Washington (5-1) is preparing for its final and toughest home stretch of the nonconference season. The three-game homestand begins Wednesday against San Diego State (4-2) at Alaska Airlines Arena.
The Aztecs are 1-2 against Pac-12 teams this season. SDSU began its season with a 66-52 loss at then-unranked UCLA (4-1). SDSU lost at undefeated Colorado 67-53 after Thanksgiving. The Buffs are 6-0 this season.
SDSU overwhelmed a struggling USC for a 80-46 win at home on Friday. Carrying the Aztecs is Courtney Clements, who scored 25 points against the Trojans (3-3).
Clements was part of the Aztecs’ 2010 NCAA Sweet 16 tournament team. The Aztecs also won the Mountain West championship last season, losing in the opening round of the tourney.
A 6-foot G, Clements can cause a disturbance all over the court. She’s a 37.5 percent three-point shooter, but this season SDSU coach Beth Burns also uses Clements at the PG spot because of the team’s lack of solid ball-handlers. Clements averages 18.8 points and 4.3 assists this season.
“They’ll be the best team we’ve played, yet, this year,” said UW coach Kevin McGuff, whose team lost 63-51 at SDSU last season. “They’re really athletic. They’re well coached and they play hard. Courtney Clements is one of the best players we’ll see all season. She’s really talented and really explosive, so it’ll be a really big challenge for us.”
McGuff mentioned the same hiccups that have plagued the Huskies this season as keys to getting a win — rebounding and ball-handling. In the last meeting against the Aztecs, the Huskies had 25 turnovers and were slightly outrebounded 38-35.
This season, the Huskies are averaging 16 turnovers and haven’t been outrebounded since a lopsided 119-70 combined margin in its first two games of the year.
“We’ve been a little more disciplined about hitting people and maintaining block outs,” McGuff said of the improved rebounding. “But, more than anything, it’s just a mentality of, hey, this is important and it’s a team effort. (There’s) more focus in that part of our game.”
After Wednesday’s matchup, Washington will play a rare back-to-back set against UC Santa Barbara (2-5) and Idaho (1-6) next weekend. McGuff said he designed the format to sort of mimic tournament play.
He actually intimated the NCAA tournament, saying the difference between his nonconference setup and the “tournament” is there’s a day of rest in between the postseason format. The Pac-12 tournament is consecutive games to advance.
INJURY REPORT: Redshirt freshman G Deborah Meeks was on the court Tuesday shooting and playing one-on-one against a male practice player. She was wearing a brace on her surgically repaired left knee she tore in high school.
Meeks could return after the Christmas break along with freshman G Heather Corral. The latter is out with a broken right wrist that’s progressing well in its healing process. She’s shooting and running, but not in any live drills.
Teammate Kellie McCann-Smith remains away from the team for personal reasons. McGuff remains mum about her return date, but did say her absence isn’t an academic problem. She also is not expected to suddenly transfer to another program. McCann-Smith, who transferred from Nebraska to assist in caring for her ailing father, averaged 4.0 points and 14.4 minutes last season for UW.
RANK ‘EM: The new rankings are out and, as expected, there were some changes in the lineup. I booted Gonzaga (6-2) since it’s showing its youth and in both losses had difficulty scoring against then-No. 7 Louisville (8-1) and No. 1 Stanford (8-0). I also nixed Virgina (5-2) since it lost twice at home, the latest to previously No. 25 West Virginia (4-2).
So, here’s my latest version of the rankings.
MY WEEK 4 NATIONAL RANKINGS
1 Stanford (8-0)
2 Baylor (6-1)
3 Duke (6-0)
4 Connecticut (6-0)
5 Notre Dame (5-0)
6 Kentucky (6-1)
7 Tennessee (6-1)
8 Louisville (8-1)
9 Georgia (9-0)
10 Maryland (4-1)
11 North Carolina (7-1)
12 Kansas (7-0)
13 Ohio State (5-2)
14 Penn State (6-1)
15 Texas (5-0)
16 California (6-1)
17 Purdue (7-1)
18 Dayton (9-0)
19 Nebraska (6-2)
20 UCLA (4-1)
21 Oklahoma (7-1)
22 Florida State (7-0)
23 Miami (5-1)
24 Delaware (3-2)
25 South Carolina (9-0)
TV ALERT: Defending national champion Baylor defeated Notre Dame for the NCAA title in April. The No. 3 Bears (6-1) and No. 5 Fighting Irish (5-0) play a rematch Wednesday in South Bend at 4 p.m. (PST) on ESPN2 . For a preview, click here.
WNBA NOTES: The Storm front office and coach Brian Agler were in Atlanta this week for WNBA meetings. The biggest news from the city, however, was the hiring of Fred Williams as coach of the Dream. Williams has been with the franchise since its inception in 2008 and was the interim coach last summer.
Williams’ hiring leaves Washington and Connecticut as the only vacancies, so far. Former Sun’s coach Mike Thibault reportedly wants to talk to the Mystics about its opening. Neither team is in a rush to find a replacement.
Meanwhile All-Star Lauren Jackson was named the Leadership Legend award winner at Australia’s Women’s Heath magazine’s Support Women In Sport Awards in Sydney. Jackson probably looked the best ever, publicly, for the event on Tuesday. Check out a photo here.
A three-time WNBA MVP, Jackson hasn’t joined her WNBL Canberra Capitals team due to chronic injuries. There’s no date for her return.