Defense redeems Huskies in weekend's second game

Head coach Kevin McGuff didn’t mince words when describing his team’s effort against UC Santa Barbara on Saturday. He said his Huskies came out with poor focus and suffered mental breakdowns that resulted in Washington’s first home loss this season.

Just 24 hours later, the Huskies had their coach singing a different song.

In the second part of a weekend back-to-back, the Huskies (7-2) quickly reheated after a cold shooting night against the Gauchos in rolling to a 62-48 win over Idaho (3-7) on Sunday at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

“I especially liked [that] we had the focus that we lacked the day before,” McGuff said. “Overall, we had much better concentration and energy. The defense was better and the rebounding was better. [We] started with a lot more focus and [that] gave us a chance to figure out how we want to play the game from the get-go.”

The UW’s suffocating defense held the Vandals to 18.2 percent shooting from the field in the second half. Their final 27.1-percent mark was a season-worst for a UW opponent, and the Huskies’ 22 forced turnovers tied for their second-most in a game this season.

The Huskies were unable to solve all of their problems on the other end of the court. They shot a season-low 21.3 percent against Santa Barbara and were only marginally better against the Vandals, going 21-of-75 to finish at 28 percent from the field.

The most striking deficiency for the Huskies, though, was their lack of ball movement. While the UW runs a dribble-drive offense that is typically reliant conducive to tallying assists and distributing the ball, the Huskies collected only 10 assists in their two games this weekend.

Entering Sunday, the Huskies ranked dead last in the Pac-12 in assists, averaging 11 per game. They had only six against the Vandals.

“With the offense, in the last two days, we haven’t been passing and cutting and moving the ball around,” McGuff said. “We’ve been standing around too much.”

Still, the UW offense started Sunday’s first half hot, hitting consecutive 3-pointers. But it cooled quickly, as the Huskies made just one of their next 14 shots.

What the UW lacked on offense it made up with defense.

Showing the kind of hustle that was notably absent in the loss to the Gauchos on Saturday, the Huskies forced 14 first-half turnovers, which lead directly to 14 points. Sophomore Aminah Williams led the charge with six steals, matching her career-high set against Portland last season.

The Huskies ended the first half with a 10-2 run in which they forced six turnovers and went into halftime with a 29-22 lead.

The UW forced a turnover to end the first half and started the second period the same way. The Huskies kept the defense coming all the way to the final whistle.

Jazmine Davis led all scorers with 19 points. Kristi Kingma and Williams each collected 14 rebounds, with the latter adding 12 points to record her fourth double-double of the season.

“Aminah’s definitely our spark, our starting spark,” Davis said. “She likes to hustle. She makes hustle plays. She’s really crafty with her hands, really scrappy with her hands, and that’s what we get out of it. When she really wants to do it, she’ll do it every time.”

Less than 24 hours after their most disappointing shooting night of the season, the Huskies bounced back in a big way and showed their coach something he had been waiting to see all season.

“I like our competitive character, because with a poor performance yesterday, it would have been easy to wallow in our pity and be down,” McGuff said. “But we came out with the right energy and the right attitude and the right effort, and that’s a tribute to our players.”

Reach reporter Thuc Nhi Nguyen at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @thucnhi21


Please read our Comment policy.