This time last year, the University of Washington women’s basketball team got to spend time under sunny skies in Cancun, Mexico.
This holiday season? Possible snow flurries and near-freezing temperatures in Michigan.
Let’s just hope the Huskies were dreaming of a white Christmas.
“Personally, I’d rather be in Cancun,” sophomore guard Kristi Kingma said before shrugging and adding: “We’ll be indoors; we’re not playing outside.”
What awaits the Huskies tonight, in the first of two games played in Michigan over the next four days, could be more challenging than the icy sidewalks.
The Michigan State Spartans (7-4) are ranked 16th in the country, have won six of their past seven games, and are coming off a 23-point win over Florida-Gulf Coast that saw MSU hit a school-record 13 shots from 3-point range.
If that’s not a tall enough obstacle for the Huskies (4-4), then Allyssa DeHaan is. The 6-foot-9 senior is one of the tallest players in the entire country, and she’s got game to match. She is averaging 12.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.8 blocked shots per game and was recently named the Big Ten player of the week after posting a double-double in last week’s upset of No. 8 Xavier.
“I know she’s a great player,” 6-foot-3 sophomore Regina Rogers, the Huskies’ tallest starter, said when asked what she knows about DeHaan. “I know she’s tall, one of the tallest players I’ve ever faced.”
Rogers has gone up against Stanford 6-foot-4 center Jayne Appel and used to practice against 6-6 Moniquee Alexander before transferring from UCLA, but the only time she ever played against someone as tall as DeHaan was when she traveled to the East Coast with her twin brother’s AAU team to play against teams made up entirely of male basketball players. One of the opposing teams was a squad sponsored by Carmelo Anthony.
“They dunked on me,” Rogers said this week. “But it got me better prepared.”
Rogers is one of the few Huskies who look forward to the four-day trip to face the Spartans and Western Michigan. She was born in Detroit when her father, Reggie, played with the Lions of the NFL, but she’s never been back. Her godfather, former NFL player Lomas Brown, is there along with several relatives.
But more than anything, tonight’s game will be an opportunity to see how the Huskies stack up with a ranked team.
“They’re a good team,” Rogers said. “For us to go back and play them means a lot. We’ll see where our team is and what we need to work on.”
The Huskies will be playing without senior starter Sara Mosiman, who was scheduled to undergo a surgical procedure earlier this week that involved putting a steel rod in her right shin. Mosiman is one of four Huskies who could miss the rest of the season, leaving UW with just 10 scholarship players.
One of the injured players, sophomore Liz Lay, was scheduled to accompany the team on this trip because she is a Michigan native. But Lay is also scheduled to have surgery and will not be available to play.
Kingma, who is nursing a sprained ankle, is slated to make her first start of the season in Mosiman’s place. The injuries have also forced freshman Jeneva Anderson and sophomore Charmaine Barlow to play extended minutes in recent games.
“It’s been a bugaboo,” head coach Tia Jackson said of the injuries that have knocked out Lay, senior Lydia Young, freshman Amanda Johnson and now Mosiman.
“… We kind of got out of rhythm a bit. But if kids can come in and do what’s expected of them, then we can fit them into the rotation and make it fluid.”
UW women (4-4) vs. No. 16 Michigan State (7-4)
Where: East Lansing, Mich.
When: 4 p.m.