the NCAA tournament with an overall mark of 18-13. Since then, the Huskies have made one appearance in the now-defunct postseason tournament known as the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) but have yet to get back to the NCAA tournament or even the National Invitational Tournament.
Barring a run through the upcoming Pacific-12 Conference tournament, the UW women aren’t going to the big dance. But they know that the Women’s NIT is still a possibility if the Huskies can pick up a couple more wins.
“One of the main points of emphasis that I wanted to make to this team was that we needed to be a team that continued to improve throughout the season, and I think we’ve done that,” coach Kevin McGuff said last week. “I thought if we did that, we’d have a chance to reach some goals, which would include playing in a national postseason tournament.”
One thing McGuff wasn’t interested in doing was talking too specifically about UW’s postseason chances. His only focus was today’s game against WSU, which he knew the Huskies would probably need to win to harbor any chance of playing in the NIT.
The Huskies already have a win over WSU at Pullman this season, and it’s somewhat remarkable how much the teams’ fortunes have changed since that Jan. 14 meeting. UW went into that game a reeling team that had to play without Rogers, going up against a Cougars team that was off to one of the program’s best starts in recent memory.
Since then, WSU has had its own share of injury problems while dropping nine of 10 games to fall to 10-17 overall and 4-11 in the Pac-12. The Huskies, meanwhile, have rattled off some impressive wins over Oregon, USC and Arizona to get back into the discussion for a possible tournament bid.
“I think we’ve played our best basketball here in the last three or four weeks,” McGuff said. “I guess I’d tell you I wish we could have been more consistent. I think we’ve had our best high notes recently.”
A good starting point would be to win consecutive games, which is something the Huskies have done only once in Pac-12 play. Coming off Sunday’s upset win at Arizona, UW has a chance to string together a pair of wins heading into its final homestand of the regular season.
“Just a little bit more consistent play would give us a chance to maybe put together a couple of wins,” McGuff said. “I think we have a reference point, with how well we’ve played at certain times these last couple of weeks, and that’s what we have to focus on: trying to do that for longer stretches.”
The Huskies have had consistency against WSU, putting together quite a streak against their rivals. After the January win in Pullman, UW has now won 33 in a row over the Cougars.
This year’s Huskies aren’t taking anything for granted, though.
“At times, Washington State’s played really, really well this year,” McGuff said. “I know they’ve struggled as of late, but I also know that they’ll be incredibly excited and energetic about coming over here and trying to get a win.”
Rogers is hoping the Huskies’ home-court advantage includes a rocking atmosphere.
“I really want a lot of fans,” she said last week. “I think it was last year or the year before, we had a lot of people here. And I just want that. I want it to be so loud on Sunday. It’s a big game for us. I hope it’s loud.”