The University of Washington women’s basketball team has made strides during its non-conference schedule, but the stakes increase today when the Huskies begin Pacific-12 Conference play against Arizona State at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” second-year UW coach Kevin McGuff said Thursday. “The first couple of games we really struggled defensively and with our rebounding. So that’s something we’ve really emphasized here in the last month. We’ve been able to win some games because we’ve gotten much better in those areas. Offensively we’ve been really up and down … so we’ve got to get more consistency
in that area for us to have success in the Pac-12.”
McGuff’s first Washington team had a 20-14 record, including 8-10 in the Pac-12, and made a postseason run to the WNIT quarterfinals.
These Huskies were voted eighth in the annual Pac-12 preseason poll, behind Stanford, California, UCLA, USC, Arizona State, Oregon State and Utah. Behind UW in the poll were Colorado, Washington State, Oregon and Arizona.
The Huskies had an 8-3 record in non-conference play. They are led by Jazmine Davis (19.5 points a game), last season’s Pac-12 freshman of the year, forward Aminah Williams (11.5 rebounds a game) and guard Mercedes Wetmore (3.4 assists per game), from Auburn Riverside High. Other key contributors include senior Kristi Kingma, Talia Walton of Federal Way, Jeneva Anderson and Kassia Fortier.
“Almost every game we’ve been in has been close,” Kingma said. “We’ve pulled out some really close wins, and that’s built chemistry and built toughness that we can carry into Pac-12.”
They may need every bit of that chemistry and toughness as they open play in a conference with four ranked teams: No. 4 Stanford, No. 7 Cal, No. 16 UCLA and No. 20 Colorado.
“I still think you have to peg Stanford as the favorite – they’ve been so dominant in this conference, and they do a great job,” McGuff said. “But there are a lot of other really, really talented teams that I think will challenge them this year for the title. It’s going to be a really exciting race.”
Washington’s first test is at 7 tonight against the Sun Devils, who have won 15 of their past 16 against UW – including a sweep last season.
“They play up in your face, a really quick tempo,” Kingma said. “They’re going to be a good game to start out with because they’re going to apply a lot of pressure and we’re going to have to get used to that.”
The 18-game conference season will be followed by the Pac-12 women’s tournament, which will be held March 7-10 at KeyArena.
“Hopefully a lot of UW fans will come out,” Kingma said. “Specifically for the seniors, I think it’s really exciting for us to get to play our last few important games at home and hopefully either come out as champions or headed into the NCAA tournament.”Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports