The Huskies never trailed and held off the Cougars in the final minutes for a 56-49 victory that gave UW its first Pac-12 win and its first victory since Dec. 20.
So often during their seven-game losing streak, the Huskies came close to capturing a win only to fall short in the final minutes.
They lost by five points against Colorado three weeks ago and were beaten by three in overtime on Wednesday at Washington State.
During Sunday’s rematch, the UW women’s basketball team put an end to its string of defeats with its finest defensive performance of the season.
In front of a season-high 3,603 at Alaska Airlines Arena, the Huskies never trailed, took control early and held on in the final minutes to beat the Cougars 56-49 for their first Pac-12 win. It was also UW’s first victory since Dec. 20.
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“It’s been a long time since we’ve gotten that ‘W’ and a long time since their hard work has shown up with the final stats,” UW coach Jody Wynn said. “It’s easier to hang our heads and say it’s not going to happen this year guys (and) maybe next year.
“But the way they were dialed in after a tough, heartbreaking loss on Wednesday night … I’m super proud.”
This time, Washington was the more aggressive team in a physical game in which both squads combined for 38 turnovers.
The Huskies jumped on every loose ball and forced WSU into 20 turnovers — the most for the Cougars since Dec. 1.
“We challenge them everyday to defend and dictate on the defensive end,” Wynn said. “To play with urgency on the defensive side of the ball and they did that. We really dictated from the jump and it just relaxed us a little more offensively.”
Aside from scoring 20 points in the first period, the Huskies were far from stellar offensively. They shot 31.6 percent from the field while converting just 4 of 17 three-pointers.
However, the Huskies found points at the free-throw line where they sank 16 of 21. WSU was 4 of 8 on foul shots.
“We all came together and played as a unit on defense,” said sophomore guard Amber Melgoza, who led UW with 14 points. “We weren’t afraid out there.”
Melgoza put a scare in UW fans when she fell and grimaced while holding her left knee with 4:54 remaining. She briefly left the court to receive medical treatment but returned minutes later.
“My knee just kind of locked on me,” Melgoza said. “I haven’t had that kind of pain in awhile. I thought it was pretty bad.”
The short-handed Huskies might have been in dire straits if Melgoza hadn’t returned because they lost Kierra Collier midway in the fourth when the freshman guard injured her wrist and remained on the bench.
Washington led by as many as 19 points early in the third quarter, but the Cougars clawed back into the game while outscoring the Huskies 21-13 in the final frame.
Sophomore forward Kayla Washington (10 points) sank a layup that cut UW’s lead to 52-49 with 1:17 left.
On the ensuing possession, sophomore forward Mai-Loni Henson briefly lost the ball and recovered in time to beat the shot clock with a midrange baseline jumper that pushed the Huskies’ lead back to five.
“We kept (our) poise,” said Melgoza, who capped the scoring with a pair of free throws with 24 seconds left.
Sophomore guard Chanelle Molina scored 17 points for the Cougars, who fell to 9-11 and 2-6 in the Pac-12.
The Huskies held sophomore forward Borislava Hristova, the Pac-12’s second-leading scorer, to a season-low three points — 16 fewer than her season average.
Washington (7-12, 1-7 Pac-12) entered the game with its longest losing streak since dropping 12 straight games in the 2008-09 season when it finished 8-22.
To snap their winless drought, the Huskies held WSU to 33.3 percent shooting and 19 points fewer than its scoring average. The Cougars’ 49 points were a season-low for a UW opponent.
Seemingly every time WSU missed, Hannah Johnson was there for the rebound.
After collecting a career-high 16 rebounds on Wednesday, the 6-foot-1 junior forward tallied a personal-best 17 boards and 13 points.
“Some players thrive off scoring or other things, I thrive off getting rebounds, and that’s what I’ve been focusing on a lot,” said Johnson, who finished with her second straight double-double performance. “It’s key especially with our team being undersized and me being the biggest girl, I need to get the rebounds for my team.”
Washington raced out to a 20-6 lead in the first period while harassing the Cougars into 3-for-16 shooting. The Huskies were up 32-15 at halftime and finished the third period ahead 43-28.
Despite shooting just 2 of 14 from the field in the fourth, UW captured its first win in over a month thanks to its early defensive work and free-throw shooting prowess.
“It’s easy when times get hard to get down and give up, but this team has been sticking together,” Johnson said.
Washington plays No. 13 UCLA on Friday at Alaska Airlines Arena.
|All over now|
|With a 56-49 win Sunday, the Washington women’s basketball team snapped its seven-game losing streak. Here’s a look at the program’s longest losing streaks.|
|50 or fewer|
|In the past six seasons, the Washington women’s basketball team has held eight teams to fewer than 50 points:|
|Feb. 18, 2013||at OSU||W, 49-44|
|Jan. 22, 2017||at WSU||W, 87-44|
|Feb. 23, 2017||Colorado||W, 79-46|
|Feb. 27, 2016||Colorado||W, 68-47|
|Jan. 10, 2016||Arizona||W, 63-47|
|Feb. 26, 2015||USC||W, 60-48|
|Feb. 22, 2015||at WSU||W, 83-43|
|Jan. 21, 2018||WSU||W, 56-49|