Crunch time for Husky women

  • John Sleeper / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, February 25, 2004 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – At 8-8 in the Pacific-10 Conference and 15-10 overall, the University of Washington women’s basketball team says it still can reach the NCAA Tournament.

But it can’t lose tonight against Arizona State, Saturday against Arizona or any games in the Pac-10 Tournament.

“Right now, our team goal is to get into the NCAA Tournament and in order to do that, we have to win the Pac-10 Tournament,” senior guard Gioconda Mendiola said. “That’s what we’re going out to do.”

For certain, it’s a tall order for a team robbed of much of its talent because of injuries and illness. Six of the Huskies’ nine top players are freshmen who, at times, still make freshmen mistakes.

On the other hand, Washington has won four of its last six, have the returning conference Player of the Year in Giuliana Mendiola and have its remaining two regular-season games at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

And should the Huskies gain some momentum by beating the Sun Devils and Wildcats, who knows what can happen in the Pac-10 Tournament? Even mighty Stanford at 13-3 in the conference, has proven beatable.

“I have a lot of confidence in our team and I believe in our abilities,” Gioconda Mendiola said. “We truly think we can do it.”

Certainly, the two remaining games at home won’t hurt the Huskies in the least. At 9-3 at Hec Ed, Washington has lost two to ranked teams, Texas Tech and Stanford.

Plus, the Huskies have the added motivation of sending their seniors (Andrea Lalum, the Mendiola sisters and the injured Sarah Keeler) off with home-court victories.

“Our fans are so dear to us,” UW coach June Daugherty said. “It gives us one more opportunity to play really well in front of them and for them.”

More motivation comes from one glance at the standings and the Pac-10 Tournament seeding.

Washington and Oregon State are tied for sixth place with two games left. The Beavers play at home against Cal tonight and Stanford Saturday.

Both want to avoid finishing in seventh because of the extra game the seventh, eight, ninth and 10th-place team have to play in the tournament.

For example, the seventh seed plays the 10th seed March 5 at 6 p.m. The winner must recover quickly, because it plays the second seed the next day at 1:15 p.m.

Because the Huskies and Oregon State split their two-game series, the next criteria is the record against each team in the conference, starting with the leader and going down the standings in order.

A Washington victory over either Arizona or ASU forces Oregon State to beat Stanford in order to get the coveted sixth spot.

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