The Tina Langley era with the Washington women’s basketball team began Friday night with a dominant defensive performance in a 57-51 nonconference victory over San Diego in front of 1,341 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
The Huskies, who squandered most of their 14-point, fourth-quarter lead and led by just three points with 1:36 left, held the Toreros scoreless the rest of the way to escape with a win.
“This team has been locked into defense the last couple of weeks and really improved in so many areas,” Langley said. “That’s probably the thing we’re most excited about right now as a team and staff. That time really showed today I thought on the court.”
Langley, UW’s new coach, won her first game with the Huskies, which is something her five previous predecessors (Jody Wynn, Mike Neighbors, Kevin McGuff, Tia Jackson and June Daugherty) could not do. Chris Gobrecht was the last UW coach to capture a win their first Husky game, in 1985.
Admittedly, Langley wasn’t entirely sure how the Huskies would fare in their season opener considering a revamped UW squad that finished 7-14 last season was incorporating new offensive and defensive schemes along with three new starters.
“I’m so proud of this team,” Langley said. “We’ve come in and we put in a new offense and different defensive schemes. Every single thing that we put in is brand new and so as we continue to learn about one another and get our press breaks in and have some time together, I expect that we will be very efficient offensively and defensively.
“But we’ve got to continue to get to know each other and work together.”
At times, Washington’s defense looked as if it was in midseason form while holding San Diego, which beat Hawaii 86-53 in its season opener, to just 28.1% shooting from the field. UW also outrebounded USD 44-32.
And at other times, the Huskies struggled to advance the ball against San Diego’s stifling full-court press that forced 36 turnovers, which led to 28 points. When the Huskies did break the initial pressure, oftentimes they played too fast and out of control, which resulted in an errant shot or unforced turnover.
“It was overwhelming to say the least,” said senior center Nancy Mulkey, who finished with six points and five blocks, when asked about the Toreros’ press. “Us sticking together got us through that adversity.”
The Huskies had just one fast-break basket in the first half – a gorgeous full-court pass from Missy Peterson that connected with T.T. Watkins on a full sprint for a layup.
But when UW settled into its half-court offense, Haley Van Dyke, Lauren Schwartz and Peterson were effective at getting in the paint on dribble drives for short jumpers or layups.
Peterson, who sat out last season due to an ACL injury, scored a game-high 13 points while Van Dyke finished with a dubious triple-double – 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 turnovers.
“We don’t want to talk about that,” Van Dyke said, smiling. “It’s a double-double and I’m pretty excited about that first one. … But I’ll fix that other one.”
When the Toreros seemingly had everyone defended, Peterson tossed a high-arching inbounds pass from the baseline to Mulkey, who rose out of a crowd and tipped the ball into the basket to beat the shot-clock buzzer and give UW a 28-25 lead at halftime.
The Huskies took control of the game in the third quarter, which began with an 11-2 run to go up 39-27. Washington outscored San Diego 18-5 in the period to take a 46-30 lead into the fourth.
That’s when the Toreros dialed up the intensity on their press, which forced 12 turnovers that cut into UW’s lead. After Washington’s five-second violation, Amanda Olinger drained an open three-pointer that pulled San Diego to within 52-47 with 3:46 left.
USD guard Erica Martinsen (11 points) drained two free throws, which narrowed Washington’s lead to 54-51 with 1:36 left.
The Huskies, who were outscored 21-11 in the fourth quarter, didn’t allow the Toreros a point on their final four offensive trips.
“The whole time, we kind of knew we had it,” Van Dyke said. “We stayed composed the whole time and we didn’t get down on ourselves or give up at all. Even when they cut the lead to three points, we still stuck with it. Kind of just reassured each other and said, ‘Nope, we got this.’ And it ended up working out for us.”
- UW senior forward Darcy Rees did not play due to an undisclosed injury.