SEATTLE – If the University of Washington women’s basketball team wanted a blueprint for winning games this season, Wednesday night’s victory against No. 21 Arizona State should do it.
In their 63-55 upset of the Sun Devils, the Huskies forced 27 turnovers, vexed them into 37-percent shooting from the floor and held them to 2-for-11 from beyond the 3-point line.
In other words, it was Washington’s defense that helped snap a four-game losing streak and gave the improving Huskies their second victory in their last eight games.
Washington knocked on the door against Arizona Monday night in a 67-63 loss. The Huskies tore it down Wednesday.
“I told you here two nights ago that we were dangerously close,” UW coach June Daugherty said. “These kids are really playing hard, playing with great intensity, defensively.”
Defense covered up a myriad of sins for Washington (5-7, 1-1 Pacific-10 Conference). It’s a young team, one without a senior. It also doesn’t shoot very well – the Huskies shot just 37 percent from the floor Wednesday night, 35.5 percent going into the contest.
It was the first time in Daugherty’s nine-year reign as Washington’s head coach that the Huskies won while not connecting on a single 3-pointer. Washington was 0-for-7 from the 3-point arc.
But the turnover issue, along with the fact that Washington didn’t get killed on the boards by the bigger, stronger Sun Devils (1-1, 9-3), kept the game close. Guard Emily Florence raised havoc on the perimeter, while Breanne Watson, Maggie O’Hara and Jill Bell took care of business inside.
In the end, the intense Huskies refused to back down, which happened on more than one occasion in preseason.
“We’re not dwelling on our mistakes as much as we had,” said UW Kristen O’Neill, who finished with 11 points, four steals and had an excellent floor game. “We are young and we make mistakes, just like any other team. We’re getting experience. We just want to continue building. More than anything, we’re getting that confidence in ourselves and in each other.”
Washington withstood ASU’s defensive pressure in the closing moments and closed the show by hitting eight of 10 free throws.
Arizona State, which had won eight of its last nine coming in, went on a 9-2 run to open the second half to take a 31-27 advantage. But Washington fought back. A 14-3 streak midway through the second half gave the Huskies a 45-37 lead, one they would never give up.
Spearheading the decisive run was guard Kayla Burt, the same Burt who went scoreless against Arizona. Burt scored five in the run, including a steal and layup. She also fed Bell with a gorgeous pass for a fastbreak layup.
“Coming off the Arizona game, she was disappointed,” Daugherty said of the Huskies’ former Arlington High School star. “She felt like she might have let the team down, which was not the case. But one of the things that was mentioned to her was to just relax and go in there and get what you can get.”
Which Burt did. Of Burt’s team-high 12 points, 10 came at the foul line.
The Huskies took a 25-22 lead at the half, despite shooting 8-for-22 from the floor. That’s because ASU didn’t convert a field goal in the last seven minutes (during which it missed its last nine attempts) and committed 17 turnovers.
Much of the credit goes to Washington’s harassing, pressure defense, but the biggest reason was that ASU simply wasn’t very good with the ball. The Sun Devils looked anything but the team that defeated defending national champion and eighth-ranked UConn 61-50 Dec. 21.
ASU was just 9-for-26 shooting at the half.
” (Turnovers) were a huge part of it,” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “When you just throw the ball away for no apparent reason and you continue to do it throughout the game, it’s hard to not get frustrated with yourself.”
Bell added 10 points and six rebounds for Washington. Watson had a season-high eight rebounds to go with eight points.