2019 Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament: No. 11 Washington storms past No. 6 Utah for first upset in Las Vegas
By W.G. Ramirez
LAS VEGAS -- Washington hosted Utah in January, and the Huskies were held to their second-lowest output of the season in a 58-43 loss. In February trip to Salt Lake City, the Huskies were crushed 88-56.
Thursday the Huskies exacted revenge. Big time.
Building a lead as big as 19 points in the third quarter, the 11th-seeded Huskies upset No. 6 seed Utah 64-54 in the opening round of the Pac 12 Women's Tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Washington (10-20) advances to the quarterfinals, where it'll meet third-seeded Oregon State (24-6).
The Huskies, who were 2-15 during the regular season in Pac-12 play, became only the second team in Pac-12 Tournament history to come into the event with two or fewer conference victories and go on to win a game.
"It's a true mark of great character when you rise to the next challenge when nobody thinks you can do anything," Washington coach Jody Wynn said. "I'm just extremely proud of our entire team. I've been proud of the entire support staff that continues to encourage and give our program positive thoughts. Because we need that, and we've needed it this year."
Washington used a scorching 3-point attack to distance itself from the Utes (20-10), hitting 8 of 19 (42.1 percent) from long-range, part of a 23-for-55 (41.8 percent) shooting performance from the field.
Missy Peterson led the Huskies with 23 points after shooting 8-for-13 from the floor, including a stellar 6 of 8 mark from 3-point range. Darcy Rees scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds (a career-best), while Amber Melgoza chipped in with nine points.
Peterson scored 11 points in the second quarter, going 3-for-3 from outside the arc. Peterson’s six 3-pointers were a career best.
"Nobody you play, especially in the Pac-12, is an easy game," Peterson said. "We knew it was going to be hard. We had what we got and laid it on the floor tonight. We weren't ready for it to be our last game. We wanted one more. So when the buzzer went off and we won that game, we were so excited."
Utah, which averaged 74.9 points per game during the regular season, struggled mightly from the field, shooting just 34 percent (16 of 47), including 6-for-25 (24 percent) in the second half.
Fourteen of Washington’s first 16 points came after five Utah turnovers. Washington ended up with 29 points off of 22 Utah turnovers.
The Utes were led by Andrea Torres and Megan Huff, who each scored 10 points. Huff also recorded a career-best 17 rebounds and her 17th double-double of the season.
Utah had a three-point lead early in the second quarter, but a Washington surge pushed the Huskies ahead by eight at halftime, 34-26. The Utes tried to shoot their way back into the game from long-range but never found a groove from the arc, going 1 of 15 from 3-point range in the second half.
Utah got to within seven with 1:51 left in the game, just after Washington went on a scoreless drought for nearly five minutes, but the Huskies held off the Utes' rally to secure the win.
Since climbing to No. 14 in the AP Top 25, after beating Stanford and getting to 18-1 on the season, the Utes have struggled through a rash of injuries and dropped eight of their final 10 regular-season games. The team lost three players to knee injuries, including Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Dre’Una Edwards, who was averaging 11.6 points and 7.6 rebounds. The Utes also lost senior Daneesha Provo, who was averaging 13.5 points in the first 13 games this season.
"I could tell in the game like we just didn't have the pop," Utah coach Lynne Roberts said. "I think we've squeezed everything out of this group that we can, and they squeezed it out of themselves as well. The adversity we hit, it just happens, and life goes on. And we've just got to move forward and focus on the future."
W.G. Ramirez is a Las Vegas-based freelance reporter and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez