Dominant December for Dawgs

Jan. 3, 2007

By Sam Cameron
The Daily

June Daugherty must have been on Santa's `Nice' list. What other explanation could there be for the December dominance her women's basketball team showed while winning eight straight games to close out the month, including a hard fought 72-67 win over Pac-10 foe UCLA on the last day of the year?

The Husky women return home next week to play Stanford and Cal. Get your tickets to those key Pac-10 games by clicking here.

The generosity of Ol' Saint Nick could be one reason for the hot streak, but there's a more believable answer: These Dawgs are a good basketball team.

While many Washington students were taking it easy with family and old friends back home for the holidays, the Huskies (11-4 overall, 4-0 Pac-10) kicked it into high gear. They won blow out games and close games; road games and home games. They won after leading and they won coming from behind. They won non-conference games, an overtime game and most importantly, they won their first four Pac-10 games.

Daugherty said some credit does go to Christmas presents the team received, not in the form of victories, but in the form of players and valuable experience.

'When we went out on the road we were not healthy as a team,' she said. '[Cameo Hicks] was about 50 percent and (Andrea) Plouffe wasn't playing. The good news out of all of that is the other kids had to come along a little bit faster and now we've got this huge bench that can just wear people down. It was a blessing in disguise.'

Dominique Banks hadn't set foot on a court all season, but she returned to the floor just in time to kick-start the Huskies' four straight Pac-10 wins, leading the Dawgs over Oregon 60-56. Daugherty didn't know how right she was when she had said in October that getting Banks back would be a great Christmas present for her team.

'We got her back early. Honestly I don't think we win in Oregon if we didn't have Dom back,' Daugherty said. 'She was our leading scorer at halftime and that set the wheels in motion, if you will, for the Pac-10. It was a great gift to have her back.'

The fact that Sara Mosiman and Sami Whitcomb are still a bit banged up means the Huskies are only set to get stronger with the heart of the conference schedule still looming. The Dawgs received votes in the latest Associated Press Top-25 Poll, but three conference foes they've yet to face are ranked in the poll (No. 12 Stanford, No. 13 Arizona State and No. 21 California).

Washington can take some comfort from knowing they're a decidedly better team than the one they were when they played other ranked opponents during the preseason.

'We really challenged ourselves in the preseason playing five nationally ranked teams away and at home,' Daugherty said. 'I think we learned a lot from that; we learned that we have to play with poise, and we have to play with confidence. I think we've learned a lot of our lessons, and now we need to continue to build on it.'

The latest victory over the Bruins (8-8, 2-2) was typical of the Huskies play as of late. Down by as many as nine points about midway through the first half, the UW couldn't find the basket. Jill Bell came off the bench for three straight baskets to spark the Husky offense. Seven different Dawgs made baskets during the rest of the half as Washington battled back for a 34-33 halftime lead.

'I just tried to come off the bench and maintain the intensity to win the game,' Bell said. 'I tried to pick up everybody that was on the floor and take the shots that were available and open.'

Bell wasn't the only bench player instrumental in the win. Starting point guard Emily Florence committed her third personal foul with about four minutes left in the first half, meaning Erica Schelly had to take over the point guard reigns.

'Kids coming off the bench, Erica Schelly again had a huge game.' Daugherty said. 'With Emily's foul situation, I thought she got in there when our offense was sputtering a little bit and really got us going.'

With contributions from many players keeping the Huskies in the game, it was only a matter of time before All-American candidate Hicks took control of the game. She scored 10 points in the final 10 minutes of the game to finish with 22 markers and help lock down the Dawgs' eighth-straight victory. It was also their 11th straight win at home dating back to last season.

'We had a lot of energy in the second half, especially when it got close down the stretch and we started to kind of pull away,' Hicks said. 'The crowd definitely kept us into it; we have great fans. When things get that close, we have to share our intensity, and when we share our intensity it goes through the whole team.'

The Dawgs take their perfect Pac-10 record on the road to face Arizona on Thursday, and take on Arizona State Sunday.