Amber Melgoza had one of the best games of her great Husky career, and still it didn’t matter in the end.
The Huskies overcame a 13-point deficit in the final 3:11 of regulation, and that ended up not mattering either.
That’s because California somehow regrouped after giving up a big lead in regulation, winning 81-74 in overtime Sunday at Alaska Airlines Arena in a battle of the bottom two teams in the conference.
That the Huskies didn’t win was certainly no fault of Melgoza, who had 35 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals. It was the second-highest scoring game of her career and she became the 13th UW player to surpass 1,500 career points.
Never was she better than at the end of regulation, when she scored 11 points during the Huskies’ 16-3 run in the final 3:11 of the fourth quarter.
But in the overtime, Cal (9-12, 1-9 Pac-12) got inside for layup after layup to win its first Pac-12 game of the season. The Huskies (10-11, 2-8) meanwhile, lost their eighth straight game since winning 67-64 at Cal on Jan. 3.
UW coach Jody Wynn was very disappointed that Melgoza was not rewarded with a team win, after she rebounded so strongly after a scoreless performance against Stanford on Friday.
“One thing I will celebrate — and I hope you guys write about – is the comeback that Amber had from one game to the next,” Wynn said. “Here was a kid who was highly frustrated Friday night … and she was so resilient and a true competitor in every sense of the word. She was a warrior today.”
But she didn’t get much help, and the last-place Bears finally had a reason to celebrate after a dreadful month.
The Bears, after putting up a fight in the three-point loss to UW a month ago, had lost their next eight by an average of 25.3 points, with their closest margin of defeat being nine points.
They played scared at the end of regulation when Melgoza took over the game, and it would have been a fitting end had her off-balance three-pointer at the buzzer gone in.
But it didn’t. Cal then scored the first four points of the overtime and UW never recovered.
“It’s frustrating, because we want to win,” Melgoza said. “But we played hard and we came back.”
Just like Melgoza came back from her previous game, when she was 0 for 8 from the field.
“I was very frustrated with what happened Friday, so I took that frustration out today,” Melgoza said.
Washington never led in the game. Cal took a 22-14 lead after the first quarter, making 8 of 14 shots (57 percent).
It got even worse for UW in the second quarter, as it took more than half the period before it finally scored.
By the time Melgoza scored for UW with 4:30 left in the second quarter, Cal had taken a 17-point lead. That was also the Bears’ advantage at halftime, leading 39-22.
The Huskies looked like a different team in the second half, playing with much more intensity. Darcy Rees started the half with a three-pointer, then scored inside on UW’s next possession. Less than a minute into the quarter, the Huskies had cut their deficit to 12 points.
The momentum stalled, but a three-point play by JaQuaya Miller in the final second of the third quarter cut Cal’s lead to 11 points at 52-41 entering the final quarter.
The Bears appeared to have the game won when they held a 64-51 lead before Melgoza took over in the final 3:11 in regulation.
Wynn said it is imperative to get more support for Melgoza to end this tough run. This loss particularly stung.
“This was very disappointing, not just for Amber, but for the entire program,” Wynn said.