Nothing happens easily on offense for the Washington women’s basketball team. The Huskies’ bench offered a regular reminder of that Friday night.
On the floor, the Huskies struggled to find open shots against USC. They would gamely, and patiently, pass the ball around the perimeter, setting screens, rolling, passing, pivoting and waiting … waiting … waiting for a good look at the basket.
Invariably, the 30-second shot clock would tick down, and teammates sitting on the UW bench chirp up with their reminder: “10 … 9 … 8 … 7 …”
Invariably, the Huskies would have to force up a difficult shot just before the shot clock expired.
Not enough of those desperation shots fell Friday night in the Huskies’ 70-59 loss to the Trojans at Alaska Airlines Arena, extending UW’s losing streak to nine games during a rebuilding season under new coach Tina Langley.
Entering Friday, the Huskies ranked 315th in the NCAA — out of 348 teams — in scoring offense, averaging 55.4 points per game.
The Huskies (5-12, 0-9 Pac-12) shot just 36.4% from the field (20 for 55) and 31.6% on three-pointers (6 for 19) on Friday night.
“We’re still a team growing,” Langley said. “… There’s moments when we came out and looked, you know, pretty good. And then there’s moments where we resort back to our habits.”
The offensive issues have been a season-long struggle for the Huskies. But it wasn’t the poor shooting that Langley lamented most after Friday’s loss.
What bothered her was the Huskies’ inability to execute their defensive plan on USC forward Jordyn Jenkins, a Kentridge High School product. In the teams’ first meeting of the season — a 73-66 USC victory in Los Angeles on Jan. 16 — Jenkins was the difference. She scored 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting that night.
She was even better Friday night, posting 29 points and 15 rebounds in 36 minutes. She was 8 for 15 from the floor, 12 for 13 from the free-throw line, and had seven of USC’s 17 offensive rebounds.
Langley had hoped to avoid much of that with a game plan that called for the Huskies to double-team Jenkins in the low post and prevent her from finishing with her right hand.
But that defensive help almost never came.
“She’s a talented player, for sure,” Langley said. “She does such a great job if she can face up and drive it … so we wanted to play her tendencies and double her when she went on her second move. I didn’t think we doubled very well.”
The Trojans (10-12, 3-9 Pac-12) looked on paper like perhaps the Huskies’ last best chance at a Pac-12 regular-season victory. Instead, USC shot 48.3% (14 for 29) in the second half to pull away and snap its seven-game losing skid.
The Huskies started well, building an 11-4 lead on Nancy Mulkey’s three-pointer from the top of the key.
The Huskies were strong defensively early, holding USC to 28% shooting in the first half.
UW led 29-23 at halftime after a T.T. Watkins layup in the closing seconds of the second quarter.
“We had a great week of prep, and I liked what we did in the first half,” Langley said. “I thought we moved the ball really well. And then we started the second half trying to attack inside in the paint (but) obviously had some uncharacteristic moments. … We did allow our (struggles on) offense to dictate our defense, which is uncharacteristic for us.”
USC opened the second half on a 12-4 run, and UW’s Haley Van Dyke tied the score at 35-35 on a layup with 4:24 left in the third quarter.
Things quickly turned for the Huskies after that.
USC closed the third quarter on a 14-5 run to take a 47-40 lead, and that swelled to 55-40 less than two minutes into the fourth quarter after a jump shot from USC’s Jordan Sanders.
In nine conference games, the Huskies have been outscored a combined 134-93 in the fourth quarter.
Lauren Schwartz had 16 points to lead the Huskies. Mulkey had 13 points and five blocks, and Trinity Oliver had 11 points and nine rebounds.