Once the Washington women’s basketball team found the right defensive scheme, the Huskies made enough stops in overtime to defeat Utah 53-52 at home Friday night.
Washington junior forward Aminah Williams made the biggest play. She harassed Utah senior Michelle Plouffe’s dribble multiple times in the final eight seconds to prevent the visitors from making a possible winning shot.
Washington freshman Kelsey Plum then collected the final loose ball as the horn sounded.
“My heart was beating so fast because I didn’t want to foul her,” Williams said. “(Plouffe’s) a great player and makes a lot of tough shots, so my feet were moving and my hands were working.”
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The victory snapped a three-game losing skid for Washington (9-7, 2-3 Pac-12). Williams finished with a game-high 15 rebounds while guards Jazmine Davis and Plum had 14 points apiece.
Before the Williams play, Washington coach Mike Neighbors talked to the forward about the defensive plan.
“We were really debating what to do defensively,” Neighbors said of the timeout huddle with eight seconds left. “Aminah had been locking Plouffe down so much, I really went with my gut and hoped that she would try to at least force (Plouffe) into a tough shot. I’ll be dang if Aminah didn’t go out there and tip it twice and just completely blow the whole play up.”
Washington led 46-43 with 1:40 left in regulation after a three-pointer by sophomore Talia Walton. But a Williams foul with 38.6 seconds left sent Plouffe to the line. She made two free throws and Utah was only a point behind.
Walton then made one of two free throws. Utah freshman Emily Potter, a 6-foot-5 center, then snagged a key offensive rebound and convert the putback to tie the game again at 47.
Davis missed a layin at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime. There, Williams’ defense saved the victory.
“Aminah is a lockdown defender when she wants to be and she can do that every single time,” Davis said. “That last play of the game, I wasn’t really worried because people underestimate her Mr. Fantastic arms, that reach, that extra inch that comes. She just made a good play. That’s what she does.”
Utah (7-9, 0-5) started the game using a pick-and-pop offense to make 5 of 9 three-pointers and led 21-8 with 10:49 remaining in the opening half. But Plouffe’s spinning layin was the Utes’ last bucket in the first half as Washington’s defense held Utah to one field goal the final 8:13 of the opening half to claw its way back into the game.
Washington went on a 9-2 run to close to 25-23 at the end of the first half. During the run, the Huskies had four consecutive defensive stops, including a forced shot-clock violation.
Plum tied the score to open the second half and her ensuing two shots from the foul line gave UW its first lead of the game (27-25) with 18:59 left. Washington’s largest lead was 41-34 following a jumper by Plum with 8:15 left.
Washington plays host to No. 21 Colorado on Sunday at 4 p.m. Colorado lost 70-60 at Washington State on Friday.
“I’m so happy that we won, I was fired up,” Williams said.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.