In a game of momentum-swinging runs, the Washington women’s basketball team made the clutch plays at the end when it mattered most and secured a hard-fought 62-59 nonconference victory Saturday at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“One of the things we worked tremendously on is just how to have poise and how to make sure we get the right shot and the right possession,” UW coach Tina Langley said. “I felt like everyone was unselfish and also had the confidence to take it when it’s your time.
“I thought we did a nice job of sharing the basketball and stepping up and making big shots.”
None was bigger than Alexis Whitfield’s jumper in the paint off a Missy Peterson dish that unlocked a 54-54 tie and put UW up for good with 1:16 remaining.
Whitfield drew a foul on the play, but missed the ensuing free throw. However, Trinity Oliver ran out of bounds to retrieve the rebound and T.T. Watkins capped the play with a jumper for a 58-54 lead.
After EWU converted a three-pointer at the other end, Lauren Schwartz drove along the baseline for a layup to go ahead 60-57 with 39 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession, Oliver stole the ball at the top of the key and seconds later Schwartz connected with her for an uncontested layup that essentially sealed the victory and gave UW a 62-57 lead with 10 seconds remaining.
“We had really good growth during this game and we executed really well,” said Schwartz, who finished with a season-high 18 points on 8-for-13 shooting. “That’s what we’ve been working on in practice.”
Watkins added 12 points off the bench, which proved to be pivotal considering leading scorer Haley Van Dyke tallied just six points – six fewer than her average – on 3-for-14 shooting.
Washington also lost Alexis Griggsby in the first minute.
The Husky senior guard, who scored a season-high 23 points in her last outing, ran full steam out of bounds to retrieve her missed jumper that bounced long off the rim. She crashed into EWU coaches seated on the bench and suffered an apparent knee injury that required her to be carried off the court.
Griggsby did not return and it was not immediately clear when she would play again.
“She’s being evaluated,” Langley said. “It’s a significant blow to her knee.”
Seemingly, it took the Huskies 2½ quarters to adjust to Griggsby’s absence. They converted just 8 of 33 shots and were 0 for 12 on three-pointers in the first half, which explained their 22-19 deficit at the break.
Down 36-23 with 6:09 remaining in the third quarter, Schwartz drained a pullup jumper that sparked a 29-8 run capped by Oliver’s layup to go up 52-44 with 6:27 left.
However, EWU didn’t go away quietly thanks in large part to UW’s five-minute scoring drought.
The Eagles used a 10-2 run to knot the score at 54-54 with 1:38 left.
“We were trying to keep everyone in that had been a part of that run (and) it probably hurt us a little even on the defensive end of the floor,” Langley said. “They started finding a rhythm again. I felt we could have made a couple of subs to keep our rotation fresh. But that allowed them to get a little run.”
Jaydia Martin, Andie Zylak and Jacinta Buckley each had 15 points for EWU (2-6), which converted 9 of 24 three-pointers and shot 36% from the floor.
Langley lamented the Huskies’ 4-for-18 shooting performance on threes, but was pleased by their 43-36 rebounding disparity, season-low 16 turnovers and a 43-point offensive explosion in the second half.
“We kind of got off to a slow start in getting some things to fall,” she said. “But I was really proud of our effort to continue to run things and make good decisions.”
It was the Huskies’ 19th straight win over EWU and gave them a 24-1 advantage in the cross-state series that began in 1975.
Washington (4-3) hosts Nevada on Monday and then prepares for its Pac-12 home opener against No. 3 Stanford (8-2) on New Year’s Eve.