The Huskies jump on Colorado early for their first Pac-12 victory in 51 weeks.
The effort had been there. For Jody Wynn, that had been reason enough to be encouraged about a potential breakthrough for her Washington women’s basketball team.
Friday night, the Huskies finally had ample reason to celebrate.
The Huskies used a fast start and an aggressive defense to defeat Colorado, 68-58, at Alaska Airlines Arena for their first Pac-12 Conference victory of the season — matching their conference win total from all of last season.
“We will celebrate every win, because winning at this level is really, really difficult,” said Wynn, the Huskies’ second-year coach.
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Amber Melgoza had 15 points to lead a balanced scoring attack for the Huskies, who snapped a five-game losing streak and improved to 8-8 overall and 1-3 in the Pac-12. It’s the Huskies’ first conference victory in 51 weeks, since defeating Washington State on Jan. 21, 2018.
Missy Peterson had 11 points, freshman T.T. Watkins had 10 and Haley Van Dyke added nine for the Huskies.
“Getting this win will only build our confidence, and it’s only up from here,” Melgoza said.
Watkins came off the bench early and scored seven of the Huskies’ first nine points, helping Washington build a 13-2 lead in the game’s first four minutes.
The Huskies shot 58 percent (11 for 19) in the first quarter, and on the first sequence of the second quarter, Van Dyke ripped the ball away for a steal on the defensive end and threw a pass ahead to Melgoza for an easy layup to give the Huskies a 15-point lead.
An improved start had been a point of emphasis this week for Wynn and the Huskies, who struggled out of the blocks in their last four losses.
“We jumped on them right away, and that is something we’ve been struggling with a lot,” Melgoza said.
Last weekend, their first conference road trip of the season, the Huskies rallied after sluggish starts to put a late scare into both No. 5 Oregon and No. 11 Oregon State. In both games, the Huskies’ comeback bid came up short, but it was enough to convince Wynn that a breakthrough was coming.
“We weren’t hootin’ and hollerin’,” she said of the Oregon trip, “but what we did celebrate was our effort and for us to be in that game in that atmosphere against that quality (of opponents), to give ourselves a fighting chance to pull off an upset.”
The Huskies had 11 steals Friday and held Colorado to 38.6 percent shooting.
Washington led by as many as 16 points in the fourth quarter.
Colorado (10-5, 0-4) never led and remains winless in the Pac-12. The Buffaloes played without their leading scorer, senior guard Kennedy Leonard, who is out with an undisclosed injury.
The Huskies will try for a weekend sweep Sunday afternoon against Utah.
“(The victory is) really important for this team, to continue to work hard,” Wynn said. “Wins in this league are very, very difficult to get. For us, sometimes we celebrate losses because we don’t always measure our success based on that scoreboard. With our team for the last year, this year, we have to measure our success by our effort and not necessarily always our performance. But to get wins, you have to have effort combined with performance.”