First-year coach Tina Langley disagrees, but most metrics say the Washington’s women’s basketball team made marginal improvements — and arguably regressed — in comparison with last season’s squad.
The Huskies finished the regular season at 7-15 and last in the Pac-12 in at 2-12, which at first glance looks a lot like the 2022-21 team that was 7-14 overall and 11th in the conference at 3-13.
Former coach Jody Wynn made several missteps during her four-year tenure (2017-21) while compiling a disappointing 38-75 (. 336) record.
However, Wynn’s teams had a surprising 3-4 record at the Pac-12 tournament, including a thrilling run to the 2019 semifinals.
Last year, then-No. 11 seed UW upset No. 6 seed Colorado 68-54 in the first round of the conference tourney.
The two teams meet again noon Wednesday with several new faces on the sidelines.
This time, Langley is at the helm of No. 12 seed UW against the No. 5 seed Buffaloes, which includes former Huskies Tameiya Sadler and Quay Miller, who scored 18 and 11 points respectively last year to take down CU in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Last summer, the UW transfers joined forces with All-Pac-12 center Mya Hollingshed to help revive Colorado (20-7, 9-7), which made an 8-game improvement from last season and captured its first 20-win campaign since the 2012-13 season.
In their only meeting this season, CU clobbered UW 66-43 on Feb. 6 at CU Events Center with Miller scoring 18 points off the bench.
Colorado, which has a four-game winning streak, and Washington are two of the hottest teams in the conference.
The Huskies started 5-3 against nonconference opponents before a COVID-19 outbreak forced a two-week pause and wiped out four games (at home against Stanford California and on the road versus Arizona State and Arizona) that were not rescheduled.
When Washington resumed, the Huskies lost 11 straight games to start the Pac-12 season. During the losing streak, UW was outscored by an average of 63.2 to 53.6 points.
In the final week of the season, the Huskies began playing their best basketball. They beat Arizona State 74-69 on Feb. 20 in the home finale, which gave Langley her first Pac-12 win.
Four days later, UW captured a 61-60 victory at California.
And in last Saturday’s regular-season finale, the Huskies pushed No. 2 Stanford to the brink before falling 63-56 in the final minute at Maples Pavilion.
Following the win over ASU, Langley got emotional while praising and expressing her gratitude to seniors Nancy Mulkey and Haley Van Dyke for their contributions and commitment to a slow rebuild during a difficult season.
“I can’t thank them enough for the sacrifices they made,” Langley said. “Four years, or however many is a lot. And it’s a lot of pain. It’s physical pain, it’s mental pain. It’s grueling work and commitment to something bigger than you. And a lot of times, you’re just not rewarded for what you get in. But they are because they’ve made an impact that you can’t explain. I mean, their impact on me on our staff on our team, and I think on this university is pretty tremendous. So beyond grateful for them. I love them.”
Van Dyke, who considered transferring last summer, admitted it hasn’t always been a smooth transition this season.
“In the beginning, it was hard for us,” Van Dyke said. “We were, I think, a results-based team. But I think our coach has been kind of helping us through that. And to help us not to be like that and be committed to the process. That’s our motto this year. So we just have been doing that. I think we’ve gotten so much better at that through season. And it’s definitely paid off.”
— Mulkey and Van Dyke received All-Pac-12 and All-Pac-12 Defensive team honorable mention recognition from the league’s coaches.
— Pac-12 champion Stanford took the top prizes in the end of the year awards. Junior guard Haley Jones was voted the conference’s player of the year, sophomore forward Cameron Brink took the defensive player of the year award and Tara VanDerveer captured coach of the year honors for the 17th time.
Miller was voted the Pac-12 sixth player of the year. USC forward Jordyn Jenkins, who starred at Kentridge High, shared the league’s most improved player award with Washington State’s Bella Murekatete. And Utah’s Gianna Kneepkens was named the league’s freshman of the year.
Pac-12 Women’s Tournament
Michelob ULTRA Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
(All times PST; all games on Pac-12 Network unless noted)
First round, Wednesday
- Game 1: No. 5 Colorado vs. No. 12 Washington, Noon
- Game 2: No. 8 Oregon State vs. No. 9 Arizona State, 2:30 p.m.
- Game 3: No. 7 UCLA vs. No. 10 USC, 6 p.m.
- Game 4: No. 6 Utah vs. No. 11 California, 8:30 p.m.
- Game 5: No. 4 Arizona vs. Game 1 Winner, Noon
- Game 6: No. 1 Stanford vs. Game 2 Winner, 2:30 p.m.
- Game 7: No. 2 Oregon vs. Game 3 Winner, 6 p.m.
- Game 8: No. 3 Washington State vs. Game 4 Winner, 8:30 p.m.
- Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 6 p.m.
- Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 8:30 p.m.
Championship, Sunday, March 6
- Game 11: Semifinal winners, 3 p.m. (TV: ESPN2)