The No. 11 seed Washington women’s basketball team’s run in the Pac-12 Tournament ended in Thursday night’s quarterfinals following a 58-46 loss to No. 3 UCLA at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas.
However, it remains to be seen if the Huskies have played their last game of an unconventional season.
Washington (7-14) is vying for a spot in the Postseason WNIT, which selects contestants on March 15 for the 32-team tournament that’s scheduled to begin March 19 with eight teams in four regional sites.
“Our team wants to play,” coach Jody Wynn said. “They were the only team in this conference that opted in to keep playing if we could on Saturday. They want to play. I know their bodies are hurting tonight so we’ll have to re-evaluate.
“But they love each other. They enjoy coming to practice. They enjoy working. They want to keep playing for as long as they can play. So, I’ll rock with those women any day.”
If the Huskies don’t capture a WNIT berth, then their two-day stay in Las Vegas will be remembered as the best parts of an unprecedented season played during a pandemic.
Following a 68-54 upset win over No. 6 Colorado in Wednesday’s opener, Washington got off to slow start for a second straight night and trailed 22-10 in the first quarter.
Down 25-10 early in the second period, Washington scored 13 unanswered points to pull within two points (25-23) after Quay Miller converted a short jumper with 4:14 left before halftime.
The Huskies went into the break trailing 30-25, but they established a frenetic pace in the first half in which both teams committed 12 turnovers.
Miller scored 12 of her game-high 19 points in the first half and finished with seven rebounds, two steals and a block in 36 minutes.
“Something that isn’t talked about is the fact that Quay Miller is turning into one of the best defensive post players in this conference,” Wynn said noting Miller’s defensive performance against UCLA’s Michaela Onyenwere (12 points) and Colorado’s Mya Hollingshed (16 points). “She not only scored the ball tonight and did a good job on the glass, but in back-to-back games she did a really nice job on two future WNBA draft choices.
“As a sophomore, she’s shown tremendous growth on both sides of the ball. She gave everything she could tonight.”
Miller led the UW offensively in the first half before Sadler took over the scoring load while tallying eight of her 12 points in the third quarter.
Sadler drilled a three-pointer with 7:14 left in the third that gave Washington its first lead at 35-34.
However, the short-handed Huskies went into the fourth quarter trailing 42-39 and was outscored 16-7 the rest of the way.
Washington had difficulty initiating offense without leading scorer Haley Van Dyke, who did not play in the second half due to head injury. The junior forward finished with just two points after scoring 18 the previous day in the tournament opener.
“Haley has led us all year long,” Wynn said. “She’s led us from the moment she showed up on campus in the fall with conditioning. She’s one of our most experience players. That was a big blow when she went down and wasn’t able to come back on the court with us and fight with us. That kind of rattled us a little bit, but then at the same time it kind of brought us together.
“You saw a group of women band together and said we’re not going to lay down. It’s unfortunate that Haley went down, but we’re confident that she’s going to be OK in time.”
Without Van Dyke, Washington relied heavily on Miller and Sadler who combined to account for 17 of the Huskies’ 21 points in the second half and all of their scoring in the fourth quarter.
In the previous meeting with UCLA, Washington lost 84-50 on Feb. 7 at Alaska Airlines Arena while committing a season-high tying 22 turnovers.
On Thursday, the Huskies had 23 turnovers while forcing the Bruins into 19.
“That was the difference in the game,” Wynn said lamenting UW’s sloppy ball handling and 39.6% shooting on field goals.
The Huskies held the Bruins 16 points below their scoring average and just 2 of 18 on three-pointers, but the fourth quarter proved to be the difference when UCLA converted 7 of 13 field goals while UW was 2 of 12.
“Their defense turned up a little bit more and I think it just rattled us a little bit,” Miller said. “They got the ball out of our hands a few too many times and that set the difference between the fourth quarter and the rest of the game.”
UCLA (15-4), which received 12 points from all-Pac-12 guard Charisma Osborne, advanced to face No. 2 Arizona in the semifinals on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Huskies are hoping to play another game.
“For the most part, we were fortunate to play a season,” Miller said. “I know (some) schools weren’t even able to have a season. Being able to get through this season with COVID was big for us. For the most part it brought us together even more.”