Huskies down Sun Devils

  • By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
  • Thursday, January 7, 2010 11:14pm
  • SportsSports

SEATTLE — Former University of Washington center Heidi McNeill had a front-row seat for Thursday night’s game against Arizona State University, sitting underneath the west basket for most of the first half.

There were moments when UW coach Tia Jackson may have wished McNeill could have been a few feet closer to the action.

The injury-plagued Huskies spent most of Thursday’s first half trying to find big bodies to match up with the Sun Devils. Starter Mackenzie Argens sat almost the entire first half after collecting two fouls in the first three minutes of the game. Regina Rogers continues to play in five-minute spurts while she tries to get into shape. And when emerging sophomore Mollie Williams went down with a knee injury midway through the first half, the Huskies were quickly running out of options.

Fortunately for UW, senior scoring guard Sami Whitcomb played the part of the giant, stepping up and carrying the Huskies to a 62-56 win over ASU.

Whitcomb had her fourth career double-double, scoring a season-high 26 points and adding 11 rebounds, to help UW overcome its size deficiencies in the Huskies’ long-overdue return to Hec Edmondson Pavilion.

In their first home game in more than a month, the Huskies (7-6 overall, 2-1 in the Pac-10) capped off back-to-back wins in regular-season conference play since Feb. 2008. They also have a winning record for the first time in the Tia Jackson era.

“We’ve got a pretty good momentum going right now,” said Jackson, who is in her third season as UW’s head coach. “It feels pretty good.”

Whitcomb carried the Huskies for most of the day. She scored 16 of UW’s 34 points in the first half. Whitcomb closed out the first half by picking up a loose ball and tossing up a buzzer-beating, 25-foot 3-point shot to give UW a 34-30 lead at the break.

ASU did most of its first-half damage on the interior. With the Huskies scrounging to find post players, the Sun Devils’ inside trio of 6-foot-5 Becca Tobin, 6-2 Kayli Murphy and 6-5 former UW player Kali Bennett combined for 23 of ASU’s 30 first-half points.

McNeill, a 6-3 Oak Harbor native who is on break from her professional career in Austria, could only look on as UW played much of the first half with a four-guard offense.

Fortunately for the Huskies, one of those guards was Whitcomb. The 5-foot-10 senior hit 5 of 9 shots, including 3 of 4 from behind the 3-point line, to put UW in front at the half.

The Huskies eventually got some of their size back for the second half. Williams had her knee wrapped and came back into the game, while Argens and Rogers were back on the floor for the start of the second half.

While the Huskies led for the entire second half, they were challenged most of the way. UW really didn’t get any breathing room until Mill Creek native Kristi Kingma hit a 3-pointer from the wing for a 57-52 lead with 1:10 to play.

ASU did its part to contain Whitcomb early in the second half — more than nine minutes elapsed before the UW senior got a shot off — but the Huskies were able to maintain their lead because of poor shooting by the Sun Devils. When Whitcomb finally got loose for a step-back 3-pointer with 5:50 remaining, UW pulled out to a 49-42 lead. She added a layup and another 3-pointer, but ASU (8-6, 0-3) pulled to within two points, at 54-52, with 2:45 to go.

Thirty-five seconds later, Kingma hit the 3 from the wing to finally put ASU away.

Kingma finished with 11 points and played an even more important role in terms of bringing the ball across halfcourt. The wing player was asked to run the point for the final 10 minutes of the game after UW had trouble breaking ASU’s press. She played 39 of the game’s 40 minutes.

Another key to the game was UW’s ability to contain ASU leading scorer Danielle Orsillo, who had just four points on 2-of-8 shooting.

Tobin led the Sun Devils with 19 points. Murphy added 11, while Bennett scored all six of her points before halftime.

Of course, the night belonged to UW’s Whitcomb. After the game, her coaches and teammates surrounded her at center court as she was presented with the game ball to commemorate her going over 1,000 points for her career career.

“It would have been so depressing if we lost,” she said after becoming the 21st player in school history to hit that milestone. “It’s nice to be a part of this win that way.”

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