Down five points with just over two minutes remaining in the game, UW freshman guard Tameiya Sadler found herself trapped beyond the three-point line, the shot-clock running down.
Desperately, she found a crease between two Colorado defenders and launched a deep three-ball, finding the bottom of the net and bringing the Huskies (6-12, 3-12) to within two points. That was the closest they would come, despite a ferocious fourth-quarter comeback.
“It didn’t surprise me of their fight to the end,” UW head coach Jody Wynn said. “The ball didn’t go through the net. It was a tough night in the half-court offense.”
Then, suddenly, the ball started to go through the net. The Huskies, who played the first three quarters in a frigid cold stupor, caught fire halfway through the fourth quarter.
With six minutes remaining in the game, junior forward Haley Van Dyke caught a crisp feed from Sadler and drilled her first three-pointer of the game to cut the Buffaloes' (10-9, 8-8) lead to 10.
But the bucket did more than just trim a deficit. From there the UW went on a blitz, finally capitalizing on a barrage of Buffalo turnovers to cap off a 13-0 run, culminating in Sadler’s deep three-pointer.
“Obviously, we turned up the intensity defensively,” Wynn said. “It was unfortunate that we got in a hole, but they showed their intensity — it turned Colorado over, it got us points in transition, and it gave us more opportunities.”
On the other side of the ball, Van Dyke shot a perfect 4-of-4 from the field in the period, including two dagger three-point shots to give the Huskies a lift when they needed it most. In total, Van Dyke, Sadler, and junior center Darcy Rees went 9-for-10 in the fourth, including 3-of-4 from deep.
With her 16 points, Van Dyke effectively outscored the rest of the starting unit 16-0. Not a single other member of the starting unit made a single bucket. In fact, no starter — not even Van Dyke — made it to the free-throw line all game long.
Sadler, who made all four of her free throws, had 17 points off the bench, part of a unit that scored 34 total for Wynn when she needed a boost. Rees added 14 on six-for-nine shooting, including five in the fourth quarter.
The effort, the hustle, the scrappiness — that was all there for the Huskies on Sunday. It just didn’t come to fruition until too late.
Senior guard Alexis Griggsby also provided a spark in her final game at HecEd, drawing a crucial charge late in the fourth quarter that filled a near-empty arena with a full crowd’s worth of noise.
Griggsby’s defensive effort epitomized that of the entire UW unit in the fourth quarter. As a team, the Huskies scored 10 points on second-chance opportunities and turnovers throughout the course of their fourth-quarter comeback.
Of course, they also gave the ball away in critical spots late in the game, turning the ball over four times in the final period.
But despite the turnovers, the Huskies made it a senior day to remember, climbing back from 17 down, forcing the Buffs to make free throws in order to seal the victory, and making a statement about their grittiness during a rough, hard-fought season.
“They persevered through a whole heck of a lot this year,” Wynn said. “They showed their fight throughout the game today. Credit Colorado, but our kids are not quitters, and they’re fighters, and that’s a testament to their incredible character as women.”
A week from today, the Huskies will try to recreate Sunday’s late-game production for an entire game, when they travel to Pullman for a rematch with WSU.
Reach senior staff reporter Nick Mendro at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @m_mendro
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