With four games left, UW probably needs to sweep a road trip and play Stanford and Cal well in the final homestand next week to have a chance at an NCAA tournament spot.
Kristi Kingma’s big blue eyes widened even more.
She sat in the media room at Alaska Airlines Arena before the regular season, looking far ahead to the last four games of her women’s basketball college career. On the schedule sat perennial foes Stanford and California at home and tough Pac-12 newcomers Utah and Colorado on the road.
Kingma circled the games. Benchmarks, she thought.
Now on the eve of the crucial stretch, Kingma is no longer daunted.
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“I don’t know how many games at Washington (I’ve played in) that have actually meant something,” said Kingma, who missed her junior season because of a torn right ACL. “They all mean something to me personally. But these games actually hold value. There’s something that comes along with them and I haven’t been in that position a lot of times here. It’s definitely something that’s exciting and something to look forward to.”
Currently third in the Pac-12 standings, Washington (19-6, 11-3) plays at Utah (14-11, 5-9) on Friday and faces No. 20 Colorado (20-5, 9-5) on Sunday.
In theory, UW would have to sweep the road games and play No. 4 Stanford and No. 6 California well in the final homestand next week to have a chance at an NCAA tournament berth. Washington swept the mountain schools at home last season and lost on the road to Cal and Stanford.
In Kingma’s past, just playing the Cardinal or Golden Bears was a big deal. Otherwise, the only significant game was a second-round loss in the inaugural Women’s Basketball Invitational in the midst of four losing seasons under former coach Tia Jackson.
In coach Kevin McGuff’s second season, the Huskies are bubbling.
UW is on the cusp of another 20-win season — the back-to-back mark would be a first since 2003. The possibility of winning 12 or more conference games also hasn’t been done since 2003, the last time the Huskies finished third in the standings.
Leading them offensively is sophomore point guard Jazmine Davis, who needs 16 points for 1,000 in her career. If she sets the mark against the Utes, it’ll be one game (58) behind the number it took UW great Jamie Redd (57) to reach the plateau en route to becoming the program’s all-time leader in points (2,027).
Then there’s Washington’s potential NCAA tournament berth, which would be a first since 2007.
“We’d really like to get there for Kristi and Jeneva (Anderson), the seniors,” UW junior guard Mercedes Wetmore said. “We’re all going to have a lot of energy going into these next four games. (A berth) is really going to come down to that. … Win or go home.”
Washington isn’t playing its best heading into this final stretch. It shot 23.3 percent from the field in a 49-44 win against Oregon State on Monday. Sophomore forward Aminah Williams nailed the go-ahead three-pointer off a feed from Wetmore and the Huskies played aggressive defense to secure the win.
Redshirt freshman Talia Walton, whose 2-year-old nephew died Saturday, is shooting 3 of 19 from her signature three-point range in her past three games. Kingma made a conference-record 11 threes in a win against Oregon last week but was 2 for 12 from the field against OSU.
To make up for that, the team is grasping McGuff’s defensive concepts to give itself a chance.
“We are who we are at this point, and our kids have gotten used to how we play,” McGuff said. (But) we’ve probably exceeded a lot of people’s expectations.”
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @JaydaEvans