The Huskies were behind by 27 points in the first half and managed to pull within 10 points in the second half but still fell 72-61.
At some point, Washington women’s basketball coach Jody Wynn may look back with fondness on her first game against her mentor Mark Trakh.
Until then, she’ll lament an agonizing slow start Sunday in which UW fell behind by 27 points in the first half and essentially ruined any chance of capturing an upset.
The Huskies outscored USC in the second half and pulled within 10 points, but they couldn’t overcome its huge deficit and lost 72-61 in front of 2,368 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“We rushed and they sped us up,” Wynn said. “They’re physical. They’re athletic. They’re strong. And they forced us into turning the ball over unlike we had all year.
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“We needed to settle down a little bit, play under control and not just pick our dribble up under the pressure we were facing.”
In its previous outing, an 86-69 loss to No. 13 UCLA, the Huskies were undone by a cold-shooting fourth quarter in which they were 0 for 13 on field goals and outscored 24-8.
The offensive drought continued Sunday as UW tallied its third fewest points of the season.
Washington sank just 2 of 16 field goals, including 2-of-11 shooting on three-pointers, in the first quarter and fell behind 22-6.
Wynn had watched similar scoring struggles 48 hours earlier and she tried to shake the Huskies out of their funk with timeouts frequent substitutions.
UW had just eight players due to the absence of freshmen forwards Fapou Semebene (ankle) and Missy Peterson (knee).
Wynn screamed from the bench and slapped both hands on the court in disgust following a three-point air ball.
But nothing seemed to work.
“They defended us,” Wynn said. “They were ready to go. The couple of drives that we get, they’re big and strong and we didn’t get clean looks. We took some threes, but a few of them we were wide open. We just didn’t knock them down. Or we turned it over.”
The Huskies finished with 21 turnovers — one shy of its season high and six more than its average.
Sophomore guard Minyon Moore snatched one of her six steals and delivered to senior guard Sadie Edwards (26 points) for a layup that gave USC a 35-8 lead with 5:42 left in the second quarter.
The Huskies trailed 40-19 at halftime before mounting a second-half comeback. They outscored the Trojans 19-17 in the third and pulled to within 10 points (66-56) when Khayla Rooks buried a three-pointer with 1:50 left.
However, Edwards answered with a dagger three-pointer on the ensuing possession. The Trojans’ senior guard pressed her index finger against her lips as if to quiet the crowd.
The Huskies (7-14, 1-9 Pac-12) never got any closer.
“It’s been that way where there’s always one quarter where we can’t find a way to score and play together,” said sophomore star Amber Melgoza, who finished with a game-high 25 points on 9-for-16 shooting and was the only UW player who scored in double figures.
“We’re a young team,” Melgoza said. “Once we put all of the pieces together in this puzzle, we’re going to be pretty good.”
Wynn won’t soon forget the first game against Trakh, her old high-school coach. She was as assistant on his staffs for 13 years at Pepperdine and USC.
“I’ll always remember that he came in and just punched us in the stomach in that first quarter,” Wynn said. “It was like, OK we’re playing USC. You always remember the first time you play against somebody that you care about.”
Washington plays at Arizona State on Friday.