UW women rested and ready for WNIT after two-week break
The Huskies will host Eastern Washington on Friday in the first round of the WNIT.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Eastern Washington @ Huskies (WNIT), 7 p.m.
The term "break" can be deceiving.
"It wasn't relaxing," Washington redshirt senior Kristi Kingma said. "It was painful."
Kingma stood in the KeyArena concourse March 8 with her knees throbbing as much as her heart after a quarterfinal loss to Colorado in the Pac-12 tournament. UW hoped to upset CU and boost its chances of snagging an NCAA tournament berth.
Instead Washington (20-11) will host Eastern Washington (19-12) in the first round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament on Friday at Alaska Airlines Arena.
The Huskies called the two-week span between games a "break." But Kingma, a two-time All-Pac-12 guard, spent a full week coaxing her knees back to normal. She had surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in September 2011 and was told before this season she would need a surgical procedure on the left that would end her playing career.
With that career extending into the postseason, Kingma worked with team trainer Jenn Ratcliff for two hours daily to drain and treat her knees. A co-captain with senior forward Jeneva Anderson, Kingma averaged a conference-high 37.5 minutes as UW's third-leading scorer (13.3 points).
"It was such a blessing to have that Pac-12 tournament a week early," Kingma said. "For my knees, I do feel almost 100 percent better. They still hurt. But time off from games, not going as hard in practice, is really proving to be beneficial for me."
And the rest of the team. Washington played with as few as seven players this season. Guards Jazmine Davis (37.6) and Mercedes Wetmore (34.2) join Kingma among the Pac-12's top 10 in minutes played.Davis was the team's leading scorer with 19.4 points per game.
The break could help UW to a quick start in the WNIT. The Huskies lost to San Diego in the quarterfinals of the tournament last season. EWU has never won a postseason game.
"It's a new season," Kingma said before UW's last practice before its WNIT opener. "We have new life, and overall I'm just excited to get back out on the court. Hopefully with my knees feeling better than before and our team having a new sense of energy ... (we're) ready to win it."
The matchup with EWU, which will feature 17 players from the state of Washington, will be UW's third game against an in-state opponent this season. The Huskies defeated Washington State twice and Seattle U once. The Huskies haven't played the Eagles since 2009, owning a 21-1 all-time record against them.
"Mercedes, Kristi, Aminah (Williams), Talia (Walton), Jeneva — all of those are players that Kylie (Huerta) and Carrie (Ojeda) and a lot of our in-state kids have played against throughout their careers," said EWU coach Wendy Schuller.
Huerta, a 5-foot-1 sophomore point guard from Kentwood High School, averages seven points and 4.5 assists. Ojeda, a 6-1 senior center from Tacoma, is the Eagles' leading rebounder (7.3) and second-leading scorer (10.6).
"We understand how good they are and the level of competition they've played all season," Schuller said. "We are really excited about the opportunity."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org