For the first time in seven weeks, the Washington women’s basketball team was in prime position to snap a lengthy losing streak that dates to Dec. 13.
The Huskies led USC by four points early in the fourth quarter, but was outscored 22-9 the rest of the way and dropped their seventh consecutive game – a 63-54 defeat inside a near-empty Alaska Airlines Arena.
“Our kids did a really nice job of making adjustments,” UW coach Jody Wynn said. “They were really locked in and dialed in today. I just feel bad that I couldn’t get them that W.”
It’s been a whirlwind of a season for the Huskies, who have had to deal with six postponed games and a 10-day pause in team activities due to two players testing positive for COVID-19.
The Huskies’ top scorer, Tameiya Sadler, and Khayla Rooks, who leads UW in assists, returned Friday night after missing the previous game due to undisclosed injuries.
Sadler and Rooks didn’t start and combined for just eight points, but their addition was a relief to the short-handed Huskies, who had been playing with a depleted lineup for weeks.
“Tameiya and Khayla haven’t practiced … since our Oregon State game (and) that’s a week and half or so,” Wynn said. “For them to get out here and play today was just a gutty effort on their part. I’m just proud how hard they’ve been working in rehab to try to get themselves ready to compete in a game.
“I think our kids fought. They battled. If you could come to practice and see we have more on the sidelines in practice than on the court right now. It’s a challenge.”
Still, Washington led 22-18 at the break after a rugged first half in which both team combined for 13-for-54 shooting from the field and 19 turnovers.
The Huskies led by seven points midway in the third and were up 45-41 early in the fourth quarter when USC went on a 5-0 run to go ahead 46-45 with 6:12 left.
Washington briefly regained the lead at 47-46 minutes later after a pair of free throws from Haley Van Dyke, but the Trojans scored seven consecutive points to go ahead 53-47 in the final two minutes and take control for good.
USC, which connected on 21 of 24 free throws, was 15 of 15 at the line in the fourth while UW was 3 of 5.
“Credit USC and their ability to get themselves to the free-throw line,” Wynn said. “I think that was the story of the game down the stretch. … We couldn’t get ourselves to the free-throw line at all. Credit USC and their ability to finish the game. I got to do a better job.”
The Huskies (4-9, 1-9 Pac-12) also were undermined by 18 turnovers that led to 11 points.
“It allowed them to get into transition,” Wynn said. “They’re pretty good in transition with the ball in (Endiya) Rogers’ hand. She’s incredible. She’s a great point guard.”
Rogers tallied 12 points and five rebounds while Alissa Pili scored 17 points and Desiree Caldwell 16 for USC, which improved to 8-7 and 6-6.
Offensively, the Huskies countered with Van Dyke who carved up the Trojans inside with an assortment of contorting layups for a game-high 20 points and seven rebounds.
On the outside, guard Alexis Griggsby drained five of eight three-pointers while scoring a season-high 17 points and collecting seven rebounds.
“You have to trust your shot as a shooter,” said Griggsby, who connected on 6 of 23 three-pointers in the previous six games. “You have to trust that your teammates get you the ball, which they did. And then you just got to let it fly. That’s one thing shooters, when you get in a rut you don’t feel like you should shoot, but that’s the only way to get out of it.”
Griggsby, a senior guard who was averaging 4.5 points before Friday night, felt compelled to take on more scoring responsibilities while the Huskies are limited in personnel.
“We lost some bodies here and there, but that’s pretty much how our long season of basketball is,” she said. “We lose bodies, we gain bodies. I think it’s just really embracing that moment when we get that time to shoot it.”
Washington is home against No. 5 UCLA at 2 p.m. Sunday.
— Freshman guard Jayda Noble won’t play again this season due to personal reasons, UW coach Jody Wynn said. Noble averaged 3.7 points and 4.0 rebounds while starting eight of 11 games.