UW women out-quick Panthers

  • By John Sleeper / Herald Writer
  • Friday, November 26, 2004 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – Quickness allowed the University of Washington women’s basketball team to explode to a big first-half lead.

And quickness allowed the Huskies to hold on to an 86-75 victory over Wisconsin-Milwaukee Friday in the first round of the Husky Classic before 2,977 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

The Huskies (3-1) forced the Panthers (0-3) into 15 first-half turnovers and pounded them on the boards to the tune of 43-28. Twenty-three of Washington’s rebounds came on the offensive end, where quickness, rather than size, matters most.

“I’m really excited to see us climbing on the glass like we did,” UW coach June Daugherty said. “Twenty-three offensive boards to eight is a big difference-maker. Obviously, (rebounding) was a big area of concern in the last couple of games and these guys did a great job of boxing out and not allowing second shots.”

The Huskies face Alabama in the championship game today, starting at 3 p.m. Wisconsin-Milwaukee takes on Columbia in the consolation game, set for 12:30 p.m.

Washington’s defensive pressure undid the Panthers early and forced the visitors to stage a furious rally. Led by point guard Emily Florence, Kayla Burt and Kristen O’Neill, the Huskies’ backcourt befuddled the inexperienced Panther guards early.

“I think we played with a little bit of fear in the first half,” Panthers coach Sandy Botham said.

The Huskies also took full advantage of their defensive harassment, converting 15 first-half turnovers into 14 points. For the game, the Huskies scored 24 points off turnovers, the Panthers just 13 points on 13 UW turnovers.

“I think we caught them off-guard, especially by putting a lot of pressure on the ball,” Florence said. “That created a ton of turnovers, which got us a lot of easy shots.”

A beneficiary was reserve guard Cherie Craddock, who led a 22-7 run late in the half with 11 points. Craddock scored 11 of her game-high 14 points during the streak, en route to a 43-26 UW lead at intermission.

Two primary issues made the game closer than it needed to be in the second half: The Panthers cut down on their turnovers (they had just seven in the second half) and they nailed 70.8 percent of their shots.

Forward Molly O’Brien, along with guards Teri Huff and guard Aubrey Hampton, were the primary Wisconsin-Milwaukee players who cut into a Washington lead that reached 48-28 two minutes into the second half.

O’Brien led a 19-6 Panthers scoring binge with nine points. Huff added 15 second-half points to finish with a game-high 21 for UWM. The Panthers cut the UW lead to 73-68 with 4:26 remaining, but couldn’t overcome the Huskies’ big lead.

Washington scored seven points in the next 1:30, including two from Nicole Castro and three from Craddock to put the game out of reach.

“I think we stayed poised and handled it really well,” Florence said. “We tried to get back into our own game and not worry about them coming back.”

The obvious parallel was Washington’s blowing a big lead at Michigan to lose Monday, but Daugherty scoffed at such comparisons. UWM buried 17 of 24 shots from the floor in the second half, and Daugherty said the Huskies could do little to prevent it.

“I saw three times where we were diving onto the floor for the ball and it didn’t bounce our way and they kicked it out for a three,” she said. “Maybe they have good karma, I don’t know. I don’t think it was a lack of hustle. It wasn’t a structural breakdown. Sometimes, the ball bounces in funny ways. I thought we got great things out of a lot of our players and I think they were ready to play.”

O’Neill finished with 14 points for the Huskies, while Jill Bell and Breanne Watson chipped in 10 apiece. Hampton, who was 4-for-5 from the floor, including 4-for-4 from beyond the 3-point line, finished with 16 for the Panthers.

Alabama 81, Columbia 45: In the tourney opener, the Crimson Tide (3-0) got a game-high 16 points from reserve sophomore guard Navonda Moore, 12 in the second half, to polish off the Lions (2-1).

Alabama jumped to a quick 19-6 lead and was never in serious trouble against the slower Lions. The Tide cruised to a 31-16 lead at the half and never led by fewer than 15 points the rest of the night. Reserve center Chanel Johnson added 11 points and nine rebounds.

Guard Megan Griffith led the Lions with 10 points. Reserve center Edyette Key, who prepped at Eastside Catholic High School in Bellevue, added six points and nine rebounds for Columbia.

Husky notes: The Huskies have won all 18 of their first-round games in the Husky Classic and are 11-6 in championship games … Washington’s bench accounted for 39 points. For the season, UW starters have averaged 39.2 points a game to the reserves 33.5 … Meadowdale graduate O’Neill scored nine points in the last 9:23 of the game.

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