After dropping their first two conference games after getting swept in the desert by Arizona and Arizona State, the Washington Huskies overcame a horrific first half to notch their first conference win of the season by defeating the Cal Golden Bears 65-54 at home Friday night and get set for a big conference game against No. 9 Stanford at home on Sunday afternoon.
"Obviously all Pac-10 games are big games," said Huskies head coach June Daugherty.
Washington had to fight for this win and the double-digit margin of victory does not necessarily tell the entire story. After a flurry of missed shots from both sides to start the game, both teams finally drained their first field goals nearly five minutes into the contest. The Huskies then looked as if they had finally found their rhythm as they went on a 15-4 run to slowly build up their lead and it looked as if the Bears would be left behind in their dusts.
However, Cal answered with a 16-0 run to take the lead and held Washington scoreless for nearly seven minutes. The Huskies tried everything they could to try to regain the momentum but Cal's high-pressure defense never allowed the Huskies to get enough time to create a play or even get a clear look at the basket.
Daugherty said that her team's first half shooting was "frigid" and that offensively, they were "as cold as the weather outside."
"Offensively, we weren't hitting very many shots so we counted on our defense to get us into the game," said Daugherty.
Both teams came at each other hard with high-pressure defense that clearly disrupted their opponent's offense. Washington's defense was also the reason the Huskies were able to keep the game close even as they shot just 37 percent from the floor in the first half.
The good news was that the Husky defense held Cal to just 24 first half points. The bad news was that Cal's defense held Washington to just 23. Both teams had just as many turnovers as made shots at halftime – 10 for Washington and 11 for Cal -- in what could have been attributed to good defense, or just poor offense – pick one or the other. The 23 points at halftime was a season-low for the Huskies whose previous low was 29 points half at Arizona.
The second half however was a different story. The Huskies started the second half with an 11-2 run and this time, Cal did not get the opportunity to answer back. Washington broke out of their shooting struggles and showed a lot more offense in the second half without sacrificing their defense.
The Huskies ran crisp plays that worked their way and found ways to get through the stingy defense that was giving them havoc only a half ago.
While still holding Cal to 34.5 percent shooting and improving their shooting to 46.2 percent, Washington's offensive production finally began to take off. Cameo Hicks, who Cal coach Caren Horstmeyer warned her players about, made Horstmeyer look like a prophet by grabbing her own rebound and starting the run.
"I told the team that they were going to go after their own rebounds hard and that Hicks will get more shots," said Horstmeyer. The true-freshmen Hicks scored nine points for the Huskies.
"They have a lot of talented freshmen, but it's still Mendiola's show," said Horstmeyer.
Giuliana Mendiola, the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year, had her usual day on the job to lead the Huskies with 14 points and just miss out on a double-double with nine rebounds.
Andrea Lalum, who averages nearly 19 points per game, had one of her most frustrating days on the court. The senior center missed her first 11 shots before hitting two three-pointers late in the game to finish with nine points on the night.
"I don't think I could have thrown a rock into the ocean," said Lalum who still had her sense of humor after the game.
Washington will now focus on No. 9 Stanford this Sunday. Stanford will undoubtedly look to avenge their worst loss of last season when they fell 92-68 in Seattle.
"It's a different year and a different race," said Daugherty. "Stanford is a different team and we're a different team. We're just focused on us."
Play of the Day: Huskies senior guard Gioconda Mendiola threw a pass that even Cody Pickett would have been impressed with in the second half. After getting the inbound pass, Mendiola took two steps and launched a 70-foot pass that landed in the hands of a running Cameo Hicks who put it in for the lay-up. Mendiola received a strong ovation for her touchdown pass.
Walking Wounded: Sophomore guard Erica Schelly and junior guard Kristen O'Neill have been lost for the season. Both guards were suffering foot injuries that have been keeping them out of action thus far this season. O'Neill's stress fracture is more severe than the team initially thought and was seen on crutches. Schelly's foot surgery rehabilitation has been taking longer than expected and the team decided to sit her out for the rest of the season.
Craddock Makes Home Debut: True freshman Walk-on Cheri Carddock made her home debut for the Huskies against the Golden Bears. With O'Neill and Schelly both out for the season, Huskies head coach June Daugherty decided to burn Craddock's redshirt to add depth on her bench. Craddock scored seven points in nine minutes against Arizona State for her debut, and scored eight points in 10 minutes for her home debut. Craddock is attending Washington on a track scholarship and is the cousin of Nate Robinson.
Scoring: Giu. Mendiola 14, Lalum 9, Hicks 9, Craddock 8, Jones 8, Watson 6, Bell 4, Gio. Mendiola 3, Castro 2, O'Hara 2
Rebounds: Giu. Mendiola 9, Lalum 7, Bell 5, Watson 3, Jones 3, Craddock 3, O'Hara 2, Gio. Mendiola 2, Hicks 1, Castro 1
Assists: Gio. Mendiola 5, Giu. Mendiola 4, Castro 4, Bell 2, Watson 1, O'Hara 1
Blocks: Bell 2, Watson 1, Lalum 1, Hicks 1
Steals: Bell 3, Watson 3, Lalum 2, Gio. Mendiola 2, Giu. Mendiola 1, Hicks 1
Huskies take care of business at home
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