Haley Van Dyke broke out of a three-game scoring slump and scored a season-high 20 points for the Washington women’s basketball team, which used a collective defensive effort to smother and beat Nevada 58-42 Monday in the final game of the Husky Classic.
The Huskies (5-3) concluded their nonconference season with their first three-game winning streak for new coach Tina Langley, which couldn’t come at a better time considering UW begins Pac-12 play with a conference opener against No. 2 Stanford on New Year’s Eve.
Nevada (8-4) came into Monday’s game at Alaska Airlines Arena with seven straight wins and averaging 71.7 points during the span.
However, Washington shut down the Wolf Pack attack for three quarters and held them 29 points below their scoring average. It was the fewest points for a UW opponent since holding Iona to 34 on Nov. 28, 2019.
“It was the kids’ effort,” UW assistant Dan Tacheny said. “Obviously, we put a game plan together to try and stifle their offensive performance, but it was really on the kids. The kids did such a terrific job understanding what we wanted and giving great effort, helping and communicating. That was just tremendous. It was the best defensive performance we had all season and it’s a credit to them.
“We really wanted to limit the three-point shooting especially from (Da’Ja) Hamilton and Audrey Roden. Those two were their dynamic scorers. Between T.T. (Watkins) and Haley and just a number of people switching out on Hamilton, they did a terrific job of putting her in a bind all night where she had tough shots.”
Washington held Nevada to 27.9% shooting from the field, including 3 of 25 on three-pointers. Hamilton (10 points) was 1 for 7 behind the arc and Roden was 0 for 3.
“We had some really good performances, but this was the first time we had a more complete performance from start to finish,” Tacheny said. “You’re always going to have setbacks. It’s never linear in the trajectory from the bottom to the top, going from where you are to greatness. It’s up and forward and back a little bit. But this was pretty good from start to finish.”
The Huskies, who never trailed, led 5-4 midway in the first quarter when Van Dyke sank a layup to begin a 19-6 run, which included eight straight baskets and 13 unanswered points from UW.
Van Dyke finished the momentum-turning flurry with a three-pointer, jumper and layup that put the Huskies up 24-10 with 8:01 left in the second period.
“I have to give credit for my teammates for getting me the ball because I was hot at that point,” said Van Dyke, who converted 8 of 12 shots, including 2 of 5 three-pointers. “They found me. I found them too and we did a really good job of sharing the ball tonight.”
In the three previous games, Van Dyke was 11 of 35.
“I was forgetting to have fun,” Van Dyke said. “I was not in my head, but I was not myself the past couple of games and that’s because I was forgetting the most important part is to enjoy it. … This game I came out and my mindset was just to go out there and have fun.”
Van Dyke provided most of the offense while Nancy Mulkey chipped in 10 points for UW, which sank just 2 of 11 three-pointers and committed 14 turnovers.
Washington led 32-16 at halftime and was up 44-23 late in the third quarter when Nevada made one last push.
The Wolf Pack, who outscored the Huskies 17-14 in the fourth period, trimmed their deficit to 48-37 with 5:41 left against UW backups.
“You miss a couple of shots (and) they get a couple of transition buckets,” Tacheny said. “We foul a three-pointer shooter and that’s four points right there. Making small little mistakes as you go, it just adds up. You take a quick shot. They put on that little zone defense that slowed us down offensively where we had to think a little bit more.
“It changed up our offense and we weren’t as crisp offensively. They get out and get a couple of shots to go down and it swings the momentum a little bit.”
Soon after, Langley reinserted the Husky starters and Washington regained control with a 10-5 run to finish the game.
“It’s a good challenge where things are going great, you have a setback and now how do you recover from that?” Tacheny said. “Failure to recovery is a big thing for our team. I thought the group did a really good job coming back from that.”
Next up for the Huskies is Stanford, the defending NCAA champion, a chance to snap a 10-game losing streak against the Cardinal.
“I’m really excited,” Van Dyke said. “The progress we made is just incredible. We’ve really come a long way. We’re starting to realize it. Our chemistry has gotten so much better the past couple of weeks. We’re just really starting to enjoy playing with each other and it’s starting to flow.”