There’s been a lot of talk about defense around the Washington camp this week. The Huskies host Portland at Edmundson Pavilion at 7 p.m. on Friday. The Pilots aren’t a deadly scoring team, averaging 64.1 points on 38.9 percent shooting. But they do like to pop the three-pointer, making 15 in a 10-point loss to Oregon on Sunday. For a UW team that’s known to miss assignments at times, those shots could hurt.
“For a team that does like to shoot, we have to be there on the catch,” said UW freshman Jazmine Davis of what the Huskies will have to do defensively. “We can’t just stand and watch the ball move. We have to be moving every time. Everybody has to be right in every position. Not one of us can really afford to mess up or they’re going to make the three. This will have to be team defense.”
Getting the feet moving leads to an easy theme song for Friday night. Here’s the fancy footwork of Dude N Nem, “Watch My Feet.”
Washington is off to its best start since 2005 when the Huskies finished the nonconference season at 9-2 overall under coach June Daugherty. Those Huskies went on to tie for fourth in the then-Pac-10, upsetting Minnesota in the opening round of the NCAA tournament before losing to a Seimone Augustus-led LSU 72-49 in the second round.
The current Huskies aren’t playing the same type of schedule. But first-year coach Kevin McGuff believes there’s room to improve against the opponents Washington does play.
“When you watch the film, we make a lot of mistakes on both sides,” McGuff said. “For us to close out the next three games of nonconference on a successful note and then really be ready to have a successful Pac-12 campaign, we’ve got to get a lot better. I was always hopeful we’d be a little bit further ahead defensively. We make a lot of mistakes in terms of being in the right spot at the right time and people are going to make us pay for those mistake if we don’t take care of them now.”
The team is also adjusting to revolving lineups and the return of injured players. Freshman Talia Walton will dress against Portland and could make her debut. She’s been out since October due to minor knee surgery.
Friday’s matchup is another blurring of allegiances. Carly Koebel, UW’s director of basketball operations, played at Portland while Pilots assistant coach Cheryl Sorenson played for the Huskies during the 2001 and 2003 seasons. Portland coach Jim Sollars is a SPU grad and his starting point guard, senior ReZina TecleMariam, played AAU hoops with UW seniors Charmaine Barlow and Regina Rogers.
UW has never lost to its Interstate-5 counterpart in nine meetings. The last was a 75-44 win in the opening round of the inaugural WBI tournament in 2010 at Hec Ed.
“It keeps us motivated,” senior F Mollie Williams said of the Huskies’ winning turnaround. “Because we’re doing so well right now and we don’t want to go back to what we’ve been doing.”
Portland joins Long Beach State and UC Davis as schools to play both of the city’s Division I programs, although Seattle University is in the final year of regaining D-I eligibility. The Pilots play at Connolly Center on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
The Redhawks (4-4) last defeated the Pilots 61-58 in December 2010.
Across the state, Gonzaga wants to get back to its winning tradition at home. The Zags (5-2) lost to Southern California 58-51 on Sunday, which dropped the Bulldogs from the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ poll and out of consideration in the Associated Press poll.
The USC loss snapped a 14-game win streak at McCarthey Athletic Center. The Bulldogs host Eastern Washington (4-4) at 6 p.m. on Friday.
Washington State (5-4), meanwhile, hosts UC Riverside (1-6) on Sunday. The Cougs enter the game after an impressive 65-50 win against San Diego State last week. Sophomore Ireti Amojo led with 16 points.
Nationally, I’m waiting for Dec. 18 when undefeated Connecticut (8-0) travels to Waco, Texas to play No. 1 Baylor (9-0) on ESPN at 4:30 p.m. (PST). Until then, you can watch the Bears against St. John’s (5-4) on ESPNU at 8 a.m. (PST) on Sunday followed by No. 20 DePaul (7-1) versus No. 7 Tennessee in the Maggie Dixon Classic.
The Vols (4-2) are on ESPNU again on Tuesday in what should be a nice showdown with No. 11 Rutgers (9-1). (Don’t forget to look for former UW coach Tia Jackson on the sideline for the Scarlet Knights). Tennessee is hampered, however, after starting PG Ariel Massengale suffered a dislocated finger in practice on Thursday. She’s expected to miss two to three weeks.
Locally on TV, Covington’s Lindsey Moore (Kentwood High) will lead Nebraska (8-1) against Northern Arizona (5-4) on Fox Sports/NAU-TV/KTFL at 12:35 p.m. (PST) on Saturday. Seattleite Cheyenne Wilson (Cleveland High) suits up for Utah (4-3) at BYU (8-2) on Saturday at 2 p.m. (PST) on BYUtv.
The Pac-12 also gets some exposure with UCLA (5-2) playing at LSU (3-3) on Tuesday on Cox Sports at 5 p.m. (PST). The matchup pits Tigers coach Nikki Caldwell against her former team.
Lastly, there’s some different YouTube video out there trying to promote the women’s game. This footage is really raw, but former Stanford defensive specialist Rosalyn Gold-Onwude and Cardinal men’s manager Kevin Danna breakdown games and strategies to educate fans. Here’s the second episode.