Washington lead nearly the entire game in a 69-54 win over the Grizzlies, but it took a late push to put the game away.
It took Montana just 16 seconds to score the game’s first basket.
It took more than seven minutes and 13 Husky points before the Grizzlies scored again, and the Washington women’s basketball team never trailed again in a 69-54 victory Saturday afternoon in the Husky Classic.
It wasn’t as easy as the final score indicates, but the Huskies finally pulled away in the fourth quarter to move into the championship game of their tournament. They play Boise State, which beat Saint Francis 78-64, in Sunday’s championship.
“I would rather get an ugly win than a pretty loss,” said UW coach Jody Wynn, who was not real pleased with her team’s performance, other than its offensive rebounding.
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With the win, UW improved to 7-3, matching its season total from last year when it finished 7-23.
After Montana (4-4) scored the game’s first points, Amber Melgoza made three-point shots on UW’s first two possessions, and the Huskies led 13-2 before Montana made a free throw with 2:15 to finally end its scoring drought.
The Huskies never led by less than five points the rest of the way, but they had trouble putting away Montana, which lost 100-51 at Arizona earlier this month.
Washington led 27-20 after a first half in which both teams struggled to shoot well. The Huskies shot 31.4 percent and made just 2 of 17 three-point attempts, missing all 15 attempts after Melgoza’s two to start the game.
“It was a disaster of a shooting performance,” Wynn said.
Montana was even worse in the first half, shooting 30.4 percent (7 of 23), including going 0 for 6 on three pointers.
But the Grizzlies stayed close despite being outrebounded 26-16 in the first half.
Montana trailed 36-31 late in the third period when Washington used a full-court press to create a couple of turnovers and score eight consecutive points in a 45-second span. The game was never in suspense again.
Mai-Loni Henson started the decisive run with one of her three three-pointers.
“I haven’t been shooting the ball really well, and that’s what I wanted to focus on in the off week,” said Henson, a 6-f0ot-1 junior forward from San Diego. “We had a lot of down time, and I got into gym and got a lot of shots up and I just needed a couple of shots to feel it.”
Said Wynn: “When Mai-Loni made that three (breaking a string of 17 straight missed three-pointers for UW), that opened things up for us.”
When the Huskies did miss, they often got another chance as they had 20 offensive rebounds and outrebounded Montana 46-32 (20-7 on the offensive glass).
“That’s the only thing we had going for us in the first half,” Wynn said of the offensive rebounding.
Haley Van Dyke and Hannah Johnson came off the bench to lead UW with eight rebounds each.
Melgoza led UW in scoring with 15 points, but was just 5 of 16 from the field and was six points below her average. Johnson had 13 points and Van Dyke and Henson each had 11 for UW, which had 40 points from its bench.
Wynn said she thought the team was rusty, having not played since beating Ohio State 69-59 on Dec. 5. The Huskies return to action quickly this time in the 4 p.m. championship game.
In the other game, Braydey Hodgins scored 15 points to lead the Broncos past the Red Flash. Jess Kovatch led Saint Francis with 24 points.