Watching games and looking at statistics, it’s hard not to project Washington as last place in the Pac-10 this season.
Nevertheless, they’ve made massive improvement over the last month and it’s showing up in spurts.
"For the most part, despite a very adverse situation out there, we battled against this team, we battled against them," said coach Tia Jackson after their New Year’s Day loss against Oregon. "I would have loved for the kids – in this situation here, with a pretty adverse situation out there – I think they deserved to win, our team deserved to win."
As Jackson noted after their loss to the University of Oregon, the Ducks needed 33 points and big shots down the stretch from Pac-10 player of the week Taylor Lilley to beat Washington. Regardless of whether they deserved to win, the improved play of Argens and signs of a more consistent strategy as a unit (playing the high low and getting the ball into the post) not only allows Washington to fight, but also win games on the road.
"We feel like we played tough in that Oregon game and just down the stretch didn’t pull it out so it was nice to bounce back and get the win against Oregon State, who is a good team – they play tough at home so that was good for us," said Whitcomb about getting their first Pac-10 road win of the season against Oregon State on Sunday. "The team played really well – everyone stepped up. Mack, who’s just been playing really well lately. Kristi was making some big shots. And everyone just did what we needed to do to get that win. It was a physical game – we just stayed strong, stayed together and pulled it out."
Although Washington performed well statistically relative to their play earlier in the season, in watching them it was clear that the team is starting to gel, which is what allowed them to get back into the game against Oregon and beat Oregon State.
However, the problem UW continues to face as Arizona State comes to town is their rebounding.
"I think that’s been our sort of problem this whole year," said Whitcomb of how they are approaching an ASU team that is one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the conference. "I mean I feel like we have the size and we definitely should be taking care of getting those rebounds, but it’s just been one of our issues whether it’s been getting the box outs or whatever. So we definitely need to make that a focus.
"Arizona has Ify Ibekwe who’s a great rebounder -- I know in the past she’s led the Pac-10. And Arizona State as a team collectively has always been known to rebound the ball really well and be very aggressive on the boards. So that’s something that I think will make or break us this week at home. And we’ll definitely look to have it be what makes us."
Just coming in ready to battle -- and having experienced success doing so -- is a start.