Washington was already elated after a needed sweep of the desert schools to remain tied with No. 17 UCLA for third in Pac-12 standings. Now the Huskies are getting national looks by Associated Press reporters.
A panel of 40 vote weekly to determine the top-25 teams in women’s basketball. UW (16-5, 8-2 Pac-12) received four votes. I didn’t make it five because I’m waiting for Friday’s matchup against the Bruins (17-4, 8-2) at Alaska Airlines Arena. UCLA defeated Washington 85-68 at Pauley Pavilion in January.
Washington led at halftime and used a 17-7 run to take a 59-58 lead with 9:30 remaining in the game. UCLA responded with its own 11-2 spurt to prevent UW from getting any closer than five points the remainder of the game. The loss was part of a disappointing road trip, Washington also losing 81-72 at USC (8-13, 5-5).
The Huskies defeated the Bruins 67-59 last season at Hec Ed behind C Regina Rogers’ 22 points and 11 rebounds. PG Jazmine Davis added 18 points.
If UW were to defeat UCLA there’s no question I’d vote for them. I consider my last five spots in the poll “guest appearances” for teams I’m eying to possibly move up. It’s difficult to really see all of the women’s basketball teams due to lack of television coverage compared to the men. The team’s I have in those slots this week all have RPI’s higher than Washington in Wisconsin-Green Bay (19), Villanova (14), Pacific (28) and Michigan (39) — although I have seen those teams play.
UW’s RPI jumped from 62 last week to 52 after the desert sweep of Arizona (11-10, 3-7) and Arizona State (11-11, 3-7), deserving of consideration. But the soft schedule, especially a nonconference flop at home against UC Santa Barbara (9-12, 5-4 Big West), keeps them out despite No. 21 Colorado (16-5, 5-5) having a worse conference record than UW. In fact, the Huskies have a three-game edge on the Buffs in conference standings.
What’s changed with UW? First, coach Kevin McGuff is a great coach. He’s only playing one player in G Heather Corral (18.8 minutes) who originally committed to him. The other in Danish freshman C Mathilde Gilling is averaging just 6.8 minutes.
Then there’s the emergence of redshirt freshman F Talia Walton, who averaged 17.2 points and 9.2 rebounds during the six-game win streak. Redshirt senior G Kristi Kingma’s leadership and timely shots also can’t be overlooked.
But the biggest difference lately is Washington cutting its turnovers down. It totaled 10 last weekend. Washington had 19 alone in the loss to UCLA. If Washington can continue to limit the mistakes and not have many shooting lulls, that NCAA tournament goal could be achieved. Maybe even a top-25 appearance.
UW hasn’t been ranked since 2003. And it’ll be tough to get more voters on board. UW’s final stretch is tough, facing Colorado on the road and hosting No. 4 Stanford (20-2, 9-1) and No. 6 Cal (19-2, 9-1). The Huskies haven’t defeated the Cardinal since the 2005-06 season. The 77-72 final at Hec Ed is also the last time UW beat Stanford period.
The Huskies swept the Bears during the 2010-11 regular season, losing 58-48 in the Pac-12 tournament.
Elsewhere, Washington State is rallying despite losing sophomore PG Tia Presley due to a torn ACL in her right knee. The Cougs also swept the Arizona schools to improve to 8-13, 4-6. G Lia Galdeira was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week, averaging 20.5 points and 7 steals in WSU’s first road sweep since its 1994-95 season.
Presley, a starter, had just returned from a season-ending foot injury last year.
UW helped send Oregon State on a tumble. The Beavers (9-13, 3-7) are on a four-game losing streak, not that many expected them to beat the Card and Bears.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, who has coached 27 seasons in the Pac-12, won her 400th conference game against Oregon (3-19, 1-9) on Friday. Second-year Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb collected her 100th career win against Oregon on Sunday.