Amber Melgoza scored 28 points and the Huskies played some stifling defense to remain perfect at home, defeating Ohio State 69-59 on Wednesday night at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Amber Melgoza and the Huskies stole the story line.
The former Husky coach returning for the first time since abruptly leaving five years ago? That was relegated to second string.
That’s because Melgoza scored 28 points and the Huskies played some stifling defense to remain perfect at home, defeating Ohio State 69-59 on Wednesday night at Alaska Airlines Arena, spoiling Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff’s first time back at UW since he left.
Ohio State fell to 3-3 and this team bears faint resemblance to the Buckeye squad that was ranked No. 9 when it defeated Washington 85-76 in Columbus last year as there are five new starters this season.
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Still, it was another big victory for coach Jody Wynn’s Huskies, off to a strong 6-3 start and just one win from last season’s total when UW was 7-23 in Wynn’s first season with the team.
It certainly wasn’t a pretty game, with the two teams combining for 41 turnovers, but it looked good at the end for UW, which accomplished its goal of keeping Ohio State from dominating on the offensive glass. Washington outrebounded Ohio State 41-37 and had 10 offensive rebounds to the Buckeyes’ eight.
“Amber carried us offensively, but defensively, it was an entire team effort tonight,” Wynn said. “And I thought we did an outstanding job on the defensive glass.”
The Huskies led 32-26 at halftime, but it could have been bigger if they had done a better job of taking care of the ball as they committed 13 turnovers. Melgoza, who scored the first seven points of the game, had 11 at halftime.
In the spring of 2013, it seemed McGuff would be in Seattle for years after signing a contract extension with UW that was to take him through the 2019-20 season. But McGuff had ties to Ohio, and left a month after signing the extension, with Ohio State reportedly paying the $1.75 million that McGuff owed for leaving early.
McGuff was 41-26 in his two seasons at UW, taking the Huskies to the WNIT both years. But his greatest achievement at UW might have been the recruitment of Parade All-American guard Kelsey Plum, who went on to become the leading scorer in Division I history for the Huskies and lead UW to the Final Four in 2016.
“It was good to be here,” McGuff said. “This is a place that myself and my family really enjoyed when we here and we had a great experience. … We were fortunate to be able to jump-start the program (at UW) with a couple of great recruiting classes. After I left, I was happy to look back and see those kids play so well.”
McGuff has built a solid program in Columbus, with the Buckeyes making it to the NCAA tournament the past four seasons, including making it into the Sweet 16 the past three seasons. Doing so again this season will be a challenge as he tried to reload.
The Buckeyes were certainly outplayed by UW. The closest they got in the second half was five points, thanks in large part to Melgoza, a junior guard.
“My team did a great job of getting me open,” Melgoza said. “They’re giving me screens that are helping me get those points.”
Hannah Johnson had nine rebounds to lead the Huskies in that category.
“Those are far bigger than her points,” Wynn said of Johnson, who had three points.
The biggest moment of the game came early in the fourth quarter after Ohio State went on a 9-0 run to close to 49-44. But Alexis Grigsby made a three-pointer for UW — her only points of the game — and the momentum went back to UW, which led comfortably thereafter.
“It was just so nice for her to see the bottom of the net,” Wynn said. “It was nice for her to knock that down at a very crucial moment in the game.”
Said McGuff: “They played better than we did, and they deserved to win.”