The Huskies (11-4, 2-2 Pac-12) were outrebounded by a wide margin (35 to 21) and allowed the Sun Devils (12-3 3-0) to shoot 58 percent in the second half. Washington also missed several quality shots in the final two minutes, but coach Mike Neighbors insisted his team not walk away from this one dejected.
Arizona State was making things difficult, always difficult, for Washington star guard Kelsey Plum. The Sun Devils pushed and scraped and so effectively denied Plum any easy touches that at times it felt like a victory for the Huskies to simply get the ball into the hands of the nation’s top scorer.
The Sun Devils made it clear that they wanted someone else, anyone else, to beat them.
Mathilde Gilling nearly made it happen.
There was something never before seen at Alaska Airlines Arena, any arena, at least when it really counted — a Gilling three-point field goal, swished in from the left corner, and right when the Huskies needed it most.
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It still wasn’t quite enough.
No. 14 Arizona State used an early fourth-quarter burst to take the lead and then held off the Huskies’ late charge en route to a 68-61 victory in UW’s Pac-12 women’s basketball home opener Friday night.
The Huskies (11-4, 2-2 Pac-12) were outrebounded by a wide margin (35 to 21) and allowed the Sun Devils (12-3, 3-0) to shoot 58 percent in the second half. Washington also missed several quality shots in the final two minutes, but coach Mike Neighbors insisted his team not walk away from this one dejected.
That, in part, had to do with Gilling’s shot from the corner with 2:40 left, bringing the Huskies within 62-59 and lifting players on UW’s bench off their feet. A 6-foot-3 reserve post from Denmark, Gilling had attempted just two previous three-pointers in her career — both “woefully” off the mark, Neighbors recalled — and none this season.
“I’ll tell you, ‘Moosie’ makes as many threes in practice as anybody we have,” Neighbors said. “But the two times she’s shot them in games in her career, they’ve been about nine feet short. So we’ve been begging her to shoot another one.”
Gilling finished with five points and five rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench.
“She let that thing go and it looked good from the get-go,” Neighbors said. “I love the celebration on the side. There’s so many people that judge your results by the final score, and this group doesn’t do it. We obviously came out on the losing end of it, and we’re disappointed by that. But I do think that there’s going to be some value in playing a great team to a one- or two-possession game.”
Neighbors also singled out reserve guard Alexus Atchley, whose eight points helped offset a bit of an off night from Plum, the nation’s scoring leader who had 21 points but needed 20 shots to do it.
On Monday, Arizona State held 11th-ranked Stanford to its lowest scoring output ever in a 49-31 victory in Tempe. The Sun Devils employ an aggressive man-to-man defense that ranks as the best in the Pac-12. They press and they impress.
The Huskies were down 61-52 with 4:17 left, but pulled within three and had several chances to nudge even closer.
“I think Arizona State is one of the best teams in the country, so I’m not going to sit up here and throw any one (of his players) under the bus,” he said. “I thought we had great effort. … We should not be hanging our heads.”
UW post Chanel Osahor (15 points, five rebounds, five assists, four steals) fouled out with 1:33 seconds left, and Arizona State closed out the game by hitting eight of its final 10 shots.
“I was proud of the way we battled,” Plum said. “We didn’t back down. Credit them — they hit shots late, and I think that was the difference in the game.”