Washington heads into next week’s Pac-12 opener with a 6-5 record.
The Washington women’s basketball team squandered a 15-point lead and suffered a fourth-quarter collapse before overcoming an early deficit in the extra period and rallying for an 84-76 nonconference victory in overtime Wednesday over cross-city rival Seattle University.
“For our young team, we focus more on the fact that we found a way to win a game,” coach Jody Wynn said. “I don’t know how long it took to lose that 15-point lead. It felt like in a minute. For us to be able to perform under pressure, this is the first time we’ve been in this situation and the first time our players have had to make a clutch shot or get a big-time stop or a huge rebound or take a charge.
“I’m just really, really proud of our overall team effort in how to finish it in overtime.”
Amber Melgoza came through again and led the Huskies with a career-high 26 points, including three three-pointers. The sophomore guard, who also had nine rebounds and a personal-best six assists, has been UW’s leading scorer in six of the past seven games.
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But the Huskies wouldn’t have won this game if not for sophomore forward Mai-Loni Henson, who scored seven of her 16 points in overtime and triggered a decisive spurt with a big three-pointer and a defensive charge.
“Amber got on fire,” Wynn said. “She made some big-time plays, not only her threes, but getting to the rim and getting rebounds. Mai-Loni had a huge charge, it was the best charge of the year and a big-time shot at the top of the key.”
The Huskies led for 34 minutes and 49 seconds and were ahead 55-44 to begin the fourth. That’s when the Redhawks staged a comeback with a 12-0 run to start the final period.
SU outscored UW 23-12 in the fourth.
“I thought we came alive more on the defensive end of the floor,” Seattle U coach Suzy Barcomb said. “Got our hands on the ball. We were communicating. Caused some turnovers. And then we hit shots. It wasn’t really me saying anything, it was them finally executing what we were trying to get done.”
The score was tied four times and the lead changed four times in the final six minutes of a frantic fourth period. Both teams had chances to win the game in the final minute of regulation. Melgoza missed a three-pointer and the Huskies lost a turnover while SU had two turnovers in the final six seconds.
Washington had forced at least 20 turnovers in its previous six games and the Redhawks were stymied for most of the night by the Huskies’ pressure defense. SU finished with 23 turnovers that led to 31 points for UW.
“We were having trouble focusing and executing a few things,” said senior guard Alexis Montgomery, who scored 13 of her team-high 26 points in the fourth period. “But once we could control our turnovers and get into our flow, we didn’t have a problem playing with them.”
Montgomery, the Western Athletic Conference’s leading scorer and rebounder, also finished with a game-high-tying 10 rebounds for her sixth straight double-double.
In overtime, Montgomery sank a jumper and a free throw that gave SU a 73-69 lead with 3:34 left.
The Huskies answered with an 11-1 run over the next 2½ minutes to seal their 13th straight win over the Redhawks. During the spurt, Henson scored five points, including a clutch three-pointer.
Melgoza and Henson may have combined for 42 points – half of UW’s total – but the Huskies relied on a balanced offensive attack. Nine of the 10 Huskies who played scored and everyone played at least 11 minutes. Washington’s bench outscored Seattle U 24-6.
Meanwhile the Redhawks relied heavily on the quartet of freshman center Kallin Spiller (15 points and 10 rebounds), sophomore guard Kamira Sanders (13 points, nine rebounds, five assists and 10 turnovers), senior forward Jacinta Beckley (10 points) and Montgomery.
Seattle U (6-7) hosts UC Irvine on Friday before its nonconference finale at Cal State Northridge on Dec. 30.
“We won three games last year in preseason and we’re already at six right now so that’s a pretty good improvement,” Barcomb said. “We’re making steady progress. This could have been a great win if we could have snuck this one out. It would be pretty nice to be above .500.”
Washington heads into its Pac-12 opener at Oregon State on Dec. 29 with a 6-5 record and a little bit of momentum.
“It’s a great send-off to end the first part of our season,” Wynn said. “We break our season up into different seasons and this was season No. 1. To finish 6-5 when people would have thought that we might be 1-10 is really outstanding for our girls.
“We gained valuable experience. We played on the road. We played some great opponents. We won an overtime game at home with players that have never for UW at least been put in this situation to be able to perform under pressure. … So it gives us confidence going into the break to know that everyone is valuable in this program, all 10 players.”