The final buzzer sounded and the Huskies raced to midcourt, meeting there — and midair — for a round of flying chest bumps, hugs and high-fives.
They had much to celebrate.
Lauren Schwartz scored 10 points in the final three minutes, and the Washington women’s basketball team rallied from an early double-digit deficit to knock off Arizona State, 74-69, and win its first Pac-12 Conference game of the season Sunday afternoon at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“We can’t stop smiling,” senior guard Missy Peterson said later.
The win snapped UW’s 11-game losing streak and was the first Pac-12 victory for first-year coach Tina Langley.
The game marked an emotional send-off for the team’s two seniors, Nancy Mulkey and Peterson, playing in their final home game. They were honored during a pregame Senior Day ceremony.
And it was, they hope, the start of a sendup for a program stuck in the Pac-12 basement for the past five years.
“These young ladies have earned the belief in themselves,” Langley said. “They work really, really hard every day.”
Schwartz, a sophomore forward, broke a 62-62 tie with a tough up-and-under layup with 1:28 left. On UW’s next possession, she hit a long jump shot from the top of the key to extend UW’s lead to 66-62.
The Huskies (6-14, 1-11 Pac-12) then hit all eight of their free throws in the final 35.8 seconds. Freshman Jayda Noble, wiping off blood from her bottom lip from a hit to the face, sank two of those free throws with 28.1 seconds.
There have been occasions this season when the Huskies have been able to hang tight with top-flight teams into the fourth quarter — notably Friday night against No. 8 Arizona — but couldn’t find a way to close them out.
They finally did Sunday afternoon, relying on a stout defense that held Arizona State to 40.3% shooting from the field.
“We were a really special group at the end, and you could go through the roster and … I think every one of them really contributed in a special way today,” Langley said.
The Huskies were 12 for 12 on free throws in the fourth quarter and 17 for 19 in the game. They shot 52% from the field (26 for 50).
“I think (about) just how much we stayed together, and we believed in each other,” Peterson said. “I think that’s what made it feel so good. Being on Senior Day obviously was great … but just the way we fought for each other and played for each other was what I love the most about it, and it made the win so much more fun.”
Schwartz scored 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting, and Haley Van Dyke had 18 points and seven rebounds. Mulkey had 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting, and Noble scored a season-high 10 points.
The Huskies built their largest lead at 54-47 when Noble caught up to a long lead pass from Trinity Oliver and made a layup just before the buzzer sounded at the end of the third quarter. Noble was fouled on the play and converted her free throw with 0.1 seconds left to give the Huskies a seven-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
“She’s got unlimited potential,” Langley said of Noble. “We see that her toughness, her willingness to do whatever is required of her on the floor, is really neat to me. She had several late-game screens that were really important. She obviously got hit in the face, and there were just a lot of ‘toughness’ moments, and I think she’s started to recognize the player she can be on both ends of the floor.”
The Huskies rallied from a 10-point deficit early in the second quarter to take a 29-28 lead on a Van Dyke layup with 1:30 left in the second quarter. ASU led 33-31 at halftime.
Arizona State’s Jaddan Simmons banked in a long three-pointer with 14.4 seconds left to get the Sun Devils (12-12, 4-7) within one at 70-69.
Schwartz then swished her next two free throws, and ASU’s Jade Loville, a Skyline High product, missed a potential tying three-pointer in the closing seconds.
“Through this journey there has never been a feel-sorry-for-you (moment) that impacted our ability to work,” Langley said. “Sure, you’re disappointed, but their character is exceptional. And that’s laying a foundation that you cannot break in the future.
“So I’m very excited for them to get to celebrate. I don’t think there’s anything we wanted more than to see them smile and celebrate.”