Coug women: Composure could use a boost

SEATTLE -- During the week prior to the game, there was a belief that the Washington State women's basketball team had it within themselves to end what had become 13 years of losing to cross-state rival Washington. After all, the Cougars of 2008-09 had won seven nonconference games, the most by WSU women since the 1995-96 squad won nine.

WSU's highly touted group of freshmen were living up to expectations. The Huskies, with their 4-6 record, appeared to be struggling.

But it was not to be.

After getting off to an impressive 11-3 start in front of 3,378 fans at Hec Edmundson Pavilion in Seattle, the Cougars proved they couldn't stand prosperity. Washington overcame its deficit with a 22-8 run in the last six minutes of the first half before putting the outcome out of reach in the initial 3:20 of the second half with a 12-0 run.

The result was a 71-58 WSU loss that extended the Cougars' losing streak to the Huskies to 27 straight games, since Feb.25, 1995, in Pullman.

"Right before the half, with about five minutes to go, it seemed like we relaxed a little bit too much," WSU coach June Daugherty said. "Our defense definitely had some breakdowns. We gave Washington too many easy shots.

"It was the worst start you could have at the start of the second half. But that's composure. And that's something we need to get better at.

"This is a team that understands what went wrong. I'm not sure we understand right now how to fix it, but we're going to keep working on it. Basketball is a game of runs. Everybody knows that. Whether you're up 10 or down 10 you have to stay in the system. And we went outside the system offensively and defensively.

"Obviously it was costly."

The Huskies won despite losing their second leading scorer, freshman Kristi Kingma, to a high ankle sprain early in the game. The team's leading scorer, Sami Whitcomb, battled a leg cramp by riding a stationary bike when she was on the sideline.

"I'm extremely proud of our kids, especially in time of adversity," said Tia Jackson, who is in her second season at UW coach after replacing Daugherty.

Jackson said the lineup juggling she was required to do made the game "the most bizarre chess game I've ever played."

When it was over Whitcomb, a junior, was the Huskies' leading scorer with 17 points. Junior Laura McLellan and senior Michelle Augustavo had 10 each.

April Cook led the Cougars with 17 points; Jazmine Perkins had 12 and Rosie Tarnowski 10. All are freshmen.

A big factor in the outcome was the Cougars' poor shooting. From the field they made just 19 of 63 shots, 30.2 percent; from the free-throw line just 16 of 34, 47.1 percent. The Huskies were 26 of 50 from the field (52 percent) and 14 of 21 from the line (66.7 percent).

"It was definitely a factor in the first-half swing," Daugherty said of the Cougars' poor free-throw shooting. "If we would have hit even a normal amount, even around 70 percent, it would have been a different ball game."

Instead, the Huskies turned a 20-15 deficit with 7:58 to play in the first half into a 37-28 lead at halftime.

By then, said Augustavo, the Cougars were showing frustration.

"The second we took the lead the tide kind of turned and they started arguing with each other and just getting kind of frustrated," Augustavo said. "I think definitely going into halftime we had the momentum. And we kept it going in the second half."

Cougar senior Katie Appleton said she didn't think the game's rivalry element made the situation confronting the Cougars any different than any other game.

"Every game we play we think we can win and we go in with that attitude," Appleton said. "This game was just the start of Pac-10. Yeah, it's a big rivalry, but I think we were looking like it was more ‘OK it's time to start a new season.'"

Daugherty said the rivalry pressure wasn't a factor.

"I don't think so," she said. "We understand it's one game at a time and 18 long games in the Pac -10 (season) and we've got to use each and every one of them to improve and to prove to ourselves that we can play 40 minutes.

"We proved against Kansas State and Texas Tech that we can compete against the best. We haven't done it for 40 minutes. And we haven't done it by handling runs. When we do that then we're going to be a very successful team."

Next for the Cougars are games at California and Stanford on Thursday and Saturday.

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