"If only they could shoot." Wise words uttered by a fan sitting in Edmundson Pavilion last night, watching Arizona do just enough for a 67-63 victory over the Washington women's team.
If only they could shoot.
Then maybe “close” and “almost” wouldn’t be serving as the themes of this perplexing Washington’s women’s basketball season. Maybe the record wouldn’t rest at the bottom of the standings. Maybe the victories would be real instead of moral.
Instead, this is what the Huskies are left with — a four-game losing streak and five losses in their last six contests, the latest a close-and-almost 67-63 defeat last night to Arizona, in front of 3,387 in the Pac-10 opener at Edmundson Pavilion.
This is what they’re left with following another loss, following another night when the shots clanked every which way but in and another team celebrated in their building.
“Big step,” Washington coach June Daugherty said. “Huge step.”
That’s how this season will be measured — by steps of any kind, big, huge or baby depending on the viewpoint. And last night, after the Huskies (4-7 overall, 0-1 Pac-10) put two complete halves together for the first time in a month, there were moral victories to consider, as long as that’s what you’re considering.
This was Arizona, after all, picked by the media to share the Pac-10 title with Stanford before the season started, picked by conference coaches to finish second. This was mighty Arizona (9-2, 1-0), riding the broad shoulders of center Shawntinice Polk, cruising as fast as guard Dee-Dee Wheeler’s legs would take it.
Only Polk and Wheeler contracted some kind of cold, one that left Wheeler barely able to speak above a whisper after the game. She ended up scoring 18 points, all in the second half, while Polk scored 15 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished six assists.
Polk limped off the court late in the game with an undetermined leg injury. But these were still the Huskies, still so close and so far and so prone to shooting bricks.
“We understand our shots are going to fall,” Daugherty said afterward.
Washington missed 14 of its first 15 shots, attempting to shoot itself in the foot, only to miss that attempt as well. Yet there it was, closing to 27-23 at halftime.
“I was surprised,” Wheeler said, “that it was so close.”
Arizona opened up a 40-30 lead, but to the Huskies’ credit, they didn’t quit. Instead, they stormed back behind a barrage of three-pointers from Cheri “Machine Gun” Craddock. At one point, she hit three straight to cut the lead to 45-44.
Craddock finished with 14 points, one of three Huskies in double figures. Dominique Banks chipped in 11, including a basket that tied the score at 51, the closest the Huskies would get to leading in the second half.
Kristen O’Neill scored 12 points — the same O’Neill fans remember for the buzzer-beater that upended Arizona on the same court in January 2003.
Back then, Kayla Burt had just been released from the hospital after a cardiac arrest. She’s back playing now, leading the Huskies with 10.8 points per game but struggling to find her confidence. That was evident last night, when Burt played only 11 minutes and didn’t score.
“We put a lot on her, with the captaincy and coming back,” Daugherty said. “There’s no doubt about it, Kayla’s pressing.”
So are the Huskies, who haven’t made shots for an entire game, haven’t won since Dec. 6 and haven’t stopped an inside post player for most the season. More proof of that came from Arizona freshman forward Che Oh, a graduate of Seattle Prep, who had 12 points.
They hope that the brutal nonconference schedule pays off, that the shots fall, that victories turn from moral into real.
“This was a huge step for us,” Banks said. “We’re making progress.”
Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or email@example.com
|ARIZONA (9-2, 1-0)|
|WASHINGTON (4-7, 0-1)|
Attendance: 3,387. Officials: S. Hermann, E. Larson, R. Campbell. Technical fouls: Arizona-None. Washington-None.
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