The goodwill and optimism the Washington women’s basketball team garnered from its long-suffering fans has seemingly evaporated during another long losing streak that has been the hallmark of the Huskies recently.
Since its promising 10-3 start, Washington has lost nine straight games, including three in overtime.
On Friday night, the Huskies dropped another heartbreaker that resembled so many of their setbacks during the skid.
They fell behind by double digits early, made a run in the second half but ultimately came up short at the end in a 74-65 loss to Utah at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“We were right there, but just not close enough,” sophomore forward Haley Van Dyke said. “It happens almost every game. We have it and we’re so close, but we just can’t pull it together. I feel like there’s something missing.
“It’s definitely not effort. We have that. If a few more shots can fall. A few more stops on defense.”
Utah raced to a 15-2 lead at the start and led 23-13 after the first period.
Washington was down by 15 points in the second quarter and trailed 38-25 at halftime before putting together its best stretch in the third, when it outscored Utah 25-16. During the period, the Huskies shot 66.7% (10 of 15) from the field.
Sophomore forward Darcy Rees capped the scoring in the third with a long jumper that trimmed UW’s deficit to 54-50.
But the Huskies couldn’t sustain the momentum in the fourth when Utah pulled ahead by 11 (65-54) with 6:05 left.
Still, Washington didn’t go away quietly.
Freshman center JaQuaya Miller sank a layup and Van Dyke made a three-pointer to pull the Huskies to six points down (65-59) at the 4:59 mark.
“I feel like in the fourth quarter, we always have this really good energy,” Van Dyke said. “We don’t ever give up even if we’re down 10 with 30 seconds left, we always have this really good energy and that’s what we had.”
Trailing 70-64 with less than a minute left, the Huskies had a chance to cut into Utah’s lead, but Missy Peterson lost the ball on a critical turnover with 38 seconds left.
Washington never got closer as Utah finished the game with a 4-1 run.
“Their kids didn’t miss a lot of shots,” UW coach Jody Wynn said while noting Utah’s 44.8 field-goal percentage. “It’s tough to win games when teams are shooting between 6-8 percentage points better than you every night.”
The Utes, the third-best perimeter shooting team in the Pac-12, converted 11 of 27 three-pointers to separate from the Huskies. Washington shot 36.5 percent from the field, including 4 of 17 behind the arc.
“They shot 27 times because they drive, draw and dish and we didn’t contain the basketball and not create so many help-and-recover situations,” Wynn said. “That was the No. 1 key going into the game and the (reason) for the outcome today. Too many help-and-recover situations. They are prolific passers. They find people.”
Sophomore guard Dru Tylten finished with eight of Utah’s 15 assists and tied UW’s assist total.
The Huskies’ latest loss was exceptionally painful considering former Gig Harbor High star Bryanna Maxwell did most of the damage against her hometown team.
The 6-foot freshman guard, who chose Utah over UW, finished with 16 points and seven rebounds – both game highs – while made two three-pointers and collecting two steals.
Senior guard Kiana Moore poured in 11 points off the bench for Utah (11-11, 4-7), which snapped a three-game losing streak.
Amber Melgoza, who left briefly in the third period due to back spasms, led Washington with 15 points while Van Dyke added 12 and Peterson had 10.
Washington (10-12, 2-9), which has lost its eighth game by fewer than 10 points, is 11th in the Pac-12 standings with seven regular-season games remaining.
The Huskies host Colorado on Sunday and need a win to avoid their third double-digit losing streak in as many seasons.
During Wynn’s first season, UW ended the 2017-18 campaign with 11 consecutive defeats and bottomed out at 7-23 overall and 1-17 in the Pac-12.
Last season, the Huskies lost 10 in a row before going 3-3 in the final six games to finish 11-21 overall.
Following Sunday’s game against Colorado, Washington plays at No. 12 Arizona and No. 19 Arizona State next week before home games against USC and No. 10 UCLA.
The Huskies finish the regular season on the road against No. 9 Oregon State and No. 3 Oregon.