Kelsey Plum immediately winced when handed a stat sheet from Washington’s Pac-12 opener against Arizona.
“Free throws,” she whispered when looking at her team’s 16-for-26 finish at the foul line.
If only the ugly offensive numbers ended there. Washington shot 27.1 percent from the field, making the eventual 55-52 victory over Arizona in doubt until the final horn.
It also made Plum’s assessment of the game simple.
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“Aminah (Williams) made some big shots,” she said.
Down one point with two minutes left, Williams scored twice inside off feeds from guards Mercedes Wetmore and Jazmine Davis to give the Huskies a 53-50 lead.
But Wildcats senior guard Carissa Crutchfield was able to waltz through the Huskies’ defense for a layin to cut the deficit to 53-52. A made free throw by Davis, forward Talia Walton forcing a turnover with 2.6 seconds left, and another free throw from Davis sealed the victory for the Huskies.
“We were missing shots we normally make and coach (Mike Neighbors) was telling us to keep shooting them,” Williams said. “It is frustrating when we make these shots in practice and in shoot-around and we come to the game and we’re not making them.
“But it says a lot about our energy and our effort that we have on the defensive end. We were getting tips. We were getting steals. We were getting stops and that shows a lot.”
The hustle plays ultimately saved UW, particularly as it adjusted to Arizona’s trick defenses that forced some bad shots. Williams led the gritty play, grabbing 11 of her 16 rebounds in the second half — eight rebounds were on the offensive end.
Plum led the team offensively with 23 points on 5-for-16 shooting.
“Aminah Williams is the epitome of that,” Neighbors said of the team’s gutty play. “When you can win a game in the Pac-12 without playing good, that’s a good sign. In the past, we would have lost every time.”
Arizona cut UW’s once 16-point lead in the first half to 49-48 following a three-pointer by junior guard Candice Warthen with 4:38 left. Davis was called for a charging foul and good UW defensive plays and offensive rebounds were negated by missed shots and turnovers.
In one possession, Davis missed three shots — two three-point attempts — and that created an opportunity for Arizona freshman LaBrittney Jones to score a short jumper and get the 50-49 lead for the Wildcats.
Arizona (4-8, 0-1 Pac-12) had its three-game victory streak snapped. It was led by Warthen’s 16 points while Jones had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Washington (8-4, 1-0) will have a tough task Sunday against No. 24 Arizona State (11-2, 0-1). The Sun Devils run substitutions like it’s a hockey game, but lost 85-78 at Washington State on Friday.
“Our focus was very average, not what you want it to be to open the Pac-12,” said Neighbors, who earned his first victory as a head coach in the conference. “But I thought it was really good the last four minutes.”
• Redshirt freshman Katie Collier returned to play Friday. She missed her past two games due to a hamstring injury. A 6-foot-3 post, Collier played 12 minutes and finished with five points and two blocks.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @JaydaEvans