It wasn’t the start the Washington women’s basketball team wanted, but the finish was certainly sweet.
The Huskies came storming back from an early 11-point deficit to defeat rival Oregon 63-59 on Sunday afternoon at Alaska Airlines Arena to earn a berth in the Fab 4 of the WNIT.
The Huskies will play at Kansas on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. Pacific for a berth in the title game.
Washington (19-14) earned that spot with a decisive 8-0 run to take a 60-51 lead with 2:23 left in the game.
Oregon closed to four, but Washington didn’t wilt, and soon after it was celebrating.
“I’m just so grateful for the way they keep fighting for one another and they’re just so much fun to coach,” said Washington coach Tina Langley.
She will coach at least one more game this season after Washington evened the season series against the Ducks.
Oregon (20-15) had won two of the previous three meetings between the two teams — at Oregon and in Las Vegas, but the Huskies won the matchup in Seattle, 68-60.
The Ducks jumped to an early 13-3 lead Sunday and led by as many as 11 points in the first quarter (21-10) before Washington scored the final three points of the period to close to 21-13.
“I told the team at halftime, I wouldn’t have been comfortable if we hadn’t been down, so I felt much more comfortable,” Langley said. “I’m joking, but we’re a team that has learned to battle back.”
The Huskies scored the first seven points of the second quarter to cut the deficit to one point. They took their first lead just before the end of the half on a free throw by Hannah Stines to take a 30-29 halftime lead.
Oregon did pretty much what it wanted offensively in the first quarter. The Husky defense was much better in the second quarter, with UW holding the Ducks to eight points on 3-of-15 shooting.
“Our key to the game was transition D, and I think in the first quarter we weren’t taking that serious enough,” said Husky senior Haley Van Dyke, who had 11 points, five rebounds and four assists. “I think we (took it serious) in the second quarter and we carried that through the game — just getting back on D and making sure there were no transition threes.”
The Huskies used a 9-0 run in the third quarter — the first four points from Dalayah Daniels and the next five from Elle Ladine — to take a 41-35 lead.
Ladine, who had nine points in the quarter, scored on a layup just before the third-quarter buzzer after an Oregon turnover, giving Washington a 48-41 lead -entering the final quarter.
The Ducks closed to one before the 8-0 run enabled the Huskies to pull away.
Washington hurt Oregon throughout the game on the boards. The Huskies outrebounded the Ducks 49-34. UW had 20 offensive rebounds to 10 for Oregon.
Daniels had 13 rebounds — nine of those offensive — to go with 14 points and two blocked shots.
Ladine, a freshman, led the Huskies with 16 points, and many of those points came during crucial moments.
“Elle is a dynamic player and she is a young lady who has a standard for herself that is incredibly high,” Langley said.
The Huskies have been at home for their first four games. UW was 16-5 at home this year but just 2-7 on opponents’ home court.
Washington will need to buck that trend at Kansas (23-11), but Van Dyke is just happy her career has been extended again.
“It’s really special,” Van Dyke said. “I literally could not have asked for a better group to finish with.”