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Unlikely backcourt duo lead Huskies on road swing

Sophomore Mercedes Wetmore has had to move to the two-guard after Kristi Kingma suffered a preseason injury. Photo by Sang Cho

As one injury after another has sapped the Washington women’s basketball team of its depth, the weight resting on the shoulders of the UW’s starting backcourt of Jazmine Davis and Mercedes Wetmore has grown to anvil-like proportions. With Charmaine Barlow, the UW’s third guard, questionable for the Huskies’ (13-10, 5-8 Pac-12) game against Arizona State (16-8, 7-6) in Tempe, Ariz., with a high-ankle sprain, it may get even heavier.

Back in September, Davis and Wetmore were supposed to be just two pieces of a deep group of guards. Wetmore, a sophomore, was ready to be the UW’s starting point guard, while Davis, a freshman, was more concerned with trying to find her first college classroom.

Then shooting guard Kristi Kingma, the team’s leading returning scorer, was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Two more freshmen followed soon thereafter with season-ending ailments. Before long, Davis and Wetmore found themselves in unexpected positions: Davis as the team’s starting point guard, and Wetmore feeling uncomfortable trying to fill Kingma’s old roll off the ball.

“It was definitely an adjustment,” Wetmore said.

It was an adjustment they made with an ease belying their young ages. Before long, the two had separated themselves from Kellie McCann-Smith to form the UW’s go-to backcourt pairing, a job that has caused them to spend more time on the court than just about anyone in the Pac-12.

In conference play, Wetmore is averaging 36.15 minutes per game and Davis 36, totals that rank fifth and sixth in the Pac-12, respectively.

“Necessity is the mother of invention sometimes, as they say,” UW head coach Kevin McGuff said. “And with Kristi going out, I knew Mercedes would have to play a lot at the two, and so Jazmine would have to play a lot of minutes at the one. So it was almost like this has got to work for us.”

In the UW’s earlier game against the Sun Devils, for example, Wetmore was on the floor for 38 minutes and Davis for 37, while senior center Regina Rogers played a career-high 37 minutes. Down the stretch, the Huskies missed a string of key free throws that could have won them the game — perhaps a coincidence, but perhaps not.

McGuff knows there are risks in playing his young guns for such extended periods of time. Legs wear down. Just as importantly, brains wear down. But it’s a risk he thinks does more good than evil.

“It is what it is,” McGuff said. “I’m not a big believer that kids can’t play that many minutes. They’re energetic, they’re in terrific shape. I think as much as anything it’s a mental thing, and it can catch up to you.”

The first-year head coach thinks last Saturday’s 78-73 loss to Oregon State may have been such an instance.

“Probably part of the Oregon State thing was that we expended a lot of energy against Oregon on Thursday,” he said. “We played really well defensively, and I didn’t really think we had the same energy versus Oregon State. I thought Oregon State had more energy than us, and that was ultimately the difference.”

But back to the benefits. In the hours of court time Davis and Wetmore have now shared, the two have learned to play with one another, building a comfort level and familiarity that, they hope, will terrorize the Pac-12 for years to come.

“It’d just be horrible if it was just this year and then we were done,” Wetmore said. “It’s really nice for us to be so young and have the time to really work into something special.”

Reach reporter Kevin Dowd at sports@dailyuw.com or on Twitter @kevindowd.

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