By John Sleeper
SEATTLE – It wasn’t a huge run to begin the second half, but when Washington State crept back to within 10 points, Washington coach June Daugherty had seen enough.
Daugherty called a timeout after the Cougars hit their first three shots to open the second half and barked about defensive intensity.
Washington immediately went on a decisive 18-2 run en route to a 98-64 victory over the Cougars in the Pacific-10 Conference women’s basketball opener for both schools Friday night at Hec Edmundson Pavilion before 3,080 fans.
“I felt like we were just a step slow coming out in the second half in our defensive intensity,” Daugherty said. “For 12 days, these guys have been diving on the floor. We’ve been working on playing a lot harder and more physical. It was just a reminder that, ‘You guys kill each other in practice. Let’s do it against somebody else.”
After WSU guard Lindsey Egeland nailed a 3-pointer to pull the Cougs to a 49-39 deficit with 18 minutes left, Daugherty called the timeout. Washington scored 18 of the game’s next 20 points in the next four minutes, forced five WSU turnovers and harassed WSU into missing four straight shots.
While the Huskies were not in any real danger of losing to the Cougars after the first 10 minutes, the issue was respect for the game. And with road games against Oregon and Oregon State coming up, the Huskies don’t need inconsistency on either end of the floor.
“The coaches were upset that we were letting them back into the game,” UW guard Giuliana Mendiola said. “Defensively, we weren’t as intense as we wanted to be.”
It was Washington’s 13th straight victory over Washington State, dating back to 1995. The Huskies are 1-0 in Pac-10 play, 6-4 overall. WSU, which lost its sixth straight, fell to 0-1 and 3-8. The Huskies’ total was the most points scored in the 27-year series.
Washington State suffered from too many turnovers and too few offensive weapons. Besides guard Francine McCurtain (a career-high 20 points) and center Brittney Hawks (18 points, 12 rebounds for her fifth straight double-double) the Cougars had little to offer in the way of consistent scorers.
“It’s been a problem.” WSU coach Jenny Przekwas said. “More kids are capable of scoring.”
That, combined with WSU’s creative ball-handling (the Cougs finished with 27 turnovers), spelled trouble all night.
“They had 18 steals,” Przekwas said. “I would say they scored 18 or 20 off our turnovers. That’s a lot of points to give up.”
On the other hand, Washington’s offense appeared in near-peak form. Five Huskies scored in double figures, led by Lalum’s career-high 22 points. Also, Payne added 17, Emily Autrey 13 and Mendiola and Kellie O’Neill 11 apiece.
Much of the improved offensive thrust came through better ball movement and penetration, whether it was via the dribble or the quick entry pass.
“That’s something we’ve been concentrating on, getting more ball movement,” Payne said. “Good things happen when we get good movement.”
Then, too, was a reversal of the sticky rebounding issue that dogged the Dawgs most of preseason. Washington, behind Lalum’s and Mendiola’s eight rebounds apiece, dominated the boards. Hawks pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds, but she had little help against the swarming Huskies.
“Offensively, we did a much better job of getting second shots,” Daugherty said.
The Huskies held a 45-32 halftime lead, thanks mostly to balanced scoring and 13 WSU turnovers, many unforced.
Five different Washington players contributed to an 11-2 run midway through the half that turned a 24-20 UW advantage to 35-22 with six minutes left. In that 2 1/2-minute stretch, the Cougars turned the ball over four times and were just 1-for-6 from the field.
Payne had 12 first-half points, while Lalum chipped in nine, Autrey seven and Kellie O’Neill six.
Hawks and McCurtin evenly split 24 of WSU’s 32 first-half points. McCurtain, a slick true freshman guard, was 3-for-5 from 3-point range by halftime. Hawks was a force inside and came up with six first-half rebounds.