Free throws save Washington women against Cal State Northridge
Huskies beat Cal State Northridge 73-67 Saturday at Edmundson Pavilion.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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It's a good thing for Washington that it can make its free throws.
Otherwise, its struggles against Big West Conference opponents would be even more worrisome.
Saturday, it was Cal State Northridge challenging the Huskies before they rallied in the second half for a 73-67 nonconference women's college basketball win at Edmundson Pavilion.
Washington lost to UC Davis, the 2010 Big West tournament champion, in the schools' Nov. 11 season opener. A slow first half hurt the Huskies in both games.
The Matadors, picked to finish seventh in the Big West this season, jumped out to a 17-4 lead before the Huskies showed any life. Shooting above 50 percent, Northridge's lead grew to 33-16 after a jumper by freshman Camille Mahlkecht.
"We really, really struggled in the first half," UW coach Kevin McGuff said. "Lack of focus, concentration; they played much harder than we did. But to our team's credit, we got things together at halftime."
Despite neither team making a field goal in the final 5:28 of the opening half, Washington made five free throws in the waning minutes to only trail 35-25 at the break. In the second half, the Huskies found center Regina Rogers inside, UW raised its 27.6 shooting percentage to 50 and sophomore Mercedes Wetmore was 9 for 10 from the foul line.
But Cal State Northridge (2-2) didn't completely crumble. Led by freshmen guards Janae Sharpe (12 points) and Ashlee Guay (seven steals), the Matadors had a chance to pull an upset late, down three with 1:45 left. Sharpe and teammate Kaitlyn Petersen committed turnovers while Wetmore hit free throws and UW senior Mollie Williams got a rebound and defensive stop to preserve the game.
"The starters came out and we were ready the second half," said Rogers, who finished with 17 points. "We should have been in the first half, but the second half we were ready."
Washington (2-1) is loaded with returnees and four active seniors. Still, the new system, roles and young players at key positions have UW flustered at times. Guards Jazmine Davis and Wetmore have played well, but against Northridge's freshman backcourt, Davis, who's also a freshman, had nine turnovers.
"They were coming at us, and we should have been ready for that from the beginning," said Wetmore, who finished with 17 points. "I don't think it was until the second half that we really stepped up and kind of slowed them down a little bit the way we should have."
Saving the Huskies was their free-throw shooting. The team was 25 of 30 from the line overall to come back from its biggest deficit since beating Oregon last season.
"Free throws are something we worked on because, in the past, we haven't been that good at it," said Williams, who played her most minutes since returning from a concussion. "We're taking a lot of pride this year in our free throws."
Washington travels to California to play UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday and San Diego State on Saturday..
"I still think we have a long way to go on our defense and rebounding," McGuff said. "We've got to do a lot better."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @JaydaEvans
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