SEATTLE – Giuliana Mendiola almost did it.
In her final game in a University of Washington uniform, Mendiola scored 15 of her team’s last 17 points and nearly wiped out an eight-point deficit.
In the last 47 seconds, however, Creighton hit eight of nine free throws to come away with a 74-69 victory in the second round of the Women’s NIT before 1,472 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion Sunday.
Mendiola, widely regarded as the best UW women’s basketball player ever, finished with 28 points, nine rebounds and six assists. She accounted for all of Washington’s final 17 points, getting an assist on Breanne Watson’s layup with 22.3 seconds remaining.
But even Mendiola couldn’t push the Huskies out of a tired performance, and it bothered her. Throughout her four years at Montlake, Mendiola has been infinitely more about winning that her own numbers.
“We definitely got outplayed,” she said. “In the first half, it took us forever to wake up. We played half a game today.”
The Huskies ended their season 18-13. The Blue Jays improved to 21-9 and play the winner of today’s Oregon State-Nebraska game.
Forward Angie Janis did the most damage for Creighton, with 22 points and 11 rebounds. She benefited from deft passes from guards Christy Neneman and Laura Spanheimer, who beat Washington’s guards off the dribble, broke into the lane and either passed or scored easy layups.
“If you can’t stop them from going to the basket, it makes for a tough night,” UW coach June Daugherty said.
Spanheimer nailed a 3-pointer with 16:47 remaining to give the Blue Jays their biggest lead at 46-38, but Mendiola and Lalum (who finished with 23 points) led a Husky charge that evened the score at 54 with 8:48 remaining.
From there, Mendiola went to work, taking over the game as she has done so many times before.
This time, though, Creighton withstood everything Mendiola threw at it. Janis scored six points and Spenheimer five in the last five minutes of the game and the Blue Jays never lost the lead.
Mendiola hit three free throws with 13.7 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 70-69, but Janis and Christy Neneman split four freebies from then on for the final margin.
Lalum scored 18 in the first half, but got little support outside of Mendiola. Until Nicole Castro hit a 3-pointer with 1:41 remaining in the half, just three Huskies scored.
Lalum was 4-for-6 from the three-point line, hitting two during a 9-0 Husky run that gave them a 33-31 lead late in the half.
Finch led the Blue Jays with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor. Just as important, she ran down eight rebounds, which gave the smaller Blue Jays a 20-16 advantage on the boards.
“I’m a little shocked that we’re out of the tournament so early and that we came out with a lack of energy,” Mendiola said. “But these years have been tremendous for me and my family. I’m just so fortunate just having to play as a Husky for four years in front of this amazing crowd.”