UW plays Fordham at 2 p.m. PT Saturday in the second round of the post-Thanksgiving tournament in Estero, Fla.
Given her short tenure and rocky start with the Huskies, their 71-64 non-conference win over Duke in the Gulf Coast Showcase opener on Friday gave second-year coach Jody Wynn her biggest victory since taking over the Washington women’s basketball team.
UW plays Fordham at 2 p.m. PT Saturday in the second round of the post-Thanksgiving tournament in Estero, Fla. The Rams beat Ball State 78-70 in its opener.
“I think it’s a signature win,” Wynn said. “They were preseason top 25.”
The Huskies dominated from start to finish against the Blue Devils, which began the season at No. 21 in the Associated Press poll.
Washington led by as many as 15 points (37-22) after Missy Peterson sank a three-pointer with 1:55 left in the second quarter.
The sophomore guard, who tallied nine rebounds, scored 13 of her 17 points in the first half when UW took a 37-24 lead into the break.
Once Peterson cooled down, junior guard Amber Melgoza took over and carried the Huskies the rest of the way while scoring 15 of her team-high 18 points in the second half.
Freshman center Darcy Rees chipped in 10 points and five rebounds.
“We played team basketball,” said Wynn while noting UW had 17 assists on 25 field goals. “We moved the ball. …. We turned it over a few too many times (12) in the first half.
“But we moved the ball and found open shooters. Missy Peterson started us off and hit a couple of threes right away and gave the team some confidence.”
Junior forward Mai-Loni Henson (six points, six assists, four steals and three rebounds) took over the playmaking duties and committed just one turnover in 31 minutes.
Washington’s red-hot shooting from the field (47-2 percent) and 12 steals offset 19 turnovers.
“We just did a really nice job of moving the ball and not taking my-turn shots,” Wynn said. “We really did a nice job of continuing to move the ball and taking our best shots in the possession.”
The Huskies led 56-42 with 6:28 left and needed to hold off one last comeback attempt from the Blue Devils, which cut their deficit to 69-64 with 10 seconds left.
On the next possession, sophomore forward Khayla Rooks capped the scoring with two free throws and Henson ended the game with a steal at the other end.
Duke (2-2) received 20 points from Haley Gorecki and 19 from Leonna Odom – a pair of junior guards.
Wynn believes Saturday’s win just might be a turning point for a team that finished 7-23 last season and had suffered a disappointing 63-51 loss in its last outing.
“Sunday was a disaster for us offensive and defensively,” she said. “We didn’t play well at all. Just to be able to be coachable and learn the past couple of days and really stay disciplined and focused for 40 minutes that’s what I’m most proud of.
“Even if we had lost the game, our focus and our discipline and our coachability was on a different level than what it was Sunday afternoon. For us to be able to draw from that from here to the rest of the year is really important.”