Amber Melgoza had her first career double-double in UW’s win over Northern Arizona on Sunday. The Lumberjacks are led by former UW standout Loree Payne.
Without hesitation, Washington Huskies women’s basketball coach Jody Wynn said junior Amber Melgoza has an unrivaled desire to be great.
Melgoza is certainly taking necessary steps to enhance that profile.
In her first season of full-time duty last year, Melgoza was one of the most dangerous scorers in the Pac-12 Conference, averaging 19.0 points per game.
Now a junior, the 5-foot-10 guard from Santa Barbara, Calif., is flashing more of an all-around game.
Melgoza posted her first career double-double — 20 points and 10 rebounds, both game-high totals — and the Huskies pulled away for an 81-59 victory over Northern Arizona on Sunday afternoon.
Hannah Johnson, Khayla Rooks and T.T. Watkins chipped in with 12 points apiece for Washington (2-0), which has now beaten two undefeated nonconference opponents in both games this season.
And this was no ordinary out-of-town visitor that came in Sunday, either. NAU is coached by former Huskies standout Loree Payne, who is the program’s all-time leader in three-point field goals made (245).
“Hey, it is a lot better than being 1-1 or 0-2,” Wynn said. “We were a little sloppy with the basketball, but we shared the ball lot better than the other night (83-74 win over Cal State Fullerton). Defensively, I thought we did a really nice job of taking them out of what they are comfortable doing.”
Washington grabbed a double-digit lead early after holding the Lumberjacks (2-1) scoreless for a 9-minute, 22-second span in the first quarter (missed 11 shots, forced into seven turnovers).
But it took a third-quarter run for the Huskies to finally feel comfortable with their lead.
After NAU cut it to 41-34 on Lauren Orndorff’s two free throws at the 4:35 mark, the Huskies scored 11 unanswered points over the next 2:55.
Melgoza triggered it with a jumper from the free-throw line and capped it with her inside basket that gave the Huskies a 52-34 lead with 1:39 to go in the third.
It was easily Melgoza’s most complete game in a Washington uniform — something Wynn said was possible after she improved her fitness in the offseason.
“Last year … nobody really knew who she was, or how she was able to score,” Wynn said. “We told her at the end of the season, now the target is on your back.
“She wants her team to be great, and she wants to be great. Getting in shape was half of her battle.”
Melgoza was nearing a triple-double (20 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists), so Washington coaches left her in a few possessions after the starters were pulled in the final quarter. She finally came to the bench with 3:34 to go.
“I know I still have a lot to work on,” Melgoza said. “This summer, I put my head down and worked on the little things to make me better.”
The Huskies honored Payne with a pregame video tribute, then held a postgame gathering for her and the NAU squad in the Founder’s Club. Payne was a two-time All-Pac 10 guard from 1999 to 2003, and was also a Washington assistant from 2007 to 2010. She is in her second season as the NAU coach in the Big Sky Conference. “It was awesome. Husky fans are the best on the West (Coast). It was such an honor for me to play here,” Payne said. … The Huskies’ next game is Sunday at Tulane, their first road test of the season.