The Huskies didn’t finish.
That’s the best way to explain how the Washington women’s basketball team blew a 16-point lead early in the fourth quarter and suffered a heartbreaking 64-62 defeat on Tulane’s last-second game-winner Sunday.
“It’s tough,” coach Jody Wynn said. “This one hurts.”
The pain was visible on the faces of the UW players and coaching staff in the aftermath of a colossal fourth-quarter collapse in front of 1,239 spectators at Alaska Airlines Arena on Sunday.
Washington fell behind for the first time in the second half after junior guard Kaila Anderson sank two free throws to put Tulane up 61-60.
The Green Wave led 62-60 when Mai-Loni Henson tied the score for UW on a contested layup with five seconds left.
Then at the other end, Arsula Clark blew past Henson at the top of the key and sailed over two defenders for a g0-ahead layup with 0.5 seconds left.
“We were trying to contain and we didn’t contain the ball well enough,” Wynn said. “She went downhill on us all night.
“We needed to slow her down before she got inside the three-point line … forcing her to beat us from the perimeter and it just didn’t happen.”
Washington, which led for 31 minutes, went up 18 points (51-33) with 1:50 remaining in the third quarter after a pair of free throws from touted freshman center JaQuaya Miller, who made her UW debut.
The Huskies were ahead 55-39 with 7:45 left when momentum began to shift.
Suddenly, Washington couldn’t score and Tulane couldn’t miss.
The Green Wave sank 10 of 13 shots from the field and 3 of 3 behind the arc in the fourth quarter. The Huskies were 5 of 17 from the floor and 0 for 3 from deep in the fourth.
“We were a little too comfortable with our lead and as they started catching up they’re hitting big shots and they’re executing,” said junior guard Missy Peterson, who finished with a team-high 15 points including three three-pointers. “From there we’re playing not to lose versus playing to win.
“With that mindset it’s easy for them to attack us and for us to fall back on our heels. We were laid back. We weren’t as aggressive on defense. We were trying to play it safe.”
It took the Green Wave less than four minutes to cut its 16-point deficit to six (58-52) with a 13-3 run capped by a three-pointer from junior guard Sierra Cheatham with 3:30 left.
At that point, the Huskies were in desperation mode.
“They rattled us,” Wynn said when asked about Tulane’s full-court press that forced five turnovers in the fourth quarter. “They kicked up the intensity and we were playing not to lose.”
When the Huskies were able to beat Tulane’s press, they missed layups and open jumpers early in the shot clock.
Usually senior guard Amber Melgoza takes over in these situations, but UW’s leading scorer the past two seasons had an off night and finished with seven points on 3-for-14 shooting.
“She missed some shots today, but the beauty of a team is when someone misses others step up,” Wynn said. “We just needed other kids to step up.”
Peterson was the only UW player scoring in double figures, while Tulane was led offensively by junior guard Clark’s game-high 18 points and Cheatham, who finished with 16 points, 15 on three-pointers.
Clark and Cheatham combined for 23 of Tulane’s 27 points in the fourth.
Washington, which was outscored 25-7 in the final eight minutes, has to recover quickly before playing Weber State at home Wednesday.
“For us, it’s taking care of business the next game and not thinking about if (the defeat Sunday) is going to hurt us or not hurt us,” Wynn said. “We just got to take care of business the next time we can take the court. … We’re not quitters.”