There isn’t a hint of frustration in June Daugherty’s voice.
Her Washington State women’s basketball team is in the cellar of the Pacific-10 Conference, having just lost to the two southern California schools that share second place.
In one game, a slow start doomed a fast finish. In the other, they couldn’t finish down the stretch.
The losses were by three and 10 points.
“They’re getting better. We’ve seen great improvement,” Daugherty said. “No doubt we’re capable – it’s just matter of doing it. The team understands that, they want to do it.”
This would be a good time to put it together. It’s Husky Week – or, as the coach corrected, Cougar Week.
But for the always enthusiastic Daugherty, every week is Cougar Week. This week her young team plays the Washington Huskies in a 5 p.m. Friday game that will be broadcast on Fox Sports.
It’s an important game for the development of a team that has no seniors and just one junior that has played in every game.
Although hopes were high for the talented youngsters, the Cougars (5-14) are 0-8 in conference play.
“The thing I’m seeing, especially since we got into Pac-10 play, is they’re doing a better job of playing focused team basketball,” Daugherty said. “It’s not one thing. They have to continue focusing on improving, understanding what they need to do to compete at this level.”
A win against the Huskies would be a great boost. Even though Washington was picked for the basement (the Cougars were picked sixth), UW (8-10) is 3-5 in conference and has not lost to WSU since 1995, a run of 28 games.
Washington has strong guards, led by 5-foot-10 senior Sammi Whitcomb, who averages 13.5 points and 6.2 rebounds a game.
“They’re the type of guards that can score in bunches and score in a lot of different ways,” Daugherty said. “Their front line is more solid this year than it has been. We have to be solid defensively and execute at a higher level offensively.”
With nine losses by 10 points or less, a breakthrough win, especially in a rivalry game, could turn the season around.
“I think this group is highly motivated,” Daugherty said. “They’re working hard. They want to turn the corner and win worse than anything.”
Big games, different reasons
Eastern Washington (13-6, 7-0) is assured another week in first place in the Big Sky Conference, but that isn’t what the Eagles are looking for when they travel to Portland State (11-9, 5-2). EWU’s travel partners were picked to win the conference, while the Eagles were tabbed seventh. Another road win, especially of this caliber, would mark the Eagles as the new favorites.
Meanwhile, Gonzaga gets a visit from the cellar dwellers of the West Coast Conference. However, Heather Bowman needs just 17 points to pass Tammy Tibbles as the Bulldogs’ all-time leading scorer. Former Bulldogs coach Jennifer Mountain, who was a freshman when Tibbles was a senior and sits sixth on the Gonzaga scoring list, might get to see the record broken as the coach of the Santa Clara Broncos, who are Thursday’s opponent.
Freshman Jeneva Anderson (Lewis and Clark High School) has seen limited time for the Washington Huskies, playing in nine of their 18 games. … Seven players have led Eastern Washington in scoring this season and there have been six different rebounding leaders. … Don’t try Pat Summitt’s patience. The Hall of Fame Tennessee coach brought junior Angie Bjorklund (University HS) off the bench because she shot 28 percent with too many turnovers in three previous games, including the Lady Vols’ second loss of the season. That came after a five-game stretch in which Bjorklund averaged 20 points on 60 percent shooting. Bjorklund scored 10 points off the bench in a televised win at No. 18 LSU, bringing her within 56 of 1,000 career points. She is averaging 14.8, but may continue to come off the bench. … Junior Lyndie Seidensticker (LC) scored a career-high 21, 19 in the second half, in Montana State’s 76-67 loss to visiting Montana. She hit 5 of 7 3-pointers in the second half. … Redshirt junior Tracy Goehri (Central Valley) continues to have a breakout season at Pacific Lutheran. She leads the Lutes in minutes (30.0), rebounding (6.1) and steals (1.7), while scoring 10 points a game after playing in just 13 games as a freshman and averaging 2.1 points last year. … Sophomore Alysha Green (Mead) has started eight games for Carroll College and is averaging eight points. … Montana Tech senior Jessica DePell (Freeman) leads the Frontier Conference in scoring (18.3), which is ranked 18th in NAIA Division I. … Senior Emily Kuipers (U-Hi) had a career-high 24 points for Regis in a win last week. … Junior Samantha Flett (Wellpinit) had a career-high 20 in an Eastern Oregon victory last week.