The shot fake got the UCLA defender off her feet, freeing up Washington’s Lauren Schwartz for an open three-point attempt from the right arc.
Schwartz didn’t hesitate. She shot the three, she made the three, giving the Huskies the lead late in the second quarter. UCLA called an immediate timeout, and Schwartz and teammate Missy Peterson met at midcourt with a leaping chest bump.
In a lost season for the UW women’s basketball team, it was a moment to celebrate — the kind of moment first-year coach Tina Langley wants to accentuate as the Huskies close out a difficult rebuilding season.
The Huskies again played a quality first half Sunday afternoon — led by a dramatic improvement in their outside shooting — but a familiar script unfolded in the second half as UCLA rallied for a 69-61 victory at Alaska Airlines Arena.
The Huskies (5-13, 0-10 Pac-12) remain winless in conference play, with four Pac-12 regular-season games remaining.
Despite the results, Langley said she is seeing progress as she implements her system and her culture.
“I’m honestly, truthfully, very encouraged about what we do each game — there’s growth each game,” Langley said. “I know that’s hard, maybe, sometimes for everyone to see. But when you’re new at everything — new offense, new defense, new personnel — it just takes a while to keep learning. So I’m really proud of our continued work ethic, growth and commitment to the process that the young ladies have really committed to.
“We just have to remember that our job (as coaches) is to teach, to mentor and to keep helping us be the best team that we can be by the end of the season.”
The three-point shooting was a tangible example of that Sunday.
Over the past couple weeks, Langley said she has dedicated more time to shooting drills, and the Huskies responded with their best three-point shooting performance of the season. UW came into Sunday shooting just 31% on three-point shots and they were averaging 4.6 made threes per game, both of which ranked last in the Pac-12.
They finished 11 for 17 from three-point range Sunday, a season high in makes and percentage (65%).
Haley Van Dyke was 3 for 3 on three-pointers in the first half and Schwartz made both of her three-point attempts. UW was 8 for 11 from deep in the first half en route to a 37-32 halftime lead.
“We have changed our practice a little bit and really increased some shooting drills,” Langley said. “So I did expect that it would slowly help our percentages — maybe not quite the way it did dramatically in the first half, which was really fun to see. But I think this team continues to understand that the more we focus on something and work on it, you know, we can continue to improve.
“And credit to them that they continue to show up every day and keep going to work, and we keep getting better.”
The torrid shooting didn’t last in the second half.
Van Dyke opened the third quarter with a strong drive and a finish to extend UW’s lead to 39-32, but the Huskies then went eight minutes without a field goal.
By then, UCLA had turned its seven-point deficit into a 47-41 lead.
The game took on a similar rhythm as so many of UW’s games this season. They start with good energy early, particularly with a strong man-to-man defense, but the Huskies can’t sustain the energy on either end late.
The Huskies did keep things within reach in the fourth quarter. Trinity Oliver’s three-pointer with 5:05 left got the Huskies within 58-53, but they couldn’t get any closer.
The Huskies committed 17 turnovers, which turned into 23 points for UCLA. That was largely the difference in the game. (UW, by comparison, scored eight points off UCLA’s six turnovers.)
“Yeah, we’re hungry, but I think at this point, with where we’re at, it’s just about trusting the process and really staying together,” senior center Nancy Mulkey said. “Coach really makes an emphasis on not like looking at our wins-and-loss column, as well as the scoreboard. It’s just really about trusting the process and trusting each other — and it’ll come.”
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