California guard Brittany Boyd hung her head as she walked to her team bench for a timeout with 13.4 seconds left at Washington.
The senior missed a pair of free throws that could have secured the win for No. 23 Cal. But Boyd atoned for those misses.
With the Bears leading by three points and UW shooting 55 percent from three-point range, Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb made the call to have her team switch its defensive coverage, putting forward Reshanda Gray on UW guard Jazmine Davis.
“I knew it was going to be hard to get that shot off. Reshanda was ready,” Davis said of being blanketed by the 6-foot-3 Gray, forcing her to pass to Kelsey Plum. That’s when Boyd swiped the ball before Washington could get off a needed three-point shot.
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UW had to foul Boyd with three-tenths of a second remaining. She easily made those shots to seal a 70-65 win at Alaska Airlines Arena on Friday. Boyd had a near triple double with 14 points, nine assists and nine rebounds. She also had three steals.
“It was a good coaching call right there,” said Davis, who led her team with 20 points while Talia Walton added 19 points and nine rebounds.
Washington led by eight early in the second half. But, while Cal has lost three of its past four games, it is a seasoned team that advanced to the NCAA Final Four last season, and it did not panic.
Boyd, a John Wooden award candidate, and Gray helped Cal (15-7, 7-4 Pac-12) whittle UW’s lead to 62-61 with 4:44 remaining. The duo then teamed with reserve forward Gennifer Brandon to grab key rebounds and make critical baskets down the stretch to regain control.
“It wasn’t the last play that caught us, it was the last three minutes,” Washington coach Mike Neighbors said. “I thought we had a little bit of momentum and they came storming right back and tied it. We had a chance and didn’t extend our lead. You have to do that against a great team that’s used to being in that situation.”
Walton has struggled to manage chronic knee pain in her second college season and suffered a tweaked ankle last week in a win against UCLA. Neighbors altered his practice style to accommodate treatment for players like Walton. A redshirt sophomore, she led UW with 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting in the opening half.
UW trailed 35-31 at break.
“Bottom line, I have to score to help my team,” Walton said. “I didn’t want to be that six (points) and four (rebounds) girl tonight.”
The game had a somber undertone. Cal mourned the death of Golden Bears football player Ted Agu, who collapsed during a Friday morning training session. He was 21.
UW held its first ALS night in honor of former standout Melissa Erickson, who died of the disease in June 2013. She was 34.
The Huskies wore red socks in honor of Erickson and raised money for the ALS Evergreen Chapter. On Sunday against No. 4 Stanford, UW will don pink jerseys for an in-game benefit to raise money for women’s cancer research.