The Huskies make only one field goal in the third quarter as the Ducks pull away and move into first place atop the Pac-12.
There were a few feel-good moments for Washington on Sunday afternoon, and the first came on the game’s opening possession.
On a designed play, junior guard Amber Melgoza pulled off one of her patented pull-up jump shots for the game’s first basket, pushing her over the 1,000-point plateau in her UW women’s basketball career.
Another moment: There was Montana Hagstrom, a former walk-on guard making a rare on-court appearance, scoring the first field goal of her Husky career, a three-pointer from the top of the key late in the first quarter.
More moments followed. They came here and there, and they came in sporadic, inconsistent spurts, but it was those moments that UW coach Jody Wynn wanted to emphasize after the Huskies’ 76-57 loss to No. 5 Oregon.
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“I thought our first-half focus was outstanding,” Wynn said. “Really, really proud of them for being in tune to the game plan.”
The Huskies led 18-16 after the first quarter. They hung close in the second quarter, trailing just 36-29 at halftime.
Things unraveled quickly in the third quarter. The Ducks (19-1, 8-0 Pac-12) opened the second half on a 16-5 run, and Washington made only one field goal, on eight attempts, in the third quarter and trailed by 20 entering the fourth.
Oregon’s Erin Boley, en route to a career-high 31 points, tied a school record with nine three-point field goals on 13 attempts.
“The third quarter, you know, we missed some shots, number one,” Wynn said. “Then we just lost Boley a few times and that was the difference. You still have to make them, and she’s wide open for most of them. She loves playing against us.”
Boley had hit eight three-pointers in Oregon’s 84-71 victory over the Huskies in Eugene on Jan. 4. Boley was left wide open for most of her three-point looks Sunday.
“Boy, I’m going to give her a purple shirt to wear every game,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “Obviously, she’s getting open looks. They do a nice job of trying to take (Oregon post) Ruthy (Hebard) out, which gives (Boley) a little more room to operate. At that point, it just gets in her mind that she’s going to make baskets. And we needed it. We haven’t played well offensively in either game against them this year.”
The Ducks remained unbeaten in conference play and moved alone into first place atop the Pac-12 after Stanford’s loss to Utah.
The Huskies (8-13, 1-8) have lost five in a row.
Wynn said she was encouraged by the Huskies’ effort on defense in the first half. But some of UW’s shooting struggles in the third quarter then bled into poor execution on the defensive end.
“Unfortunately, that’s the tale of our season,” Wynn said. “Until we can have defensive-minded players, where we believe that we can score through our defense and get stops that lead to offensive possessions, that’s very, very tough. … If we’re not making shots, we’re not interested in playing defense.”
Melgoza sat on 999 career points coming into Sunday’s game, and UW coaches had drawn up a play for her on the first possession. She took advantage, knocking down a jumper from about 18 feet for the game’s first basket.
Melgoza, a 5-foot-10 junior averaging 18.8 points per game, is on pace to finish on UW’s top-10 career scoring list.
“It was something that I learned every day from watching Kelsey Plum from freshman year,” Melgoza said. “My sophomore and junior year I had to put my head down and try to separate myself from other people, and work hard, and get myself in the gym, which will pay off down the road.”
Hagstrom, a sophomore out of Sammamish High School, had never scored a point for the Huskies before Sunday. She had never even played more than four minutes in a game. But there she was in the first quarter, firing up a three without hesitation from the top of the key and giving the Huskies a 15-12 lead.
“It was just fun, man,” Hagstrom said. “My teammates wanted it so bad for me and made me want it more, so honestly it was just about having fun tonight.”
The Huskies fought through the fourth quarter. Freshman post Darcy Rees was hustling after loose balls; senior guard Jenna Moser was crashing the offensive boards; Wynn was clapping encouragement from the sideline.
“We’re young and we’re learning and we’re getting better,” Wynn said. “The effort was there … but overall, you’ve got to perform for 40 minutes against a team like this. Our story is we’ve got to celebrate moments. If we only look at the scoreboard every day, we’re going to be depressed.”
— The Huskies had an announced attendance of 4,295, the largest crowd at Alaska Airlines Arena for a women’s game since 2017.
— The Huskies were down to nine players available Sunday. Alexis Griggsby and T.T. Watkins were sidelined with injuries.