Pac-12 tourney slumping Huskies’ last chance
Kristi Kingma’s shot hasn’t been falling during the UW’s current four-game losing streak.
Kristi Kingma’s shot hasn’t been falling during the UW’s current four-game losing streak.Photo by Joshua Bessex
Inside an empty gym, Kristi Kingma watched an orange basketball snap through a white nylon net. It was just her in a quiet room, watching her shot sink through the basket again and again. It was simple, but it was everything she needed.
It’s also a sight the UW hasn’t seen enough of lately.
The jumpshot that makes Kingma one of the most dangerous players in the Pac-12 has been up and down this year. It peaked in the UW’s thrashing of Oregon five weeks ago, when the fifth-year senior made a conference-record 11 3-pointers. It’s struggled in every game since, just like the UW’s offense as a whole.
The Huskies (19-10, 11-7 Pac-12) averaged 70.6 points per game in the first 24 contests of the season. Entering Thursday’s Pac-12 tournament opener against Oregon at 8:30 p.m. at Key Arena, the UW is amid a four-game losing streak and a five-game stretch in which they’ve averaged 48.8 points per game.
Along with low scoring numbers, the UW’s assists have plummeted (6.2 assists per game in the previous five games) while turnovers have spiked (11.6 per game). With all these numbers moving in the wrong direction, the Huskies are focused on one thing: getting their swagger back.
“Basketball’s a game of confidence,” Kingma said. “It’s a game of runs and momentum, and if you for one second think you’re going to miss a shot, you’re going to miss it. You need to build up that confidence, and I think that goes for all of us who have been in a shooting slump.”
Many of the UW’s offensive struggles in the past five games can be traced back to its tough schedule, which featured three ranked opponents. No. 18 Colorado edged the Huskies in Boulder, Colo., and kept a lid on leading scorer Jazmine Davis, who only totaled nine points in that game. No. 4 Stanford kept the Huskies to season-low 16.9 percent shooting from the field, while No. 5 California dominated down low in a 28-point thrashing.
But it wasn’t all about the opponents. With their eyes on an NCAA tournament bid, the Huskies fell short in the most-critical moments of the season. Heading into the Pac-12 tournament, they’re looking for redemption.
“We’re definitely upset that we lost four games that may have cost us that opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament,” junior Mercedes Wetmore said. “But we still have basketball games to play and we still have our pride, and we just have to come in with a lot of heart and find a way.”
Kingma calls Wetmore the engine of the UW offense. The junior from Lake Tapps, Wash., leads the Pac-12 in assist-to-turnover ratio, and she had a run of six spectacular games in which she dished out 31 assists and committed eight turnovers that coincided with a six-game win streak.
That win streak was characterized by an up-tempo offense, stingy defense, and a barrage of 3-pointers. Those are the things head coach Kevin McGuff says makes the UW special. But the biggest thing that defines Husky basketball has been missing from the last few games: heart.
“I really feel like we displayed a poor effort [last weekend],” Wetmore said. “[Husky basketball] is finding a way and playing with grit and passion. We need to find ways to do the intangibles.”
Reach reporter Thuc Nhi Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @thucnhi21
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