"To me, even though we lost this game and we're disappointed about the first round, in a lot of ways, this has been the most rewarding season that I have ever been a part of."
The Phoenix led the game from the tip to the final buzzer as they showed why they were the Horizon League Champions and that they should never be overlooked. This was the first ever NCAA Tournament win for UWGB as they were led by Horizon League Player of the Year Christy Loiselle. UWGB assaulted the Huskies with a combination of outside shots and inside penetration to keep the Huskies constantly at bay by having six players scoring in double figures.
UWGB set the tone of the game early as they started the game on a 16-6 run. However, the Huskies tried to let their inside game lead the way for a change and managed to pull off a 10-2 run to pull within two. But that was the theme of the game. Every time the Huskies pulled within striking distance, the Phoenix would find some way to keep that lead and go on a little run of their own.
The Huskies did not really help themselves on their part either. The shooting woes that led to an early exit in the Pac-10 Tournament once again hindered Washington's overall game. The Huskies only shot 38.1percent from the field while UWGB shot 49.0 percent overall.
Surprisingly, the two of the nation's top three-point shooting teams did not use their beyond the arc shooting as their scoring method of choice in the first half. The two teams combined to shoot only 2-for-17 for three-pointers as UWGB's lone first half three-pointer came on the first score of the night by Natalie Yudt, and Washington's lone trey came from Loree Payne towards the end of the half.
Down by only seven points at halftime, Washington came out with a vengeance to open the second half. As Payne drove down the paint only to have the ball rattle out of the rim, senior Kellie Dalan grabbed the rebound and scored on a fantastic put back. Then on their very next possession, it was as if a replay was occurring as a missed Payne lay-up led to another Dalan rebound-put back. The extremely gutsy performance of Dalan in the second half was one of the few highlights for the Huskies. The senior forward had 14 points and nine rebounds for her final performance in a Husky uniform.
"I'm sad, I didn't want it to be my last game," said Dalan who was still clutching on to her tear-soaked tissue. "I went out and played with everything I had. I'm disappointed it is over." The Huskies were slowly regaining momentum as a Giuliana Mendiola lay-in on a zip-pass from Payne made it a one-point game but that was the closest the Huskies would get for the rest of the night.
UWGB's Loiselle immediately returned the favor by hitting a three-pointer from the baseline as things began to come unraveled for Washington. UWGB proceeded to go on a 17-4 run to put the game out of reach for the Huskies who simply ran out of gas toward the end.
As UWGB celebrated on the floor, the Huskies gathered at center court to thank the caravan of fans who traveled to Eugene. As they turned around to leave the court, some players including Payne, could not defeat overwhelming emotions as tears swelled up in their eyes.
So now the 16 members of the Huskies roster can return to their normal academic lives as college students who will in turn, wait for the next season. For five seniors, there won't be any next season and will walk away with only their memories.
"For me, my team has been world-class champions all year," said Daugherty. "To go through what this group of young people have gone through and to continue to come out and compete and improve and represent the University of Washington in a first-class manner, has been absolutely amazing."
"We had to grow up as a team, especially with everything that was going on in the Lalum household, and then on New Year's Eve, and on and on. We asked a lot of this team and they gave us more than we could've ever imagined."
Who was at Mac Court?: Former UW standout Megan Franza came down to Eugene to catch the action today. Franza is still attending the UW as a graduate student and was playing nanny to June and Mike Daugherty's twins. Also on hand was former Huskies wide receiver Pat Reddick as he made the trip to support and watch his girlfriend Andrea Lalum in action.
Seeing how this was the home court of the Oregon Ducks, it was no surprise that there was a good number of Duck fans in attendance. Would they root for their neighbors to the North and fellow Pac-10 member Washington Huskies? Not a chance. The green and gold Ducks were big fans of the green and white Phoenix tonight.
Too much caffeine?: Wisconsin-Green Bay head coach Kevin Borseth should make sure he orders "de-caf" the next time he goes to order a cup of coffee. During the entire duration of the game, Borseth was more hyper than a two-year old after their first experience with pixie sticks. It was unclear who or what Borseth was yelling at, but one thing for sure was he was about to blow a gasket every five seconds. Calm down coach. You're team led from start to finish. Let's have some fun.
Scoring: Giu. Mendiola 22, Dalan 14, O'Neill 12, Payne 7, Autrey 6, Lalum 2, Sorenson 2
Rebounds: Dalan 9, O'Neill 6, Gio. Mendiola 4, Autrey 3, Sorenson 3, Giu Mendiola 3, Payne 3, Lalum 2, Castro 1
Assists: Giu. Mendiola 5, Payne 3, Dalan 2, Lalum 1, Castro 1, Autrey 1
Blocks: O'Neill 2
Steals: O'Neill 2, Lalum 1
Scoring 1st 2nd Total Washington 29 36 65 UWGB 36 42 78