Huskies Put the Pack in ‘Pack Mentality’

By Mason Kelley

Washington wanted to establish a “pack mentality” last season. That was the goal, but the Huskies lacked the depth and balance.

What a difference a year makes.

Eight games into the 2014-15 season, the program has found the proper pieces.

“It’s having a new pack mentality and actually having a pack,” junior forward Talia Walton said. “That makes it a lot better for us.”

After dropping the season opener, Washington has won its last seven games because the team has embraced a team-centric approach.

“That’s a huge factor when you’re playing on a team that’s very talented,” sophomore guard Kelsey Plum said. “You have to find your role. Everyone, I think, not only has found their role, but feels comfortable. They have embraced it. When you have that team unity, it really helps cohesiveness.”

When asked how each player was able to find their fit, Plum said the Huskies’ path toward success started in the summer.

“A lot of us stayed through the summer and trained really hard,” she said. “You could just see people, individually, growing their game and getting better. Everyone came back better, which made us better as a team. We came back with a really selfless mindset.”

The Huskies invested so much time in the offseason, they bought into the idea that a season that ends with a trip to the NCAA tournament starts with a mindset based on the idea of doing, “whatever I need to do to help the team.”

“It’s just awesome now to see from 1-14 everybody on this team can contribute in a game, practice or whatever it may be,” Walton said. “Some teams don’t have that.”

So far this season, Washington has developed what Walton called a “flow,” meshing together while coach Mike Neighbors tinkered with the starting lineup and in-game rotations. 

“Having quality depth, and then being able to get balance from different kids night-in and night-out makes us really hard to guard, and I think that’s the difference in what we haven’t had in the past,” Neighbors said.

At the start of the year, Plum, Walton, Aminah Williams and Jazmine Davis were all proven starters. After that, though, the Huskies needed other players to step up and fit in.

So far, so good. 

“I do think its kind of starting to settle out a little bit,” Neighbors said. “We had our bumps along the way trying to find that, but now we’ve got eight games worth of data and film. That’s a big part of it.”

Heading into Sunday’s noon game against Grambling at Alaska Airlines Arena, the Huskies are third in the nation in three-point field goals made, averaging almost 10 per game. They are also seventh in the country in scoring offensive, averaging 87.6 points per game.

“We’re moving the ball really well,” said Plum, who is averaging 26.3 points per game. “We have almost everyone shooting really high percentages with a lot of team assists. We’re moving the ball, a lot of people are scoring and it’s hard to defend.”

Plum, Walton and Davis are all averaging double figures so far this season, but seven players are dropping in at least five points each contest. 

The Huskies are off to a fast start as they continue to come together. Neighbors pointed to the next four non-conference games as opportunities for his team to hit its stride before Pac-12 play.

“We’ll find out these next four games,” he said. “We’ve got two home games, two road games, one against a top-five opponent. That’s always tough. I think we’ll really find out how far we can go heading into league. The league is as deep as it’s ever been, so we have to use these next four games really wisely.”

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