Tina Langley is looking past the Washington women’s basketball team’s dismal 5-11 record and eight-game losing streak.
The first-year Husky coach who was hired 10 months ago to turn around a UW program that had amassed a 38-75 record under former coach Jody Wynn the previous four years is a firm believer that athletic success isn’t necessarily measured in statistics or on the scoreboard.
Despite residing in last place in the Pac-12 at 0-8 and the mounting losses, Langley thought Washington was steadily improving until a disappointing 57-43 loss against Washington State at Alaska Airlines Arena on Jan. 28.
Then last week, several players experienced flu-like symptoms, which prevented UW from holding team-wide practices before its trip to Utah and Colorado.
“We talk a lot about growth is never linear,” Langley said. “It’s always a bit of take a step back and take a step forward. I was excited about the way we were responding (before) that Washington State game and excited for this next trip.
“Unfortunately, we got sick and didn’t have practices going into this weekend. That hurt us a bit.”
Like many teams across the country, the Huskies dealt with a COVID outbreak that shut down the program for a couple of weeks and wiped out a handful of games.
The scheduling snafu was exponentially disruptive for a team in transition such as UW that was 7-14 last season and still adjusting to a new coaching staff, new players and a new brand of basketball under Langley.
“The biggest thing that we look at each day is how do you approach each practice and prepare and make sure your mindset is right,” Langley said. “When you can look back at a game and know there’s so many things you could have done better, it actually helps you go into the next practice and say alright let’s be about those things and let’s get those things going in the right direction. And it narrows your focus to what’s most important right now.
“I really hope that’s what we can do for the team this week is help really narrow our approach and focus and say hey these are still some things that we have to improve that give us the results that we want to have.”
On Friday at 7 p.m., Washington hosts USC (9-12, 2-9 Pac-12), which has lost seven straight games. The Trojans’ last win was a 73-66 victory against the Huskies on Jan. 16 at Galen Center.
In that game, UW led 39-29 at halftime and was up 55-53 after the third quarter, but was outscored 20-11 in the fourth.
The fourth-quarter collapse is a troubling trend for Washington, which has been outscored in the fourth by every Pac-12 opponent by a total of 111-74.
In their last outing, the Huskies trailed 43-36 on Sunday at Colorado before the Buffaloes outscored UW 23-7 in the fourth quarter and turned a close game into a blowout 66-43 victory.
“You could tell at the half of (the) Colorado game we tanked physically and it was pretty dramatic,” said Langley, who said players were adversely affected by the flu. “We still had a kid throwing up in the locker room and still finding our way with our physical health. This week it was pretty evident that we ran out of gas.”
Langley has tweaked the lineup all season, but has relied heavily on the quartet of guards Haley Van Dyke, Lauren Schwartz, Missy Peterson and center Nancy Mulkey who have started all 16 games.
Senior guard Alexis Griggsby started seven games before suffering a season-ending knee injury while Trinity Oliver (seven starts) and T.T. Watkins (two starts) have filled in lately.
With just six regular-season games on the schedule — UW could also still play four postponed games — Langley isn’t ready to shake-up the lineup and dole out more minutes to players near the bottom of the roster.
“One of the things that you don’t do is panic when you’re trending up,” Langley said. “I thought our USC, UCLA, Oregon and Oregon State games, we were trending in the right direction. Learning late-game situations, but really performing the way you would want to continue to grow.
“And then (at Washington State) still trending up. We were right there to win the game. We learned a lot what we needed to do to get that win. After that, you saw that Friday to Sunday swing and we didn’t do well physically from that and then we had the flu. I feel like we’ve been trending in the right direction and understand why are who we are right now.”
Langley can be patient considering UW gave her a six-year, $4 million contract.
However, she admits she’s anxious to capture her first Pac-12 win.
“You won’t always get your goals, but you should always get your standard,” she said. “Our question is, are we living up to our standard? There’s a way we defend. There’s a way we want to run offense. There’s a way we want to be culturally.
“So if we can pursue those things, I believe results will come. It’s really our job as coaches to make sure we really work hard at are we achieving our standards.”