Huskies star Amber Melgoza finished with just three points — 16 fewer than her season average.
When Jody Wynn secured a nonconference game against Mississippi State, the Washington women’s basketball coach raised more than a few curious eyebrows for all of the obvious reasons.
Led by Teaira McCowan, a projected top-3 pick in next year’s WNBA draft, the No. 4-ranked Bulldogs are a perennial powerhouse that has made trips to the NCAA tournament title game the past two years.
Meanwhile, the Huskies are rebuilding since their Sweet 16 matchup against MSU in 2017 and have won just 14 games the past two seasons.
Considering their pedigree, this game was a mismatch from the start as Washington fell behind by double-digits early and never mounted a threat Thursday night during a 103-56 defeat that ranks as one of most lopsided losses in school history.
“I think we were a little deer in the headlights,” Wynn said. “It was pretty obvious. Maybe it’s good for us. I think you learn when things are hard. I’m a big believer in you learn through adversity.”
Despite winning just seven games during her first year with the Huskies last season, Wynn put together a demanding nonconference schedule in which UW captured upset wins against Duke and Ohio State.
However, Mississippi State (11-1) proved to be formidable foe.
The Bulldogs were still smarting from an 82-74 defeat at No. 7 Oregon that snapped their 46-game winning streak against nonconference opponents.
“We watched a lot of film the last day and a half and hopefully we learned from it,” MSU coach Vic Schaefer said. “I was anxious to see tonight how we would respond and I’m very pleased obviously.”
In front of 1,669 at Alaska Airlines Arena, the Bulldogs erased any suspense early when they raced out to a 28-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Wynn said Washington looked “spooked,” which explains why the Huskies were out-rebounded 19-3 in the period and converted just 2 of 14 shots (14.3 percent).
Mississippi State’s lead ballooned to 37 points in the second quarter and they went into halftime ahead 56-21.
Washington hadn’t allowed more than 80 points in its previous 11 games, but the Bulldogs blew past that early in the fourth period.
Despite a relatively quiet night from McCowan, who didn’t play in the fourth and finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, the Huskies struggled to contain a potent MSU offense that entered the game ranked second in the nation in scoring (90.6 points per game).
“They performed beautifully,” Wynn said. “They defended. They rebounded. They got to the basket whenever they wanted. They scored the ball at a high rate. Pretty talented group.”
Bulldogs guard Jordan Danberry scored a game-high 20 points while forward Anriel Howard added 16.
It was the most points the Huskies had allowed at home, which broke an 18-year-old record set by No. 1 Connecticut during a 100-54 win on Nov. 24, 2000.
The 103 points tied for the seventh-most by a UW opponent and it was the fourth largest margin of defeat.
Sophomore guard Alexis Griggsby, who sank 3 of 7 three-pointers for 11 points, and senior forward Hannah Johnson (10 points) were two of the few bright spots for the Huskies, who fell to 7-5.
Washington star Amber Melgoza finished with just three points — 16 fewer than her season average — on 0-for-7 shooting from the field.
It was a deflating end to the nonconference season for Washington, which begins Pac-12 pay on Dec. 30 against cross-state rival Washington State.
“This game that we had tonight doesn’t define our entire preseason,” Wynn said. “We had a pretty solid preseason against a monster schedule.
“We’ve done some good things and we’ve done some not so good things. We’re still young. We’re still growing. We’re still trying to get better every day.”