Washington learned a lesson one would rather not grasp against a rival: The one about letting a team struggling on offense to hang around until they get hot.
Washington State was the teacher Saturday at Alaska Airlines Arena. The Cougars’ normally potent offense was nonexistent to open their women’s basketball game against UW. But the Huskies weren’t that much better, clinging to a five-point lead at the end of the third quarter.
Most of the buckets came on second chances or in transition after WSU turnovers. The Cougars cleaned up a few minor tweaks – rebounding, taking better care of the ball – in the fourth quarter in time for their offense to arrive and pull off a 66-59 win in basketball’s version of the Apple Cup.
And in sealing the win late, WSU redshirt senior Borislava Hristova broke the Cougs’ all-time scoring record for men’s and women’s basketball with 2,006 points in her college career.
“We let them get too comfortable,” Washington guard Amber Melgoza said. “They made big plays down the stretch and they ended up pulling it out. It’s unfortunate for us but we’ll learn from it and we’ll get better.”
WSU opened the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run to take a 47-45 lead after a shot in the paint by Hristova with 7:11 left.
Melgoza quickly followed with a jumper of her own to tie the score. But she was later called for a traveling violation, which WSU guard Chanelle Molina converted into a three-pointer that deflated the Huskies.
“I had to make it,” Molina said of the shot. “The game was on the line. It was just me and the basket, and I couldn’t think about anything else.”
Molina, who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, hit another three with 3:18 left to cap an 8-0 run and build a 55-47 lead. UW couldn’t slow WSU’s resuscitated offense. The closest it came was within five points after a Melgoza free throw with 2:21 left.
Hristova closed WSU’s scoring with two free throws with nine seconds left. The points gave the forward 20 in the game and the all-time scoring record. Former guard Isaac Fontaine held WSU’s previous mark at 2,003 career points from 1994-97.
“Bobi was big time for us,” Cougars forward Ula Motuga said. “Not many people in the league can guard her. Obviously to have her offensively for us is huge. And then (reserve) Jo (Subasic) stepped up massively as well, knocking down threes to keep the defense honest.”
The teams combined for 24.1% shooting in the first quarter. But UW managed to lead 26-21 at the break.
The Huskies (10-5, 2-2 Pac-12) entered the game wanting to work on coming out of halftime stronger and were able to accomplish part of that goal. UW stretched its lead to 10 points after a three made by guard Missy Peterson with 7:03 remaining in the quarter.
“This was probably one of our best third quarters that we’ve had all year,” said Melgoza, who finished with a team-high 14 points and had five rebounds. “We’ve struggled a lot coming out of halftime, just with slow starts and it takes us a while to get going. We definitely had a better third quarter but in terms of the fourth quarter, we definitely need to work on that a little bit more. Keep our defensive intensity up and not let their best players or anybody for that matter get too comfortable.”
WSU (9-7, 2-2) lost to UW 65-56 in Pullman in December. In that game, the Huskies were able to hold Hristova to 10 points and cooled Molina, who scored 15 points.
After splitting games against the Bay Area schools in Cal and No. 5 Stanford, the Huskies had the week to prepare for their rival. Now they have a week to regroup before hosting Arizona State on Friday.
“Bobi and Chanelle are outstanding,” UW coach Jody Wynn said. “Some of the best players in the country and have been proven. … Nothing came easier for us.”
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