The Washington Huskies women’s basketball program is in a midst of a resurgence under second year head coach Kevin McGuff. The Huskies, who have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2007, started off a key four-game road trip with a 97-71 victory over Oregon on Feb. 15.
With the victory over Oregon, Washington improved to 17-7 overall and 10-3 in the Pac-12. The Huskies are currently tied for third place in the conference standing with UCLA (19-5, 10-3), which fell to California (76-63) on Feb. 15. Those two schools trail Pac-12 co-leaders Stanford (23-2, 12-1) and Cal (22-2, 12-1) by two games in the standings.
Washington was led Kristi Kingma, who set a Pac-12 record for three-pointers in a game, in their victory over Oregon (3-22, 1-12). Kingma connected on 11-of-17 shots beyond the arc and scored a career-high 35 points. She shot 12-of-19 from the floor to go along with six rebounds, two assists and two steals. Kingma leads the Pac-12 conference with 76 treys.
As a team, the Huskies knocked down 18 triples (43.9 percent) and shot 35-of-83 from the field for the game. Heather Corral, who finished with a career-high 16 points, was 4-of-10 from behind the three-point line while Talia Walton made two treys and Jazmine Davis had one three-pointer.
Walton, Davis and Aminah Williams each contributed 12 points for Washington. Williams also grabbed 11 rebounds to post her ninth double-double of the season while Davis dished out nine assists and Mercedes Wetmore had six assists to go along with just one turnover.
Washington led 47-30 at halftime as Davis poured in 11 points and Kingma knocked down five three-pointers in the first 20 minutes. The Huskies then came out of halftime on fire as they scored 50 points in the second half for the second time this season.
Washington is now 37-20 since McGuff took over the program prior to last season. The Huskies went a combined 45-75 in the four season prior to McGuff’s arrival.
After having using an offense that centered around post play last season, McGuff had to switch strategies this season as the Huskies are grossly undersized compared to most Pac-12 teams. Washington has made up for their lack of height by being one of the best three-point shooting teams in the nation. The Huskies lead the Pac-12 and is 10th in the nation with 8.7 three-pointers a game. Washington also leads the conference in three-point shooting (34.7 percent) as well as in turnover margin (plus 5.75) and is second in the conference in three-point defense (27.3 percent).
Davis, the 2011-12 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, leads the Huskies with 19.5 points a game – good for second in the conference. But it has been the emergence of Walton and the return of Kingma that has been behind the Huskies increased scoring. Washington is averaging 68.4 points a game on the season but has increased their scoring to 72.4 points a game since conference play began.
Walton (14.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 47 blocks) redshirted last year while Kingma (14.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 55 assists) missed all of last season with a torn ACL.
The Huskies use a seven person rotation and also get major contributions from Williams (9.3 points and 10.9 rebounds a game), Wetmore (7.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 95 assists) and Corral (4.8 points and 2.3 rebounds). Wetmore tops the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.02).
Washington is at Oregon State (9-16, 3-10) on Feb. 18, at Utah (14-10, 5-8) on Feb. 22 and at Colorado (19-5, 8-5) on Feb. 24. The Huskies will finish the regular season at home against fourth-ranked Stanford (Feb.25) and sixth-ranked Cal (March 2).
Washington is 10-2 on the season at the Alaska Airlines Arena and 8-4 away from home. The Huskies are 1-0 against the five teams remaining on their schedule, having defeated Oregon State 81-77 in overtime on Jan. 25.
So can the Huskies make the tournament this season?
With just five games in the regular season remaining, Washington still has a lot of work to do as their RPI is only the 70th best in the nation and their schedule is rated as the 157th toughest. How the Huskies perform in the final five games of the season will go a long ways in determining whether they get invited to the “Big Dance”.
The Huskies should receive a boost in the RPI as they play three teams ranked in the top-30 of the RPI prior to the end of the season. Stanford is ranked third, California is fifth and Colorado is 27th in the RPI rankings.
Washington is 3-2 against teams currently ranked in the RPI top-100. The Huskies have top-100 victories over St. Mary’s, Wisconsin and UCLA. They have lost to Georgia Tech and UCLA.
If the Huskies are to make a serious run at a NCAA Tournament bid, they will have to shore up their defense as well as rebound better. Washington’s defense has given up 63 points a game this season but has been worse against conference foes surrendering 67.7 points a contest (third most in the conference). The Huskies have given up over 70 points seven times this season.
Washington is last in the conference in rebounding margin as they are getting outrebounded by 13.0 boards a game.
– The 97 points Washington scored against Oregon is a season-high.
– The Huskies, who have not been ranked since late in the 2003 season, have received votes in the AP Top 25 the past two weeks. They are currently on a two-game winning streak.
– Freshman Katie Collier, a 2012 McDonald’s All-American, has missed the entire season due to a torn ligament in her knee that she suffered at the beginning of the year.
-Washington made six NCAA Tournaments from 1997-to-2007 and was one win away from reaching the Final Four in 2001.