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January 11, 2010 at 11:52 AM

Mailbag: Washington women better than men?

Huskies2.jpgQuick, look at the Pac-10 standings. Unexpectedly, the Washington women’s basketball team is better than the men’s after two weeks of conference games. The Huskies women are in a three–way tie for third with a 3-1 record while the men, once-ranked No. 24 in the nation, are last at 1-3 and out of the polls.
What gives?
Focus and cohesiveness for the men. But the women need a little dose of reality.
Not they shouldn’t feel like a sunny day despite all the rain. They’re on a three-game win streak, matching their win totals — overall and conference — from last season when nearly everyone wanted coach Tia Jackson fired.
Yet, the Huskies’ three conference wins are against teams with a combined 3-8 Pac-10 record — all defeating Washington State (5-10, 0-4). Given that Arizona State, Arizona, and Oregon State are young/dealing with injuries, Washington (8-6, 3-1) merely did what it was supposed to do. Especially in winning at home.
UW’s strongest overall win remains against BYU, which is 10-3 and 1-0 in Mountain West play. The Huskies should keep their trend in splitting on the road, defeating California (6-8, 0-3) and possibly falling to No. 2 Stanford (13-1, 3-0) this weekend.
But the real challenge for the women will be later this month when USC (9-6, 3-1) and UCLA (10-5, 3-1) play at Hec Ed. Both LA schools, which were defeated by the Cardinal last weekend, have experienced squads with quality guards to run their system. With the Huskies understanding Jackson’s system in her third year, it should be an interesting matchup.
“They’re very good, athletic teams,” Jackson said of UCLA and USC, which lost by 20-points to Stanford.
Washington is playing the signature defense they’ve talked about since the beginning of the season and notably, senior post Laura McLellan is starting to contribute as a reserve. She had a season-high 15 points and six rebounds in Saturday’s win against Arizona and was strong late for Washington in the road win against Oregon State.
“It’s been tough,” said McLellan, who started 18 games last season, but was replaced in the lineup by sophomores Regina Rogers and Mackenzie Argens. “As a player, you feel like you should be contributing more and like you’re not living up to your potential. But we have really balanced scoring, so it makes it a lot easier when you see your teammates stepping up in your place.”
The balance is what doesn’t make Washington’s ascension to middle of the Pac surprising. There is potential from Sami Whitcomb to Charmaine Barlow. Whether the players were going to put in the work to pull it together was the question mark.
The men haven’t. The women have.
So far.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: No. 2 Stanford F Nnemkadi Ogwumike was named Pac-10 Player of the Week today. She averaged 21 points and 10.5 rebounds in the sweep of USC and UCLA.

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