Mike Neighbors cringes at the thought of his Washington women’s basketball team being deficient in defense. He built his reputation on his defensive schemes.
Reality was hard to escape Friday afternoon, however. The Huskies couldn’t stop Portland’s ball movement, burned by three-pointers in a 91-77 defeat at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“It’s got to stop,” Neighbors said of the lack of defensive execution.
Washington lost its season opener 91-81 at Saint Mary’s last week.
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“We’ve given up 91 points in two games,” Neighbors said. “I’d have to search long and hard to see any team I have ever been a part of that’s given up that many.”
The Pilots shot 29.7 percent from three-point range last season. Portland shot 6 for 37 in a defeat at home against Oregon last week. But against Washington?
Portland was 15 of 24 from three-point range (62.5 percent). Leading 55-53 midway through the second half, the Pilots made four consecutive three-pointers to push their lead to 67-60.
Redshirt junior Cassandra Brown had the easiest time outside the arc. She scored 28 points off the bench, hitting 6 of 8 three-pointers. Teammates Amy Pupa, a senior forward, and junior guard Kari Luttinen, from Seattle Prep, made three apiece.
“We work on it every day,” Portland coach Jim Sollars said. “At least 25 minutes out of every two hours, because it’s not a fundamentally sound shooting team. If we’re going to have ugly form, we better work on that ugly form and get good at it.”
The Pilots’ shooting killed two big runs by UW. Portland (2-1) finished off the game at the free-throw line, making seven of eight down the stretch.
It’s the Pilots’ first victory against the Huskies in 10 meetings in the series that started in 1979.
Adding to UW’s frustration was leading scorer Jazmine Davis’ struggles. She returned after suffering a concussion in the SMC defeat, but she had six turnovers, finishing with 16 points in 31 minutes.
“It was just bad. I was just bad,” Davis said. “And it wasn’t like we were just standing around in our zone. They were just knocking down every single open shot.”
Freshman Kelsey Plum led Washington with 22 points on 9-for-21 shooting. Sophomore Talia Walton made her season debut after undergoing surgery on her shooting hand in October, finishing with 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting.
Opening the season with high expectations, Neighbors expressed concern about his young team staying confident. The Huskies play host to crosstown rival Seattle University (0-2) on Tuesday. The Redhawks are another opponent with veteran stars capable of putting on an offensive show.
“I’d be lying if I told you it doesn’t hurt my confidence a little bit and all of theirs, not only in me and each other and in everything we’re doing,” Neighbors said. “That’s going to be our biggest point, making sure we don’t lose that. The plan is good and the kids are good. Something we’ll focus on very, very heavily is making sure we’re guarding the arc.”
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JaydaEvans.