By JOHN SLEEPER
Simply by beating Stanford in its first game, the St. Mary’s women’s basketball team gained instant credibility.
The Gaels (6-1) will be anything but a pushover for Washington (4-2) in a non-conference game at 1 p.m. today at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Led by sisters Jerkisha Dosty (17 points a game, 8.6 rebounds a game) and Jermisha Dosty (13.6, 12.4), St. Mary’s brings in a rugged squad that outscores its opposition by an average of 11.4 points a game and outrebounds its foes by 9.4 a contest.
So this is what the Huskies are up against. Should they play defense like they did in their three straight wins against Boise State, Oklahoma State and Nebraska, the UW women can cover for some of the shortcomings they have displayed in the early part of the schedule.
Those shortcomings include the absence of sophomore guard Loree Payne, the Huskies’ leading scorer last year, who figures to be out until January with a stress fracture.
Sturdy defense also has done much to cover up the UW’s woeful team shooting from the field (39.1 percent) in the first six games. Although guard Megan Franza leads the Huskies at 15.2 points a game, she has done so despite shooting 30 percent from the floor overall and 21 percent from 3-point range.
Sure, UW coach June Daugherty says she isn’t concerned with the team’s offense yet if it continues to play defense as it has, but Washington cannot be expected to be competitive in the Pacific-10 Conference by tossing up those numbers.
Daugherty has to be especially pleased, however, with sophomore forward Kellie O’Neill, who is coming off an injury-plagued season. By averaging 13 points and 5.8 rebounds a game, O’Neill is holding together a UW front line tagged with injuries. Her 29-point night against top-ranked UConn remains the single most impressive individual performance by a Husky this season.
Freshman guard Giuliana Mendiola also has been a pleasant surprise. Mendiola has flourished to the point that Daugherty has inserted her into the starting lineup in the past four games. Mendiola’s 11.5 points and a team-leading 7.3 rebounds a game creates an interesting problem for Daugherty when Payne returns to the lineup.
Washington next plays host to the Husky Classic Thursday and Friday. The Huskies face Loyola Marymount following the Western Michigan-James Madison game on Thursday.